358 pgs, Jun 2012
Summary from Goodreads
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.
I finished this one in a day (it was a day in which I also worked 12 hours).
Orphaned as a child, Alina and her best friend Mal have been drafted into the army. During a dangerous mission through the Shadow Fold, the army is attacked. When Mal’s life is in danger, Alina demonstrates a power that no one – including Alina – knew she possessed.
Suddenly Alina’s entire life changes. The Darkling is thrilled with her power. She’s ripped away from Mal, the only constant in her life and into a somewhat pampered life in the palace. While in the palace she begins training on how to use her power and other combat skills, she constantly feels out of place and is terrified that she won’t be able to catch up from not starting training as a child. Alina also misses Mal terribly, but letters to him go unanswered.
Basically, I loved this story. I struggle with fantasy sometimes. I think I read to fast – skimming too many necessary descriptions to be able to really picture what’s going on. I did not have that problem reading Shadow and Bone. Leigh Bardulo did an excellent job of integrating the descriptions into the story so I never went into skimming mode.
The established relationship between Alina and Mal is well done and the loss of that relationship really compounded the loneliness Alina felt during training. I also thought the growing relationship between Alina and the Darkling was well done. He’s so secretive that he’s intriguing and you’re never quite sure what to think of him.
Enjoyability (4.5 out of 5 stars)
Relationships (4.0 out of 5 stars)
Writing (4 out of 5 stars)
This book will stay with me at least until I read Siege and Storm for sure. Very, very solid Trilogy opener.