The light shattered, leaving me in darkness.

Alina is an orphan, under the care of Duke Keramsov, when the Grisha first come to test her and her only friend, Mal. Neither of them show any signs of the small science that make the Grisha so powerful so they are left alone, to join a life in the King’s army. The once-great nation of Ravka is battling the Shadow Fold, a barren land bereft of light. Within the darkness are creatures that will rip you apart, the volcra. When their regiment has to pass through the Shadow Fold, Mal is attacked and Alina throws herself in the path of a volcra. Only something amazing happens. Could Alina have powers of the Grisha, dormant for so many years? And is she the key to saving Ravka from the darkness?

As someone who doesn’t read a lot of high fantasy (that’s the stuff set in other worlds), I often have difficulty getting to grips with a new world, especially all the made up words. I felt this way for the first few chapters of The Gathering Dark but soon started to get into the world of the Grisha. They don’t think of it as magic however, more science but there wasn’t enough to back this up. I would have liked to have seen more on this, but as it’s the first in a trilogy, there is likely to be more on its way.

There are three types of Grisha; the Corporalki who have power over blood, the Etherealki who have power over the elements and the Materialki who have power over solid things such as metal. They all in turn, are lead by the Darkling who has power over darkness and is both feared and respected. The peasants think the Grisha are witches yet they form the second army, using their powers to back up the first army of the King.

The plot, at first, seems to be rather cliched. Orphan girl suddenly finds she’s has magical powers and goes to live in a wonderful palace yet doesn’t quite fit in. Yet somewhere along the way, it evolves and becomes a gripping fantasy adventure. There’s even a villain that keeps you wanting to see the good in him. I still have hope, although I think younger readers will see it more in black and white.

My criticism is that it skims the surface of too many things. The mythology of the Grisha, the world within the Shadow Fold, the relationships. There’s a lot going on but feels like it’s been edited down to fit into a length acceptable for the young adult market. I would certainly read the second instalment, The Shadow Fold when it’s available, as my curiosity has been piqued.

The Gathering Dark is the UK title for Shadow and Bone and is published by Indigo, an imprint of Orion. It will be available in trade paperback and ebook formats on 17th May 2012. Thanks go to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review. You can follow @LBardugo on Twitter.

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