Shadow and Bone
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.
Alina and Mal:Mal is seemingly good at everything, he's attractive, smart and the best tracker in Ravka. He is also Alina's best friend. But is Alina his? She doesn't think so. He seems to prefer the company of his fellow trackers and beautiful girls to hers. Alina has been in love with Mal ever since they were children. He, however regards her as just another friend. When crossing the Shadow Fold, Alina is attacked by one of the Volcra, a monster of darkness, Mal saves her life, but in turn is also attacked. It is at this moment in the story that Alina shows just how much she loves Mal. It is at this moment that the light which Alina has kept bottled up inside of her for so long bursts forth. This is the power that she has been suppressing since a child in order to stay by Mal. And yet, as Mal lays dying in front of her, her fear of actually losing him outweighs her fear of the consequences of her power, and the beautiful light within her surrounds them. Alina next sees Mal in the Grisha tent. He testifies that she was the source of the light, and then does nothing as she is dragged away.
Alina watches in complete horror as Mal is thrown overboard by Ivan. She tries her best to resist as the Darkling commands her to leave Mal in the dark. She cannot disobey him. She listens with intense pain as Mal screams as the Volcra attack him. It is at this moment that she finally understands just what the death of the stag meant, he did not give his power to the darkling, but to her. It is at this moment that she can finally deflect the Darkling's commands and light explodes out of her saving Mal. She too leaps over the side of the craft and leaving the Darkling's company to be eaten by the Volcra, she leaves with Mal.
Genya and David: Genya is the tailor, a Grisha with a very specific skill set. She is by far the most beautiful woman at the Little Palace. David is the master fabricator, he seems completely oblivious to Genya. And yet, she is madly in love with him. Alina suspects it is because he is totally unaffected by her looks. However, I think it is because as a master herself she truly understand his power, as well as his limits. They are both encaged. Genya to the queen, and David to the needs of the Grisha and the Darkling. Neither of them can truly be who they want to.
Alina and the Stag: When Alina and Mal finally discover the stag they do not kill it. Instead Alina shows it mercy, and is going to leave when the Darkling and his host appear. Immediately an arrow is shot into the stag's side. Alina battles the Darkling over the stag's body but desists the moment that Mal is grabbed by Ivan. The moment the other side has Mal she is powerless. She watches with horrible grief as the stag's throat is slit, and the bone antlers are placed around her neck. Now she is in the Darkling's power, unable to control her gift herself.
Each night after the stag's death Alina dreams of his large soft brown eyes and his bright blood spilling across the white snow. However, it is not until Mal is thrown overboard to the volcra that Alina realizes the meaning of the dreams. The power of the stag is not the Darkling's, but hers, because she showed him mercy. This is the moment when Alina is able to cast aside the darkling and truly use her power. saving her life, Mal's, and the world.
The Darkling: The Darkling is incapable of showing mercy. It is because of this that he is not truly powerful. He instead operates on brute strength, immense power, and fear. He does not care to establish a feeling of love in his country. This is where he and Alina differ. Where he is dark she is light. If the Darkling had known the power of mercy, he would have had power over Alina, but because he instead choses the darkness, in the end he loses.
So, I think it's pretty clear that I liked it. I really enjoyed how Bardugo incorporated the theme of mercy in her book. Will I read the rest of the series? Definitely.