4.5/5Originally posted at Gypsy ReviewsI started Shadow and Bone with high expectations, I wanted it to blow me away and it did not disappoint. This was probably one of my most satisfying reads of the year.The story starts with Alina with her regiment on the way to cross the Fold to get to West Ravka however the Fold is ridden with creatures who feed on human flesh called Volcra and many do not survive the passage. While crossing the Fold, Alina’s best friend, Mal, is attacked and Alina releases a power within her she did not even know existed which could save all of Ravka from the civil wars. She is then subsequently sent to train as part of the Grisha which is a magical elite group in Ravka where all the members have special magic abilities. During her time at the royal court of Ravka, she discovers something so unexpected that everything she knew becomes a lie.Alina was a heroine that was going to border unlikable but thankfully, she proved to be a heroine who managed to hold up her own. She’s not afraid to say what she thinks and I really liked that about her. Alina has never felt like she truly belonged and one constant in her life has been her best friend, Mal. She goes through this journey within herself and faces the inner turmoil to realise her full potential. Although her change was predictable, it was executed in a way that was so satisfying to find in the end and you could see the meaning and connections behind all of them so I didn’t mind the predictability of it.Boy oh boy, the Darkling is one sleek guy, I can see why a lot of people like him though I can’t advocate him because he’s all kinds of wrong for Alina though I admit, some of those scenes were HOT. I’m definitely Team Mal haha. The romance in this story could have gone terribly wrong and taken the easy way out especially with Mal and Alina but nope, it didn’t and I really loved that. There was development, there was substance and everything was tied up very nicely. I’m not going to say anymore on the romance areas because they’re spoilerish but it was really well done.For me, the real asset of the entire book was the world building. Just brilliant, I cannot sing enough praises for Leigh Bardugo on this part. Fantasy is probably the hardest genre to write because you have to fabricate your own world and it still has to make sense and not confuse the reader. Many fantasy books fail to achieve this and leave me confused and my head hurting with all of the new things I’m introduced to. But Shadow and Bone didn’t do any of that, everything was laid out simply and made sense even with the names. I kept expecting myself to be confused at some part but I never did, it was so easy to get into Ravka and understand how things worked. The map at the beginning was a great help and it was so beautifully drawn! The design and everything for Shadow and Bone definitely deserves a mention, one of the prettiest books I have ever seen. I’m going to have to buy myself a copy because I borrowed this book from the library.The one complaint I have is that sometimes I found it a little slow so I had to knock off the rating by a half star but when the big moments came in. PANG! I never expected any of them and I loved that it could surprise me so much. Maybe it was a tactic to make things go slow for a while and then bring out the big guns to get you off guard? If it was, props to Leigh Bardugo but I still have to knock the half star because I couldn’t bring myself to give it a full 5 stars. I needed it to completely blow my mind until nothing was left the whole way throughout.Shadow and Bone is a fantastic fantasy novel, one that hits the nail on every single area and I cannot recommend this book enough. If you love fantasy, you just have to get this book. I will be buying myself a copy and I will be eagerly anticipating the sequel, Siege and Storm when it comes out in June!