Recently I've come back from a trip visiting family in NY/NJ. My husband and I had finished our books but wanted something to read on two flights home. We found a decent airport bookshelf, where Chris found the latest Neil Gaiman book and I was deciding between this and another book on my TBR list.I am so, so happy I chose this.When I was a kid I adored fantasies. I tended to eschew anything without a map in the front of it, telling me where the hero/heroine lived, where there were dragons lurking, bloodthirsty ogres, etc. But after some time I lost the taste for it, so now if I look over a book and see a map, I tend to pass. Again, I'm so glad I ignored my recent disdain.Bardugo is a master at setting, and unlike Steifvater, doesn't sacrifice pacing or character development in order to effectively execute world-building. Sure, there was the often overused "girl secretly in love with best friend" storyline, but it was done so well. Mal and Alina grew up together, and he was clearly affectionate toward her, just not in the way she'd hoped.The action was captivating. I felt the dread of those people on the ship as they approached the Shadow Fold. I was exhilarated by Alina's gift. And oh, the characters. Thank you, Bardugo, for showing the dark side to power. There are those who despised the Darkling, but keep in mind there are those out there who are quite charismatic. They charm everyone, and some are decent people. Some are sociopaths. I'll let you decide for yourself where the Darkling lies.Rather than rehash the plot and all its intricacies, I will just tell you to do yourself a favor and read this book. You will most likely become hooked, and if not, you will at least lose yourself in this gem of a fantasy world for the duration of your reading.Enjoy.