Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Date: June 5, 2012
Pages: 368
Series: The Grisha Trilogy
Genre: YA- Fantasy

From Goodreads: 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.

You’ll have to pardon me whilst I go all fangirl for a second:

This. Book. Was. Amazing.

It was impossible to read it slowly. I wanted to take my time with it, what with it still about a month until the release date, (meaning I’d have to wait even longer for a sequel) but I totally lacked the willpower to do it. It’s like when you bake a cake or cookies and you know it says “Let cool for X number of minutes.” You don’t. You eat it while it’s hot and dripping with gooey, chocolatey, melty goodness.

It would be easy to spend the next few paragraphs gushing about what a gem Alina is, and how unique and extraordinary her powers are. Several lines could also be spent in praise of Mal, who would go to great lengths in the name of friendship- even if it might never turn into anything more. Entire tomes could be penned about the world Bardugo so expertly crafted, with its brilliant, vibrant colors that constantly reflect the contrast between dark and light, the good and the evil that rules the world the Grisha live in. Yeah, all that was great but for me, nothing mattered much beyond the Darkling. Really. What a fabulous character. His quiet, unassuming presence was so intensely powerful that I swear he just ATE every scene he was in. The author could have left off all the other details because for me, NOTHING was more important than the Darkling. And oh, so many ohs, how I wanted the story to play out differently than it did.

There’s an ever so brief whiff of a love triangle that’s its own subtle sexy. It’s both unexpected and expected and very much wished for but ultimately not at all what I wanted it to be. I can’t even cite that as a reason to dislike it because what I was wishing for actually wasn’t the right thing. I kept waiting for the catch, for the say-it-isn’t-so, which that would have been the easy way out- and one thing Bardugo doesn’t do in this story is give anyone an inch until she absolutely has to.

We had a nicely inconspicuous fairytale undertone in Alina’s hunt for the stag, what with the whole sacrifice-in-exchange-for-power thing. I liked this little inclusion. It softened things a bit- the subtle reminder that while the world is wrecked by the changes brought about by man’s magic, this magic is what the world is made of, and even the Darkling can’t escape his need for it.

Love.

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