Okay, these things do happen in Shadow and Bone (and that's not a spoiler - there are neon lights all over it, it's so obvious that's what's going to happen), but a whole lot of other stuff happens too and that's what dragged this book up from being a meh-three-stars to a hey-not-bad-four-stars.
Alina was okay as a character. She had a bit of get-up-and-go about her and her loyalty to Mal was very touching. I could see how she fell for the Darkling, even though he reminded me totally of Emo Kylo Ren (Twitter @KyloR3n). But yeah. Love triangles. I'm over them. Especially when the MC has spent pages and pages telling us how plain-looking she is. Yeah, because human beings are well known for their desire to look beyond the surface and discover someone's hidden inner beauty. The hard work makes you feel like you've *earned* it.
The setting seems to be dividing other readers and I'm not sure where I stand. I think it would have worked better if it hadn't incorporated so many Russian elements and words. I can see why the author did it - Russia has an incredible history and so much fascinating mythology - but doing that kind of thing sets you up for all sorts of complaints about how you're not being authentic enough. I think the setting would have been better as Generic Cold Fantasy Setting. I did enjoy the worldbuilding though, and it made a very visual setting.
I did spend the first 60% of this book thinking, 'I know what's going to happen. I can totally see where this is going.' But then there's a plot twist that honestly caught me off guard (and I have Plot Twist Radar. It's a thing.) And that's what made the book for me. It went from being a bit of a plod, to a genuine page turner in the space of a few pages.
Maybe I'll carry on with the trilogy. Maybe not. The other two books are 99p on Kindle at the moment and I've just been given a gift of £50 of Amazon vouchers, so chances are I probably will.
4 stars (eh, maybe 3.5)