Mundie Moms

Friday, August 1, 2014

Flashback Friday: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm by Leigh Badugo, Audiobook Review

By: Leigh Bardugo
Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Series: The Grisha Trilogy (website with extras)
Publisher: Henry Holt/Brilliance Audio
Release Date: June 5, 2012/ September 17, 2013
Source: Purchased

Buy: amazon | IndieBound | iTunes | Barnes and Noble | Book Depository

Rating: 5 out of 5 Sun Summoner Stars (and boy, are those powerful and bright)

Synopsis of Shadow and Bone: Alina Starkov doesn't expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, the one thing she could rely on was her best friend and fellow refugee, Mal. And lately not even that seems certain. Drafted into the army of their war-torn homeland, they're sent on a dangerous mission into the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. When their convoy is attacked, all seems lost until Alina reveals a dormant power that not even she knew existed. Ripped from everything she knows, she is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. He believes she is the answer the people have been waiting for: the one person with the power to destroy the Fold.

Swept up in a world of luxury and illusion, envied as the Darkling's favorite, Alina struggles to fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But as the threat to the kingdom mounts, Alina discovers a secret that sets her on a collision course with the most powerful forces in the kingdom. Now only her past can save her... and only she can save the future.

So here's the deal, you know that book that people, I mean close friends not just any ol' person, tell you about. And they go on and on and ON about how you should drop everything and read this now. You ignore them because you may be caught up in a Summer of Contemporary Reads, and you just aren't in the mood for fantasy of any kind. You want real stories with real people and you don't care that your friends are declaring themselves Team Whomever because your fangirlsh ways are on overload anyway. Ever been there? Well, that was me when Shadow and Bone came out.

Then early this summer, I looked at my shelves and thought, hmmm, I wonder if this story is good as an audiobook? I clicked over to iTunes and BAM, I was hooked.

Alina is a real person! Oh, is she ever. Barely healthy enough to be a cartographer in the army, and with her unit about to cross into the Shadow Fold, I was relating to her even before the moment where she (I'll keep it spoiler-free for people like me who aren't convinced to read it, yet) showed her true nature (how was that for being vague?). She is everything I adore in a heroine -- smart, stubborn and determined.

But wait, there's more. There's her fellow orphan, Mal, a loyal friend with a hero streak. And then there's the Darkling. Hello, Team Darkling (I obviously have room for more fandoms in my heart)! A Machiavellian magician who stole this Mundie Mama's heart. Could he be the anti-hero of my dreams? Time will tell.

A huge round of applause to Leigh for taking Slavic lore and customs and making them come alive in a fantasy setting. This is near and dear to my heritage, so I'm extremely happy at her well researched and vivid world building skills. And the narrator, Lauren Fortgang, delivers the story in a straightforward manner without any dramatic overacting.

So, don't be like me and wait. The full trilogy is now out -- go and get it.

Synopsis of Siege and Storm: Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

I find myself writing a lot about tension and stake in stories, and from now on, I'm going to use Siege and Storm as an example of a second book that keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Alina and Mal escape the Darkling, but not for long. My darling Darkling is more wicked than ever and dreams of him being an anti-hero begin to slip away as I'm convinced he is an intimidating villain through and through. Blurring the hero issues, is a newcomer, the sea-worthy scoundrel, Strumhond. The dialogue between Alina and Strumhond snaps, crackles and pops and I found myself wanting more scenes with the two of them.

But, this story is about stakes and Alina's role as a saint and savior to a desperate population leaves me wondering will she be able to out-power the Darkling? See what I mean? TENSION.

I'm going to end the review with a fact. I read both books over two days. And I'm pretty sure you will, too. Now excuse me, while I go and read the last installment, because I'm pretty sure the Darkling doesn't like to be kept waiting.

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