Backlist Briefs – Mini Reviews for SHADOW & BONE and LITTLE & LION
Also by this author: Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1), Crooked Kingdom
Series: Grisha Verse,
Published by Henry Holt and Company on June 5th 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction
Also in this series: Siege and Storm
Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.
Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy.
I originally skipped over Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse Trilogy in favor of reading the much-hyped Six of Crows duology, which is set in the same Russian-inspired fantasy world. I adored the Six of Crows books so much that I just had to go back and read the Grishaverse Trilogy because I loved this world and wasn’t ready to leave it behind. I’m so glad I did too because Shadow and Bone, the first book in the trilogy, was a truly wonderful read.
I loved the complex cast of characters Bardugo has created. First, there’s Alina and Mal, orphans who were raised together and who may or may not have romantic feelings for one another. Having tested negative for Grisha powers when they were children, Alina and Mal are clearly underdogs in the war ravaged nation of Ravka and I became invested in their journey immediately, especially once their journey takes them across the dangerous Shadow Fold. A life-threatening incident on the fold changes their lives, however, because it reveals that Alina actually does possess dormant Grisha abilities. Not only are her abilities powerful, but they could actually be the key to setting Ravka free.
I already knew a bit about the Grishaverse from Six of Crows, but I loved seeing the magical system in more detail and the lavish worldbuilding as Alina and Mal are brought to the Little Palace so that Alina can learn to master her powers under the teachings of my absolute favorite character, the Darkling. As much as I liked Alina and Mal, the Darkling was really the highlight of the first book for me. I’m a sucker for a complex, morally gray character and that most definitely describes the Darkling. On the one hand, he’s quite charming, but on the other, he’s manipulative, deceitful, and basically just flat out horrible. There are moments when he seems to really care about Alina, but most often, he only seems to be concerned with how he can harness her power for his own needs. Watching the Darkling go head to head with Alina were some of my favorite moments of the novel.
Shadow and Bone was a quick and highly entertaining read for me because once I got started, and especially once I met the Darkling, I was hooked on trying to figure out what he was really up to and how Alina and her powers fit into his plans. I’m also glad I waited to read this until all three books had been released because a major plot twist at the end of this first book had me reaching straight for the second book. Love this series! 4.5 STARS
Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert
on August 8th 2017
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn't sure if she'll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.
But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new...the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel's disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself--or worse.
Little & Lion is one of those books that going into it, you think you’re getting one thing, but what you end up getting is so much more. Not only did I get the beautiful and moving sibling story that I was hoping for, but I also got a wonderfully diverse story that explored many important and relevant topics, such as sexuality, mental illness, racism, and much more. In that way, Little & Lion packs a big punch.
I loved how Colbert portrayed the sibling dynamic between Suzette (nicknamed Little by Lionel) and her step brother Lionel (nicknamed Lion by Suzette). They are incredibly close, so close in fact, that Suzette was sent away to boarding school when Lionel was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder because her parents knew Suzette would never be able to focus on her school work and her own life because she would be so distraught watching Lionel suffer. When she comes home for summer break, Suzette can immediately sense a strain in her relationship with Lionel and wonders how he is really doing. I loved that Suzette was that tuned in to what her brother was going through. On the flip side of that, I loved that Lionel, even though he is trying to deal with his illness, still tries to do whatever he can to make things as normal as possible between him and Suzette. Little moments like the two of them hanging out in their old treehouse were just so sweet. They may be step siblings and only related through marriage, but Little and Lion are truly family through and through.
In addition to this wonderful sibling relationship, Little & Lion is also an incredibly diverse book. Suzette is black, Jewish, and she is also bisexual. As I’ve already mentioned, Lionel has bipolar disorder. Suzette’s childhood friend and potential love interest, Emil, is black/Korean and he is also hearing impaired due to Meniere’s Disease, while another potential love interest for Suzette, Rafaela, identifies as pansexual, and Suzette’s best friend is a lesbian. I was thrilled to see so much diversity, and I especially liked the way Colbert didn’t make it feel like she was just checking off boxes. All of these characters were complex and authentic. They didn’t feel like stock characters or stereotypes.
My only complaint is that I would have liked a bit more about Lionel. Since the story is told from Suzette’s perspective, we only see him through her eyes. As much as I loved the story as it was written, I think it would have been a 5 star read for me if there were chapters from Lionel’s perspective. Still a beautiful and relevant read though. 4 STARS