Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone - (Full review can be found on my blog, Paper Riot.)First thoughts:Sigh. Someone bring me Siege and Storm now, yes?More thoughts:Let's make a deal: the next time you tell me that I have to read a certain book, I read the freaking book. No excuses, no procrastination: I will sit down and read. Because I just can't understand why it took me so long to read this one, especially since it has been recommended to me about a billion times. Shadow and Bone reminded me of everything I love about fantasy, and made me realize how much I have missed reading this genre. Dark, compelling and intriguing, this book drew me in from the start and refused to let go.Admittedly, I wasn't sure what to expect from it. But as someone who judges books by their cover (sorry not sorry), this one is a treasure. Not only does it have the prettiest cover I have ever seen, but it also has a map. You guys, I LOVE MAPS. I spent a good ten minutes studying it before I even started reading, and then had to flip back to it whenever a new place was mentioned. I would have loved this book for the map alone, honestly, but the fact that it was well-written sure helped. Leigh Bardugo's writing is the perfect mix of action, description and conversation, which made this story very easy to read and even easier to get addicted to.Alina was, in a way, just a typical fantasy protagonist. She starts of weak, but is strong-willed and determined to fight for what's good, so she learns to be a hero and grows stronger along the way. And in a way, there's nothing new there. But oh, I liked her so much. The world building and magic and mysterious Darkling were so overwhelming that I was glad to find a bit of normalcy in Alina. Plus, she and Mal = the cutest thing ever! The way their relationship developed from two friends who have always depended on each other to something more was so nicely done that I just wanted to lock them in a cute little house and keep them safe forever. (Not in a crazy stalker way, I swear!) They are ADORABLE.And then there's the Darkling. Did someone just say "favorite villain of all time"? (Sorry for stealing your title, Voldy.) But is he a villain? Or is he a dancer? (Sorry for stealing your song, the Killers.) If I would hand out an award to the most intriguing, mysterious, likeable, dislikeable, swoon-worthy, detestable, surprising, no-clue-who-this-person-is character, he would most likely win. I admire Leigh Bardugo for the brilliant plot twist surrounding the Darkling and the way she brought this character to life. Nope, I'm not done with him just yet. Plus, I love the way Leigh used him to portray light versus dark in this story. This is a battle between good and evil like you have never seen before!But my favorite aspect of the story was, by far, the world building. Because let me say this: if an author can create a world this different from our own, and still make me feel right at home, I say job well done. It was nothing less than PHENOMENAL. The world in Shadow and Bone was based on Russian culture, but mixed with magical elements, a mysterious leader and one hell of a history. Add the earlier mentioned aspect of light versus dark, and voilĂ : you have something unique. And though there was no sign of a cliffhanger (I looked everywhere, but I just couldn't find it!), this book made me very excited for the sequel, Siege and Storm. I-need-it-yesterday excited. Pretty please?