I didn't have any expectations going into this book. I didn't even remember what the blurb was on the cover. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to read and I was quickly pulled into the world of Alina Starkov. I could not put this book down! I don't know much Russian history, geography or some of the terms used, but it wasn't necessary to understand the story. I was able to comprehend it within the context and the writing flowed smoothly in Alina's narration. She recounts her lonely past, growing up in an orphanage with her best friend Mal. Now they are both soldiers - she is a mapmaker and he is a tracker. When it is discovered that she has latent magical powers that are unique, she is quickly taken away to the royal court to be protected and trained as a Grisha in a lifestyle that is totally foreign to her. There is a huge emphasis on beauty and wealth but this plays into Alina's insecurity and lack of confidence. The powerful leader of the Grisha is the Darkling and he takes a keen interest in this young girl. He is desperate to develop her talent but is it really for the good of the nation? As she finds her inner strength, she gains control over her powers but still has many questions and needs to determine her true purpose. The characters were well developed with their back stories being gradually filled in throughout the chapters. It was interesting to see who would be overtaken by desire and who would suffer the consequences. The world building was clever and enchanting. I was fascinated by the author's creations in this exciting and powerful fantasy that moved along at a brisk pace. Although I don't care much for love triangles, this was of a different variety. Alina loves and cares for lifelong companion Mal but is also drawn in by the mysterious allure of the powerful Darkling. Who can she really trust with so much at stake? And what is she really fighting for?I was very impressed by this debut and I'm looking forward to next book in the trilogy!Siege and Storms (The Grisha #2) coming 2013Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #3) coming 2014Thank you to Macmillan (Fierce Reads) for an arc to review.