Alina Starkov had never really been good at anything. When her regiment is attacked on the Fold, the darkness that cuts her country in two, and her best friend is injured, she reveals a power that could be the key to setting her country free. Soon, she's whisked off to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling. Only nothing in her lavish new world is as it seems, and with darkness looming, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha as well as those inside her.Shadow and Bone is a dark and mysterious book. Mystically dangerous and deceptive, it's all about hidden abilities and relying on inner strength as opposed to outer beauty, about being in control of your power and not living as the tool of another.Alina doesn't want to be special or different, she just wants to survive and not end up another casualty of the Fold. I didn't have a problem with that part of her character, sometimes people just want to be normal, sometimes there are parts of ourselves that we don't want to acknowledge, that we don't want to be exploited, but there were times when I wished she had more spine. The self-confident kind, as opposed to the shield that made her mouthy but you could still see the fragile girl underneath. Also, her thinking that being pretty would solve some of her problems rubbed me the wrong way. Sometimes, beauty only makes things worse.In the beginning, things seemed to go by quickly and I wasn't bogged down by unnecessary information, but sometimes that can be bad. A story can be written too simply. I found this book to be smoothly written, it didn't take me that long to read it, but I imagine there will be some who find the story or the writing too simple for their tastes.The world-building was intriguing, the different types of Grisha and their powers, the country and the Shadow Fold, the bitter cold winter. It was obvious to me that the author drew on Russian history for the world-building, even though it's not a subject I'm familiar with, so in that way the book was interesting and rather atmospheric.For a reason I can't put my finger on, reading this reminded me of reading fantasy novels when I was a teenager. Devouring every word in the span of a few hours, getting lost in a strange world on a dangerous journey with a character struggling to make sense of what sets her apart from those around her.