Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
The land of Ravka has been decimated by the Shadow Fold; a mysterious consequence of dark magic which blights the landscape in monsters and darkness. The people of this tormented land have not known peace for generations.
While attempting to cross the fold, Army cartographer Alina Starkov finds her transport attacked by the monsters that dwell within. Faced with near-certain death, Alina calls upon a hidden power, and manages to push back the darkness. Returning to non-blighted land, Alina learns that she is a Grisha (witch/mage), and that she may be the only one who can save Ravka from the Shadow Fold. Suddenly thrust into the aristocratic world of the Grisha and Ravka court politics, Alina must master her gift, while at the same time learning to navigate the treacherous waters of court life.
This is YA done right. Books like this keep me coming back to the genre when I feel that reading one more angsty book will drive me mad. The plot (this is the first installment in a trilogy) is well executed. The characters are still in their nascent phase, but show great promise. The requisite love triangle feels a bit more realistic than most entries in the YA genre.
I especially enjoyed the way magic is handled, and the care the author shows in her world building. Bardugo has put together a grand vision, and she has the skill to translate that vision into a gorgeous work of fantasy. The story actually reminds me a bit of the Black Magician Trilogy by Trudi Canavan, another fantastic series in YA Fantasy.
Fans of the young adult genre, young adult fantasy, and fantasy in general will enjoy this series. Even those who don’t typically read things in the YA sphere will find a lot to like in this book; it is technically a young adult novel, but it doesn’t read like one. I can’t wait to read the other books in the series.