Alina Starkov has never stood out. She’s always been pale, quiet Alina, struggling to make friends in the orphanage of the Duke and trailing along at the back of the regiment while her best friend Mal basks in the limelight.
When Mal and Alina’s regiment reaches the Shadow Fold, she is terrified. They must cross the dark, dead landscape, filled with horrific creatures waiting to devour their flesh, with only the magical Grisha as protection. As their ship makes it’s way across the sands, her worst nightmare is realized. The ship is attacked and her best friend Mal is injured and nearly killed by the evil creatures of the Fold. In a moment of panic, Alina reacts and unleashes a power inside she didn’t know was there, driving back the evil creatures and rescuing the ship’s passengers from certain death.
Alina’s actions draw the attention of the Grisha elite, and ultimately, the mysterious Darkling, who is right hand to the King himself. Alina is whisked away to the palace for training. Thrust from poverty into luxury, and hailed as the savior of Ravka, Alina must adjust to her change in status and learn to control the power she has been suppressing her entire life. But her heart still yearns for the friend she left behind and the Darkling is not who he appears to be…
This one’s been on my to read list for a while, but I’ve put it off because the blurb and the cover didn’t really hook me. After reading it, however, I wish I’d opened it much sooner! This is fantasy at it’s finest. Bardugo has created a fantastical world of hierarchical society, dark power and magic that is impossible not to be pulled into. Her descriptions of the Grisha world are done in such a masterful way, with just the right amount of description to get the reader’s imagination going, while still assuming a flattering level of intelligence and understanding on the reader’s part. As a reader, you feel as if you’ve lived in Ravka your entire life.
Alina’s character is complex, easy to love and believable. Her character development is clear and gripping to follow. Mal, and the Darkling are more mysterious characters, but equally intriguing. I loved this novel and can’t wait to find out what happens next!