Summary (goodreads): Alina Starkov doesn’t expect much from life. Orphaned by the Border Wars, she is sure of only one thing: her best friend, Mal–and her inconvenient crush on him. Until the day their army regiment enters the Fold, a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. When their convoy is attacked and Mal is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power not even she knew existed.
Ripped from everything she knows, Alina is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. With Alina’s extraordinary power in his arsenal, he believes they can finally destory the Fold. Now Alina must find a way to master her untamed gift and somehow fit into her new life without Mal by her side. But nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and her dangerous attraction to the Darkling grows, Alina will uncover a secret that could tear her heart–and her country–in two.
I saw that a friend of mine rated this book with five stars on goodreads, so I looked it up and decided this was a story I’d like to read. In the beginning, I was rather confused about the setting, since the auther just throws the reader in the middle of action without slowly developing an understanding of the world. It took me about three chapters to figure out what the hell those russian sounding names meant. When I got it though, I felt very comfortable with the setting and enjoyed the story. I have no clue about russian language or culture, so any miss spellings or weird interpretations weren’t detected by me.
The characters are likeable, but I had my problems with the main character. She is the stereotype of a fantasy heroine: born low without any special talent or beauty, discovering she has an outstanding talent and has to save the world, struggling to find into that new role. Snore. She also constantly remarks on the beauty of others and her lacking. Apart from that, she is a nice enough character and there were enough things to relate to to make her story enjoyable.
Her best friend, Mal, I don’t really like. I cannot tell you exactly why, I just have the distict feeling that they don’t belong together and whatever romantic moments they had felt wrong. He is, to me, more the big-brother-type and not the I-am-madl- in-love-with-you-type. If you get my meaning. The Darkling however, is different. That character has everything to make me swoon: dark hair, dark eyes, dark everything, including dark aura and dark past. Not to mention his dark motives. He is distant and mysterious and I loved that character from the beginning. While most of the story was easy to anticipate, the one big twist evolving around the Darkling and Alina I did not see coming. It is one of those twists that make you want to reread the book and look for hints that you didn’t see the first time.
The writing style is easy going and kept me reading and reading – I actually finished this book within one day. I liked the pro- and epilogue, where the perspective is shifted from first to third person. It is something different and helped get into the book and find out again. It was also somewhat helpful that the names for the Grisha were written in italic letters, it gave the text more structure, I thought.
Well, in summary I will say that I enjoyed this book very much, even though it was predictable and the heroine not overly convincing. There is a second part that I already started and the third part will be out next year. I am hoping for a great trilogy.
So far, this book gets 4 out of 5, mostly because of the setting and the Darkling (I just love characters like him!)