Review Blog

Aug 29 2012

The gathering dark by Leigh Bardugo

cover image

Indigo Publishing, 2012. ISBN: 9781780621104.
(Age: 14+) Recommended. The Gathering Dark was originally published in the US as Shadow and Bone. It has a softer, more romantic cover in the UK version, but the praise has been glowing in all countries. Bargudo has clearly written a fantasy, but it's steeped in Old Russian culture.
The prologue introduces the main character, Alina, an orphan with an unknown past in the court of the benevolent Duke Keramasov, far away from the intrigue and war of the capital. When she and fellow orphan Mal are visited by the mysterious Grisha, testing discovers nothing unusual. So they are brought up together, safe and happy.
Many years later, in a desperate effort to save Mal, Alina unleashes her power and is then discovered and carted off to the capital to develop and tame it. The enforced separation from Mal weighs heavily, and we see Alina isolated, alienated, and struggling to understand and control herself.
The novel is heavy on drama and court intrigue, with mysteries revealed at a tantalisingly slow pace. Everyone in the King's palace is obsessed with appearances, and we fear that Alina will be lured by the superficiality of beauty and the temptation of power. Bargudo keeps us absorbed and interested by depicting Alina's mentor as a charming and intelligent potential partner, however Alina's bonds to Mal are stronger, and she continues to try to contact him. The love triangle works quite effectively.
As the book concludes, a flood of information is dumped on the reader. The race is on to prevent catastrophe, but Alina remains true to character: her loyalty and courage saves lives. This is well structured, effective writing. Most teenage girls will love The Gathering Dark, and wait impatiently for the sequel.
Trisha Buckley

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