Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, she is sure of only one thing: her best friend, Mal–and her inconvenient crush on him. Until the day their army regiment enters the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. When their convoy is attacked and Mal is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power not even she knew existed.
Ripped from everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. With Alina’s extraordinary power in his arsenal, he believes they can finally destroy the Fold. Now Alina must find a way to master her untamed gift and somehow fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and her dangerous attraction to the Darkling grows, Alina will uncover a secret that could tear her heart–and her country–in two.
From the first sentence, I was quickly drawn into the world of Ravka. The book begins quickly and never slows down, leaving me at the edge of my seat at all times. The plot was so well done, and I was so easily wrapped up in the story that the plot twist completely took me by surprise. By the time I hit the ~50% mark I found that I couldn’t tear myself away from the story, and now I’m kicking myself for not buying the sequel.
The world of Ravka is wonderfully imaginative. It’s a welcome change from the typical setting of “the middle ages,” and the elements of Russian folklore that are weaved into the world are a really nice touch. While the language and the Grisha hierarchy take a little bit of time to get used to (you have no idea how proud I was when I finally got the hang of it), they add to the magic and mystery that makes Ravka so intriguing.
I think it goes without saying that the writing is wonderful. The descriptions are vivid and I could easily visualize the Grisha world. It certainly helps that there’s a map at the beginning of the book, though the detailed descriptions kept me from having to tear myself away from the story and check it. And the romance! I found myself swooning over all the fictional men, since all of those scenes are just so well-written.
All of the characters were very well-developed. I can’t say too much about them since I don’t want to spoil anything, but they all had distinct personalities and I loved them all so much. Alina is naive, weak, and rather self-conscious at the beginning, but by the end of the book she has undergone a journey of self-discovery and becomes a force to be reckoned with. I loved her loyalty and determination, and I can’t wait to see how her character deals with certain conflicts in the sequel. Mal is sweet, loyal, brave, and protective. If it weren’t for the fact that he didn’t truly notice Alina until she was gone
and the fact that I completely ship Alina and the Darkling I probably would have liked him a lot more though, admittedly, he did start to grow on me near the end. And then there’s the Darkling. It took less than two scenes for me to become hopelessly fascinated by his personality, power, and the mystery surrounding him. If there’s ever a novella written from his perspective, I can guarantee that I’ll be the first in line for it.
I absolutely loved Shadow and Bone, and I can’t recommend it enough. Go on, read it – you certainly won’t regret it.