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. (netgalley.com)
Potential Spoilers Ahead
I don't think my review is really spoilerish because of elements that I believe are rather obvious from the beginning but just to be safe . . .
OMFGBBQ did I devour this book. Like whoa, gobbled it right down and it didn't even give me gas. We're talking Cinda Williams Chima level of love right now. For anyone that knows me, that's a lot of love. Not quite on the same exact level but I did add BBQ to my explanation. That means a lot.
Let's see . . . what can I say about SHADOW & BONE without turning into a total blithering fangirl?
Alina is one hell of a kick ass heroine. Seriously. She's got a smart mouth and stands up for herself even in moments when she'd probably be better off keeping her trap shut. A character flaw but one I like. Because that's totally me. Honesty is my best policy. It just may not be true for others.
Mal? Yeah, I'm a total fan. There was a time there where I filed him into the complete toolbox category but with his re-emergence came his redemption. He fits Alina perfectly. One personality doesn't overpower the other and they really jive. It's a relationship I can totally get behind because it feels real. It's something that was built up over time as opposed to the instant soup kind. There was substance there, history, a deeper bond than smelling pretty. It's everything I want to see in a relationship and then some. That's not to say it's perfect but it's REAL.
The Darkling surprised me. I kind of knew he was off from the beginning but I found the depth to his offness shocking. But it was well-built. His personality ended up being kind of standard villain-ish but I'm okay with that. There were other elements to the puzzle that ground out that particular aspect of him and made him more realistic. There's a ruthlessness there and the author's willingness to actually show it that I admire. Not the evil, sadistic ruthlessness but the author not shying away from it. It paints Bargudo in a great light for me and it brings added depth to The Darkling's character.
I was pleasantly surprised by a few of things in the book. One of them is that at the beginning of Alina's stay being a Grisha that her schooling appeared to be a type of boarding school. Wherein I began to think that it's yet another boarding school story and I've been duped. Not the case. Another, where Alina is coming into her powers and they're trying to figure out why she constantly needed an amplifier to bring them out. I guessed, and was wrong. Another? The vulcra. I was shocked to find out just what they are. Another testament to Bardugo's authorly twistedness. I liked it.
I wasn't overly thrilled with the ending, more like a particular element of it, but I'll get over it. I liked it overall and how it wasn't a total cop-out and everything wrapped up nicely with a little bow at the end. Not so much. But there was hope there, just enough to wrap up the greater story arc but set the precedent for future books. And I can't wait.
SHADOW & BONE is an excellent high fantasy addition to the YA category. The world is lavishly built, with real world elements that keep it firmly within reach, and characters that'll suck you in and have you begging for more. You'll definitely want to read this. You'll be disappointed if you don't.
Ban Factor: High - Never mind Alina's swearing or her defiance or her sexy tryst. It's a world without a Christian god. BE ALL END ALL!