Leigh Bardugo's debut novel "Shadow and Bone" follows many popular tropes in young adult fantasy literature. It is a coming-of-age story about a young woman who discovers and attempts to master her magical power so that she can save the world. Most novels of this genre are set in a world inspired by medieval England or Western Europe, but this one takes place in a country reminiscent of czarist Russia. The nation of Revka features a royal family more concerned with the trappings of luxury than with the affairs of their country, a madman who wields power from behind the throne, and many characters and locations with Russian-sounding names.
Teenage orphan Alina travels through the Unsea with her best and only friend Mal. The Unsea is a once fertile land, now shrouded in darkness and populated by monsters due to a curse placed centuries ago. During a monster attack, Alina discovers that she possesses a power that allows her to emit blinding light. The powerful Grisha learn of Alina's power and take her in to train her. They tell her that this power can return the Unsea to its original form, uniting Revka and restoring access to the sea. The Darkling – leader of the Grisha - takes a particular interest in Alina.
Bardugo does a good job developing the characters and building her world. There are enough twists to keep the reader interested without complicating the story beyond comprehension. The book was successful enough to warrant two sequels, four more books set in the same world, and a Netflix series.
"Shadow and Bone" is filled with cliches (a love triangle; a mentor-turned-baddie; a pair of orphans who rise to their potential), but it is enjoyable.
I have already begun book 2 of the trilogy.