Do Bryan and Robert have secret powers hidden beneath their mild-mannered podcast veneer? Maybe. But you can count on a legitimately split review from them this week on the book Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo.
Bryan’s quick summary:
Alina Starkov is an orphan, a soldier, and a second-class mapmaker. The best thing in her life seems to be her best friend and secret crush Mal, but even he seems to be looking for bigger and better things. When Alina learns she possesses a great power that could reunite the once-great nation of Ravka, she’s whisked away from Mal to train as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the captivating Darkling. Nothing is what it seems, and as the kingdom counts on her to destroy the Shadow Fold, a darkness swarming with monsters who feast on human flesh, she’ll learn to tame her power or doom the kingdom in the process.
Shadow and Bone is by Leigh Bardugo
So what did we think? (From a reader’s perspective)
1. (Bryan) I want to start off by saying I like training montages, and a large portion of this book is essentially a training montage. This could have impacted me finding Shadow and Bone mildly enjoyable.
2. (Robert) I couldn’t get into it. Mostly because of the writing craft. Way too many “he hissed,” “she snapped,” and “hello adverb city. A ton of adverbs in every page make this story labor, which is a shame, as the basics are all there: reluctant heroine; suppressed love; dark overlord; a chase; an uncontrollable power … hello Star Wars.
3. (Bryan) The world of the Grisha was pretty interesting to me, and I’m glad we got to see it. Seems like there’s a lot they can do with these “powers” going forward.
What did we think from a writer’s perspective?
1. (Bryan) We start with action and we end with action. There’s only a little bit in between, which makes the middle sag. That being said, the action in the beginning was enough to keep my attention for a while.
2. (Robert) The dialog is so on-the-nose – almost no misdirection. Compare this to Scorpio Races and we’re chalk and cheese. Need snark and no straightforward answers, not just snark for snark’s sake. Some of it is pure Women’s Weekly blech. “The warm press of his mouth.” “Whatever burned between us was just as bright, just as undeniable.” Cliché Town here we come. Tell, tell, tell. SHOW me how it’s bright, help me EXPERIENCE why it’s undeniable!
3. (Bryan) The reveals really annoyed me. The way she realizes she can access her powers and stop herself from getting controlled later on were poorly handled. They were passive instead of active. If you’re going to do a “realization reveal” it needs to be more interesting AND a bigger deal in the text.
Bryan and Robert’s Famous Takeaways:
1. You can get away with a lot if you start with action.
2. If your character is going to have some giant revelation, it better feel giant.
3. There are some good moments – mostly to do with Alina’s powers and the twists in how she learns to use them. Actually could make a decent movie.
Prompt of the Week:
What magical power would best save the world’s problems in the modern day? How would you handle the revelation that you have these powers? Would you only use them for good? Why or why not?