Alina and Mal are best friends and fellow orphans in a war-torn country plagued by dark magic. They have been inseparable, but when they are drafted into the army, their different positions begin to pull them apart. On a dangerous mission through the Fold, an area of darkness filled with flesh-eating monsters, Alina saves Mal, but reveals a powerful hidden magic she didn't know she possessed. She is immediately taken to the royal court to be trained as part of the privileged Grisha, magicians led by the Darkling.
Alina struggles to find her place among the Grisha and to control and use her power. She soon learns trust and safety are hard to find among the Darkling and his servants. As more and more attempts are made on her life, Alina longs for the security of her friendship with Mal. That friendship may be all that can save her from the dangers that continue to mount around her, but can a childhood friendship exist after such a separation?
Shadow and Bone is filled with intriguing characters and captivating adventure. Bardugo's imagery in her "Before and After" sections is beautiful. Some of that imagery continues through the description of the main story and characters, enhancing the story with excellent wordsmithing. I recommend the book for older readers because of its dark and more war-like feel, but the content is appropriate for all teen readers. It is a good read for lovers of fantasy and well-developed magical worlds.