(And yes, this rating is entirely subjective.)
Top marks for cover design and the map - love the look and feel.
Writing is fine - Mostly dependable and low-key, rendering it unobtrusive, if immature. It is very
much Alina's story - her voice - throughout, but sometimes that was more off-putting to me, particularly when she is being dense about something.
I questioned Mal & Alina's friendship often. Mal & Alina, as a couple, did not work for me. I never really bought into them. They had a good set-up and history. I just did not believe in them. Of course, I struggled with them as characters constantly.
But the real Issues?
"I was suddenly acutely aware of the fact that I was standing in a dark room with a near stranger and that only a few moments before I'd nearly had my skirts around my waist."
That was an uncomfortable scene - lust and desire and no critical thinking going on in that little brain of Alina's. Drinking could not have been helping either.
So, they are interrupted (only reason they did not have sex against the door right then) and Darkling asks to "come to her" in her room that night.
"If the Darkling came to my room tonight, what would it mean? The idea of being his sent a little jolt through me. I didn't think he was in love with me and I had no idea what I felt for him, but he wanted me and that was enough."
WTF! Just read that sentence again! Enough? Just because some guy wants you for sex? Enough?
He doesn't love you? You have no idea what you feel? But hey, baby, he wants you to use for his pleasure and, wow, the honor! Yeah, totally enough.
"I'd wanted so badly to belong somewhere, anywhere. I'd been so eager to please him, so proud to keep his secrets. But I'd never bothered to question what he might really want. What his true motives might be. I'd been too busy imaging myself by his side, the savior of Ravka, most treasured, most desired, like some kind of queen. I'd make it so easy for him."
This really does sum up her entire mindset in the story. As unbelievably annoying as it was. Pretty clothes, kisses and caresses,and some special attention was all that was needed to blind her to the evil before her.
Complicated court system - never got a handle on the rest of the society - serfspeasants? Bad economy? Due to the years of war?
So, in summation, I would not reread this book and I would not recommend it. La, I shall not be pursuing this series. And I was quite disappointed that so many authors and reviewers that I normally trust loved this book and gave me such a different impression of this novel than what I found. Which only added to my unhappy reading of this.