01 October 2012

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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.

This is a delightful book set in a industrial~ish, magical~ish Russia~ish.  Russia~ish is probably the best description of this book, because the truly beautiful parts are in the worldbuilding.  Bardugo takes some standard fantasy tropes: an orphan is discovered to have The One Power to save the world, Evil People want to use the power for bad, who to trust; and gives them some truly excellent packaging which transforms it into something that is truly delightful to read.  The other bright spot is the lead character, Alina.  Alina is stubborn, loyal, nit-picky, and not really pretty, and I really liked how all her traits became negatives and positives in turn, making her feel like a rounded character.  The cast of characters surrounding Alina was great, too.  I wasn't even bothered by the "love triangle" setup since Alina seemed so against one of the choices even if she was dazzled by power and beauty.  In the end, Shadow and Bone is about making your own choices and following your own path, which I heartily endorse, and I dare you to not get overwhelmed by the unique voice and come to love this book.

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