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This book is pretty much the perfect epitome of what a lot of YA books should be like. It brings together known elements that are reworked, and though it may not be the most creative or innovative book, it doesn't need to be because the writing is just that good. The premises are not very original, but Leigh Bardugo makes it into something fresh and new.
I absolutely love the world that is created. I picture a map of Ravka, and I see that terrible slash of darkness that is the Shadow Fold (Unsea). There is also the backgrounds, from the royal palace to the deepest part of the wilderness. The social and political setting is also set, how the Grisha are feared, how the king is laughed at behind his back, and how the nation is like in a time of desperation and war. Everything is so detailed and lush, it is really brought to life.
Alina is someone who I can definitely relate to. She is intelligent and strong, and grows throughout the book. That is one of my favorite parts, Alina's growth as a person. Letting go of the past is hard, but Alina is able to do it and move on, finally able to come into her true powers. She is the poster girl for girl power, powerful, yet humble, ingenious and reliable.
The love interests, Mal and the Darkling. The Darkling is dangerous and mysterious, someone intriguing and totally swoon worthy (at least at first . . .). Mal is the nice best friend who Alina falls in love with, but he isn't some flat boring character, he is really human. He makes mistakes and can be mean and hurtful, but underneath all that is someone who really cares about Alina. It seems like Mal is everything that is comforting and familiar, while the Darkling is new and exciting.
This book is a must read. You will get swept up in the story and fall in love with it. The pacing is just right (not too fast, but not too slow), and the climax is timed perfectly. The romance, action, and fantasy is also blended impeccably, and I could not put this book down. Major thumbs up for this book.
M @YA Novelties