Shadow and Bone
By Leigh Bardugo
Henry Holt, 2012. 358 pgs. Young Adult
Alina and Mal were orphans, raised together after their parents fell victim in the constant border wars in Ravka. Now they are in the army, Mal as an expert tracker, and Alina as a mediocre mapmaker, and their friendship isn't what it used to be. As they set of into the Unsea, or the Shadow Fold, a dark expense that divides their country and where volcra prey on humans, the danger they are in forces of reaction in Alina that sets their whole world spinning and catching the attention of even the Darkling, the head of the magical Grisha. Although Alina doesn't believe she has any power, she is taken to Os Alta, the capital, to learn use her special gift. As her distance from Mal grows quite literally, she finds herself pulled into a more complex situation than she ever expected and must find if the light within her is strong enough to combat all the powers of darkness.
Holy cow! Talk about intense and gripping book! When I picked the book up, I wasn't really sure if I was that interested in it, but as soon as I started the book, I was hooked. I can't say I absolutely loved it, but I can say it was captivating. I think fantasy fans will love the chance to explore an entirely different world. Alina is a complex character and her journey to figure out her own strength--and her own heart--will resonate with readers. Overall, I think it has a lot to offer, but there is something draining about it, too, as you get so swept into the book and while there's a semi-happy ending, you also know that there's going to be a whole lot of darkness in the next book in the series (and probably the third, too), before there can be light.