More reviews at booknook — Young Adult book reviewsBefore starting Shadow and Bone, I felt like I had no idea what to expect. For some reason I just wasn't clicking with the blurb. In hindsight it sounds obvious enough, but at the time I just wasn't getting what the book was about. So in case you're in my shoes, I'll do a little plot recap first!Shadow and Bone takes place in a unique fantasy world. My first question was: who the heck are the Grisha? The Grisha are basically like the elite X-Men of the kingdom. They have special powers. There are healers, summoners, and more. They're totally elite, honoured, and bathed in riches. They're both admired and feared. In regions where they're not thought of as elite royalty, they're burned for possessing "witchcraft." When kids are young, they're all tested for Grisha powers. If they are found to have powers, they're taken away to be trained and prepped for a life of service to the kingdom (serving at the palace, fighting in wars, that kind of stuff).So basically this story is about Alina Starkov, an orphan. When she was young, she was tested for Grisha powers and found not to have any. Then, many years later when she's apprenticing as a cartographer for the military, her powers surface. She is a sun summoner. That's a Grisha power that was thought to be legend or extinct. A sun summoner may be able to destroy the Fold, unnatural darkness full of horrible dangerous monsters. So immediately Alina is whisked away to the palace to be trained, and there she is exposed to the life of high court, stuck up Grishas, horndogs who get away with it, and shallow royalty.Get it? Good! Because this book is freakin' awesome. I was totally blown away, and that's saying something because I had high hopes for this book.. and I was still in awe.I guess Shadow and Bone is really about a girl finding her place in the world. Between being an orphan and having one true friend — who she secretly loves, and no clear talent, Alina just doesn't feel like she belongs. As she uncovers her new powers, Alina tries to find her place in the world. It was great watching Alina start out as an unsure, insecure, unimportant character, and grow into something more. Through training and self-discovery, she really becomes her own person.I literally felt like I slipped into Leigh Bardugo's world. I was so unaware of the 'real' world around me and was just solely focused on the world and culture in Shadow and Bone. It felt so real to me. At first I was intimidated by all the crazy names like Ryevost, Balakirev, Poliznaya, Materialki, and so on, but soon enough I forgot all about it. I wasn't that caught up with names and labels and not knowing them didn't hinder my reading. There is an extremely useful map in the front of the book that I was often referencing, and that's what helped me really get immersed into the story. Alina makes a lot of long cross-country journeys in Shadow and Bone, and by referencing the map I literally felt like I was travelling along with her.The romance in this book is deliciously realistic. It's not perfect; there are doubts and roadblocks and all kinds of trouble, but that's why I loved it. At the beginning, Alina is just harbouring secret feelings for Mal. They're best friends, but she wants something more. Then they're separated by distance, then Alina finds herself drawn towards the creepy and powerful Darkling, then there's Mal's jealousy with that, and so on. The relationship is not perfect and isn't all amazingly lovey dovey throughout the whole book. At first I thought that would bother me since I love an epic romance in all my reads, but the romance troubles worked extremely well in Shadow and Bone. And luckily, everything ties together beautifully at the end!Fantasy used to be the only genre I would read. But after a while, I felt like I couldn't find any more books that fit my criteria. This book totally fits it. I was completely transported back to the good old days when I'd snuggle up with an amazing fantasy book after school.I seriously just wish I could slip into the amazing world that Leigh Bardugo created.. And to think, I have to basically wait an entire year to get back into it with book 2. :( Excuse me while I learn how to time travel.