First of all, the plot flowed smoothly. It was well-hatched, with just the right amount of intriguing and satisfying moments. I personally loved the Hummingbird scenes. They were a refreshing change. Those scenes were like a magical version of The A-Team. (If you don’t get that reference then God help you kiddo. Amen. Oh and just so you know, it was a fantastic movie.) Like I said, exhilarating! :D
Secondly, have I mentioned how beautifully Bardugo writes? No? Well, she has a great set of skills that put her imagination to good use. I loved how she wrote her action scenes. I loved how she described fantastical elements she wove into the story - like Morozova's amplifiers. And I just plain loved how she wrote her characters. She didn't just make you love them. She made you hate them at times, doubt them and, most importantly, made you want to beat some sense into them.
Picking up that last point and moving it furher - what the hell was happening in the romance department?? I mean, I read so many good things about the romantic ongoings of the book but I saw nothing what others saw. It was scattered all over the place. A complete mess. It wasn't the type of mess which occurs in a relationship. It was just a completely botched up attempt at trying to imitate a relationship that's confusing. And this was the part where I wanted to beat sense into them.
Alina is into Mal. But then in between there were several moments where she was into Nikolai and wasn't sure why she was into him. Then she wanted to be with him but then a light bulb goes of and she remembers that she's in love with Mal. Has been since forever. Yet I couldn't see anywhere as to why is this the case. We know nothing of Mal except what we're told (not shown). Oh and why oh why was she drawn towards the Darkling? Is it because she wanted him romantically or is it her magic calling to his and vice versa? And between this hotch-potch there were many uncertain contemplations by other characters. It was...nonsensical. There were times I wanted to bang my head against something hard. Like I said, FRUSTRATING!!
I get that Alina is supposed to be confused. But this isn't the confusion which a reader can understand. It just ended up giving me a headache. It was like making a mountain out of a molehill in my opinion. Why deliberately make the situation more befuddling? There were moments when I just wanted Alina too become celibate instead of go through this claptrap. (And let's not get started on Nikolai as a romantic interest. I don't think I can handle anymore ranting.)
The only character which kept me sane was the Darkling. He was undeviating. I welcomed it when he, quite literally, appeared (though only to Alina) in between scenes. He was being who he was and doing what he decided to do. No mushiness for this guy. Of course it also didn't hurt that he was very handsome too. One solid character between bumbling-jumbling romantic fools (a big contradiction to how put together these fools were in the first book.)
So that's why I docked off a point. Bardugo meant this to be a contemporary romance too and, according to me, it didn't work out well in this book. The first one was much better in this regard.
And now I'm just going to move onto the next book with crossed fingers.