51F6JTb0xfL._SL160_Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo is set in a world not our own, but echoing the geography and culture of Russia, Scandinavia and China (a welcome change from fantasy set in barely disguised versions of medieval England). Alina is an orphan, whose only friend in the world is Mal. They grow up together in an orphanage and join the First Army, where they are sent on a dangerous mission that crosses The Fold – a shadow territory filled with terrible creatures, which has torn their country apart quite literally. When they are nearly killed, Alina discovers a hidden magical ability within herself, and is quickly spirited away to join the Second Army (those with special powers), involuntarily leaving Mal behind.

Although Alina has trouble summoning her power, she is told that it will save their country by the head of the magicians, the Darkling, who is also slowly seducing her. But a wise old woman warns Alina that the Darkling is not what he seems, and she escapes alone. However, Mal finds her and soon becomes her companion on her perilous journey. Having grown distant while separated, they come to once again have a special intimacy, but nevertheless only Alina alone can defeat the Darkling, by fully understanding the nature of her magical gift.

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