As the cover says, this book is unlike anything I've ever read.
First, the setting. I'm not sure yet what to make of it. Obviously, we aren't anywhere on earth as we know it. I'm fairly certain that two of the other nations in this book represent Asia and Russia, but that could be completely wrong.
So far, I've gathered that they're near water, the Unsea, obviously. I'm guessing the climate is temperate.
Ugh, this is why I don't do high fantasy. I try to relate too much to the real world.
They don't have modern technology or more leisure-work, so to speak.
By the end of the book, however, I gave up trying to reconcile it to our world and moved past it.
I felt that our protag/heroine, Aline, is weak. She pretty much followed Mal around like a pup. Then she was so eager to please The Darkling, that she didn't dare ask any questions of him. Even after she knew what he was intending, she would have went along with it if Mal hadn't been in trouble.
And Mal. I don't think I care for him either. He spent years man-whoring around, but as soon as Alina has moved on and became super powerful and might have the interest of another guy (one who happens to be the most powerful male on the planet) he's into her? Whatever.
Honestly, she had more chemistry with The Darkling. He may have been evil in the end, but I felt like what they had was more real. And despite his not being honest about his motivations, I think there may have been times when he was sincere with her. He really did think of her as an equal until she ran away.
The plot dragged in the beginning, picked up in the middle, then dragged again in the end because you sort of knew where it was heading. The Darkling would still go after the stag, just like Mal and Alina, and of course, he would get to it right as they did. Predictable. He would use Mal against Alina. Predictable. She would bow down to his wishes then make her final stand to save... Mal. Predictable.
I'm continuing this series, however. I really want to know what happens to The Darkling. That's right. I don't care about the weak heroine or her bandwagon boyfriend. In this book, the villain is just more interesting.