As you can probably tell from the onion-domes on the cover, this story takes place in pseudo-Russia. The prologue shows a little boy and girl, orphans, who are about to be tested for witch skills, and they are terrified of being separated.
Fast forward to chapter one, and Alina & Mal are in the army. They fight their way through The Bad Zone and Mal is about to be killed – so Alina does Something. The witch-people, the Grisha, wonder how Alina was missed as a child, and rush her off to study witch-craft so she can fight for “the second army” as the Grisha are sometimes known.
Cue major political maneuvers, angst over her dear friend Mal, deepening love for Darking who is not as evil as everyone thinks (maybe?) and a serious inability to perform magic. Then she gains insight into herself and her world, and everything goes disastrous.
The magic in this world if very sensible. It’s divided into different abilities, and all the mages wear robes to show where they stand. And of course the mages have politics with each other, besides the politics with the czar. And the czarina.
There are two more books in the series, and some short stories, I can’t wait to read them.