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Alina Starkov and Malyen Oretsev grew up together under the care of a Duke who took in orphans. Growing up, they were all each other had, and their connection continues into their teenage years. Now they both serve Ravka’s First Army, Alina as a mapmaker and Mal as a tracker. They’re both assigned to cross the Shadow Fold, a terrifyingly dark and dangerous region of Ravka where they risk volcra attacks. Not many people come out of the Shadow Fold alive.

Accompanied by Grisha, an elite group with magical powers, they set off into the Shadow Fold, where they’re immediately attacked. Alina watches in horror as her friends are killed, but something inside her sparks when Mal is in danger. Suddenly, Alina is being whisked away to meet The Darkling, the leader of the Grisha. She doesn’t know anything about these powers she suddenly has, doesn’t even know if it was really her who saved the day, but she’s told that she may be the only thing that can save Ravka from the ever-expanding Shadow Fold. 

I bought Shadow & Bone back in August 2015 with every intention of reading it while on vacation. Turns out I read everything except for this book, and I kind of forgot about it until the end of December, when I was craving some YA fantasy. This book turned out to be better than anything I read on that vacation. Oops. 

I’m a sucker for a good friends-to-lovers story. Look at any of my previous reviews of romances and that will be abundantly clear. I really thought that I was going to be shipping Mal and Alina. Alina has had a crush on Mal forever, and he’s never seen her as more than a friend. When Alina comes into her powers, he suddenly realizes that he loves her, and she’s been there all along.

“I’m sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.”

It didn’t do it for me.

What actually did it for me was The Darkling. Now, I never fall for the villain, but this guy is head and shoulders above Mal.

“The problem with wanting,“ he whispered, his mouth trailing along my jaw until it hovered over my lips, "is that it makes us weak.”

Excuse me while I swoon. 

But the thing is, we never really know if he’s actually into Alina, or if he’s manipulating her over to his side. 

And as for Alina, I could take her or leave her. She’s a lot like most YA fantasy heroines. Thinks she’s ugly (because god forbid she think she’s attractive), yet has every man in the vicinity falling over her. Has no idea of her power, but is the only person who can save the world. Doesn’t get along with most girls because she thinks they’re petty and mean. And she’s so dumb, believing literally anything anybody tells her without questioning, never thinking before she acts, always relying on one of her love interests to save her.

Strangely, the heroine was my least favorite part of this book.

In the end, I’ll just say that Shadow & Bone is a quick, easy, entertaining read, and I’ll most likely have Siege & Storm in my next big book order.

Final rating: ★★★★☆