Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo
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.
I read this as part of the June 2015 Read-a-long with Reads with Friends on Goodreads.
This one was ... interesting. It had so much promise but it just didn't deliver the way I wanted it to. I started out really loving this one, the writing style was great throughout. I did find the pacing a bit off though and as if there were multiple ideas that wanted to be brought together into one story but didn't quite fit together.
One of my pet peeves with books is when the author creates a new language or new words, but does not explain them to the reader. We are supposed to just know what they mean, but clearly we do not. Like the volcra. I just assumed they were like overgrown vultures, but who knows?? They aren't really given a description so who knows what they are.
The idea of the court intrigued me until it became a feature of the book. It was just a way for the author to show that everyone is catty and gross, even Alina. I also didn't like that Alina complained and complained about being "ugly" and then started using her powers and was magically beautiful. Then Zoya appears and Alina becomes a bitch. She complains about Marie and Nadia being so rude and judge-y about people, but then does the same thing to Zoya. I also didn't see the point in the displays of training or the court because it had like zero to do with the actual plot.
I was (and still am) conflicted about the possible romance between the Darkling and Alina. He is kind of old for her even if he looks young. However, I don't like that her relationship with the Darkling was seen as a blip in her relationship with Mal. It also seems strange that when Mal came to the palace, he was so mad at Alina for not telling him she was okay when he has been on the move? What did he want her to do, magic a letter to him? She had been writing, he just didn't get it.
The best part was the encounter with the stag, but I gotta say I still rolled my eyes. Like of course Mal is basically a magical tracker and able to find this magical stag once he has Alina with him even though the stag had alluded him for like MONTHS when he was first trying to track it. I also liked the Alina was able to really harness her power. I am intrigued to see where this is going, but it really wasn't enough.
Overall: 3/5 stars. It was interesting and had potential but it just wasn't enough for me. I feel like I went in with too high of expectations and it just didn't deliver.