Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Seventeen-year-old Alina Starkov and her best friend Mal have been together since they were children, both orphaned by the Border Wars and raised on the estate of Duke Keramsov, who took in orphans and war widows. Together they join the army, she becoming a cartographer and Mal showing his skills by learning to be an expert tracker. Their homeland of Ravka has been at war for years, and their regiment is being sent across the Shadow Fold, a pitch black area also known as the Unsea where horrific monsters are said to lurk in wait to attack humans. When the Volcra do indeed attack their sand skiff, Alina is able to save herself, Mal and a few other travelers using some magical power she had never really known that she had. She is immediately called a “Sun Summoner” and is taken to live at the king’s palace and become a Grisha, a revered group with special powers who help the king and are led by the mysterious Darkling.
This debut novel pulses with nonstop action and adventure. My interest was captured immediately and I found myself going to bed early on a family vacation just to have time to read. Bardugo creates an intricate fantasy reality that she describes in rich language, making it easy for readers to get caught up in Alina and Mal’s world. Although the book contains some Russian words and names, readers will not be deterred from the fast-paced storytelling. There is a romantic element interwoven through the story, adding even more plot twists to the book. I loved this story and can highly recommend it to readers who enjoy dark fantasy, briskly-paced adventures and paranormal romance. The sequel is on order for the BHS library.