Alina and Mal have always been there for each other, first as orphans reared in the home of Duke Keramsov, and later in Ravka's First Army. Until the day they attempt to cross the pitch black Fold, inhabited by monstrous, flesh-eating volcra. When the volcra attack and Mal is about to die, Alina brings forth a power that has lain dormant within her, a power which lights the darkness and chases away the demons. This awakening power earns Alina a privileged life with the elite Grisha, as the only Sun Summoner in the kingdom. But it also takes her into the court of the mysterious and powerful Darkling, and away from Mal.
This Russian-based fantasy has a unique feel and a well thought out world. Although the setting is vivid, it never overwhelms the fully realized characters. There has been a lot of amazing fantasy written over the last few years, and I would say this one is right up there with another favorite, the similarly named Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor. (And The Scorpio Races, The False Prince, and the Finnikin trilogy, by Melina Marchetta. In fact, stay tuned for a list of my favorite fantasy from recent years, to be posted soon!)