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.
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Henry Holt and Co.
Five Stars! A strong start to a new series with magic, treachery and best friends!
Mal and Alina two orphans with an inseparable friendship have been through thick and thin. Tonight is their last night together before dawn breaks and they must cross the deadly and dangerous Fold. The Fold is a dark shadowy domain off the coast that covers the sea. In order to reach the other ports boats must traverse this deadly blackness and hope to survive the horrors hidden in the dark. Alina for days has been uneasy about the Fold. She senses that something is wrong, despite the comforting words from Mal, her rock. The day dawns and the group boards the skiffs. The Grisha accompany the little boats. The magical Grisha can help control the elements by raising the wind and fire to aid the rafts. Alina holds her breath in the inky depths. She dares to think they might just make it, and then the sound of beating wings shatters the quiet. Terror strikes from the sky, bringing death and chaos. Mal fights a winged attacker off Alina, but there are too many of them. The pair utters their goodbyes as the raptors close in. Then a blinding flash of white skewers the darkness and Alina remembers no more. When she wakes she is being hauled to see the mysterious and powerful Darkling. There must be a misunderstanding.....soon she is torn from Mal and the life she has known and taken to the Little Palace to live among the magical Grisha. She doesn't even get a chance to say goodbye to Mal. As each day passes, she rubs the little scar on her palm, aching and dying a bit more inside. Yet, the Darkling and his vast powers stirs something in her soul. Is it possible that she can somehow push back the Darkness of the Fold and change the world?
What I Liked:
- I have read countless glowing reviews on this book and I was pleased to find that I, too, was immediately plunged head over heels into this world and swept away. This is indeed a find! Don't miss this book!
- I adored Mal and Alina. The two have been inseparable best friends since childhood, each others strength and safe place, but the friendship has never moved beyond the confines of just friends. Yet, Alina's heart pitter patters every time Mal is near, but he only sees her as his best friend. I loved the way the romance in this one progresses. I won't say anything more, you must read it for yourself and savor the sweetness.
- I appreciated the unique story Ms. Bardugo crafts. It is like a bit of dystopian, some historical, a dash of fantasy and an adventure all pooled into one fantastic book. She does an excellent job in building her world populated by the peasants and the magical Grisha and other creatures. The Fold is terrifying and unlike anything I have experienced before.
- The Darkling is one of those characters that keeps you guessing. He storms on scene with his strong and somewhat frightening disposition. The stories spread about him lead you to believe he can't be trusted, but over time I was drawn in by his charisma and charm and found myself softening. He is dark and oh so dangerous! A well written character!
- I loved the big twist toward the end of the book, a big surprise that changed the whole course of the book.
- Finally, this book wraps up with a tidy resolution, no cliff hanger, but there are definitely lingering questions left to follow up in the future.
- This is a debut author book for 2012. Ms. Bardugo definitely impressed me and I can assure you I will eagerly be anticipating her next book!
And The Not So Much:
- There is very little that I didn't like in this story. My only hesitation was that I don't feel I had a full grasp on the history of the land. It seems there has been a war going on for centuries, but I never had a complete understanding of who the warring factions were and why they were fighting.
- After the scene on the fold, Alina is hurriedly whisked away to hide her new ability but her party is soon attacked. I had a hard time believing that news of her skill could have spread across the land in that short of time period and reach the enemies’ ears, considering that there were not that many witnesses and under the Darkling's power it shouldn't have happened. Just a little detail that bugged me, but not a big deal.
- I wished that I had a little more insight on Mal. This is one book that would have, in my opinion, benefitted from a dual view point: Mal and Alina. How I wanted to get inside Mal's head and see Alina through his eyes! Mal doesn't come across in the beginning as totally swoon worthy, but there is something about him that captured my imagination and found myself wishing for his reappearance, right along with Alina.
- Ok this might be a shallow criticism, but the cover so does not reflect the wondrous stuff inside. I guess this is a case where a drab cover hides a treasure, unlike all those pretty, flashy covers that are hiding trash. Do not let the boring cover deter you. Get this book!
So far in 2012, I have read some good books by debut authors. Shadow and Bone has quickly vaulted to the top of my list of favorite books by new authors this year. I have a feeling that this terrific book will end up on my best of 2012 list! This is a novel with a rich, intricate story line with magic, action, romance, treachery and more. Set in a unique setting with an old world feel, this book will stir your imagination. Do not let the plain cover fool you, this is a wonderful read, you do not want to miss it!
“After the noise and jostle of the journey, there was something soothing about the crackle of paper, the smell of ink, and the soft scratching of nibs and brushes.”
“The living world had disappeared. Darkness fell around us, black, weightless, and absolute. We were in the Fold. It was like standing at the end of everything.”
“The Duke’s estate had been beautiful, but it was a melancholy beauty of dusty rooms and peeling paint, the echo of something that had once been grand.”
“And there’s nothing wrong with being a lizard either. Unless you were born to be a hawk.”
“I felt that familiar sense of surety melt through me as my body sang with sudden heat and my heart jumped into a skittery dance.”
“We weren’t children anymore. The ease of our closeness was a thing of the past.”
“I’m sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.”
“The moment our lips met, I knew with pure and piercing certainty that I would have waited for him forever.”
“They are orphans again, with no true home but each other, and whatever life they can make together on the other side of the sea.”
A big thanks to Henry Holt and Co. for the review copy in exchange for an honest review.