Actual Rating: 4.5Spoilers below!When, I first started reading Shadow and Bone, I didn't know what to make of it. I loved the Russian setting, but as Tatiana and other reviewers pointed out, the author clearly did not do her research when it came to the Russian vocabulary. Alina Starkov should be "Alina Starkova," "Grisha" is actually a name, and kvas aren't alcoholic but all the characters treat as though it is. There are so many others, so if you get miffed about this sort of stuff (I know I cringed whenever they used Alina's full name), this book will annoy you endless. Despite these blunders though, Shadow and Bone completely exceeded my expectations!Just when I was thinking that Bardugo directed her story in one direction, she completely surprises the reader and changes everything we know about this book . The romance that started between The Darkling and Alina was too fast paced for me to believe that they were falling in love. Sure enough, SHAZAM he's actually using her. Pacing wise, Shadow and Bone didn't linger on any stage of Alina's journey for too long. We have a glimpse of her life before she was aware that she's a Grisha, her adaption to the Grisha life in Little Palace, her escape with Mal, and the ending when she kicks some major ass. I find often times that an author can get easily wrapped around the stage where the main character adjusts to her new life (in this case it would be when Alina moves to Os Alta), but Bradugo moves the plot along efficiently. I figured that this book was part of a series (what YA aren't part of a series these days?) so I knew there was more to come, but when I was 20 pages from the end, I was so on my toes. Actually, I was on my toes for all of the second half of this novel. Kudos to you, Leigh Bardugo!As someone who loves tortured characters, I bought The Darkling's secretly-caring act because deep down he's probably extremely lonely and he just wants someone who could be his equal...though he did end up enslaving the only person in Ravka that could go toe to toe with him. Bardugo makes him out to be the villain but assuming he doesn't die, he has a lot of room for character development. What I really liked about this book was the comparison of Alina and The Darkling. Alina is nothing like The Darkling, she's not evil - she just wants to be accepted, which we can all relate to. Alina starts out as a naive character who is just learning how to use her power; The Darkling is an ancient power who knows how to play in politics. She has the mercy that The Darkling does not, BUT the reader is given the sense that she is a little greedy and possessive her power that the collar gave her. This sets up an interesting aspect for Bradugo to get into in the sequels of how power comes with corruption.It was interesting to read about the dynamic of Ravka's culture. Everyone eats the same meal - the privileged Grishas have to eat the same food a commoner might. I wished Bradugo could go more into the world building a bit, but overall it was a nice balance between plot, characterization and world-build.