This is the sort of book I want to carry around with me and just read at random points of the day, it was just so wonderful.
The country of Ravka was once a prosperous place until the introduction of the shadow fold. A length of darkness that splits the country in two. The shadow fold is home to monstrous creatures like the volcra, that make crossing almost impossible. Orphan Alina Starkov is a member of the army, and chosen to undertake a crossing of the shadow fold. Great casualties are expected but when the regiment is attacked by flying volcra, Alina discovers powers she does not know she possessed, suddenly she could be the answer to all of Ravka’s prayers, but at what cost.
I just loved this book, really I did. It made me want to rush out and read the rest of the series immediately, and I only wish that I could. It’s a beautiful story full of action, romance and magic. The world building in this story is excellent, it’s excellently written, extremely believable with elements of Russian culture. The amount of history, the descriptions Bardugo has created for the kingdom of Ravka is wonderful, it forces you to become completely immersed in the story, and in the land itself.
I love the magical elements of the novel. The grisha are citizens of the country with particular powers – some can summon fire, some can cause your heart to stop beating (eek!) and various other things – the Darkling can summon tendrils of darkness, for example. Children are tested all around the country in hope of finding new Grisha with new powers. They go to school together, and jostle and fight to be the strongest. The chapters in which Alina is training are perhaps some of my favourites, and part of the reason for that is it’s such a hard graft, she is not magically amazing overnight, she has to work and fight and push herself in order to harness her power.
This brings me to the characters, Alina is an interesting character – though she can be a bit whiny and spineless – although the character development is great and she grows out of that. There are so many characters that I love. Genya, the grisha that has a unique power from everyone else – I definitely don’t want to spoil anything so that’s all I’m saying! The darkling is a fabulous character, he’s mysterious and charismatic, you’re constantly trying to guess what his motives are.
It really is a fabulous story – it will keep you hooked right to the very end. I definitely advise you to start this one on a weekend, because you’re not going to want to eat, sleep or move till you reach the end. Definitely one of my favourite books of 2014.