Title:  Shadow and Bone (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy #1)

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: YA,  Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Publication date: June 2012
Paperback: 358 pages


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.

My Rating: ★★★★

I was really excited finally dive into the Grisa Universe and I wasn't disappointed. Leigh Bardugo has captivated me with this intriguing tale were magic offers supreme power to those who know how to wield it.

The world-building is complex and with well-defined characters. The storyline has a perfect amount of action, peppered with relaxed moments so that the reader can breathe and contemplate everything that is happening in this book.

Based on Russian culture, Ravka is a land divided by war and split in two by a barrier of darkness called the Unsea in which terrifying creatures lurk, making it hard for anyone to cross it without being torn apart. Until Alina Starkov makes her way into the Fold. She's an apprentice mapmaker in the army who somehow saves her fellow soldiers when they enter the expanse of land where there is no light. She then discovers she's a Grisha, a person who has a magical ability. Alina has a rare power, one that can be matched only by the Darkling, the leader of the Grisha. The only problem is that she doesn't know how to wield it so she's sent to the royal palace to learn how to control her magic.

I like how Bardugo uses the contrast between light and darkness to convey the fact that sometimes things and events around us are as seen in just in black and white. The veil of naivety is torn from Alina's eyes when she discovers that everyone in the kingdom depends on her and sees her as their saviour. She is a strong heroine, full of wit and wisdom and has a kind heart. Her relationship with Mal, the boy who's always been by her side since they were orphaned as children, was heartwarming. They care deeply for one another but they just don't know how to express their feelings and that just confuses them and makes up for a lot of angsty moments. But as always my favourite character is the villain. The Darkling got my attention from the first moment and what a remarkable villain he is. He's a seductive and mysterious character, but at the same time frightening and very dangerous. His ability to control darkness turns him into the strongest and most feared Grisha of all time, making him an insightful strategist and an influential and charismatic leader.

Shadow and Bone is the kind of book that simply makes you visualize the scenes, like watching a movie. The characters gradually evolve throughout the book, but they do not forget where they started. Leigh Bardugo has created a unique and fantastic world, full of magic, adventure, power and suspense that will capture your hearts. I can't wait to read more!