I was let down by the hype for this book. I went into it thinking it would be something 'new' and exciting, and instead I got more of the same-old, same-old. I wasn't impressed by the magic (it seemed like a limited version of Tamora Pierce's Circle of Magic world) and the setting was just Stock Fantasy Setting #23090432, but with Russian names and clothes. We didn't get a real good sense of anything that would make the world seem unique or even fully realized. There was very little in the way of social structure, religion, politics, customs, values, you know, culture. Just "oh, nobles and...um...peasants and...um...yeah...KEFTA!" *yawn* I mean, really, they've been at war with three neighboring countries for at least a hundred years, and in the whole book, no one even attempted to tell me why.The characters couldn't really add any spice, as they were pretty stock as well. Alina was just Snarky Female Character #5398472, with all the standard traits: able to make sarcastic comments, no matter the situation; simultaneously obsessed with beauty and down on her own appearance; possessing an almost unbelievable sense of Protagonist Centered Morality. Mal was alright, but we didn't get to see too much of him, and what did see was still pretty stock. Maybe I was more forgiving in his case because I like his brand of stock.The plot was a mess of poor pacing. We open on FLESH EATING MONSTERS and then the whole middle of the book gets sidetracked by boarding school and parties and makeovers and 'oh, does he like me, but I'm so plain!?!??!' before getting back to FLESH EATING MONSTERS for the last 50 pages or so. It felt like a rouge book wandered into the middle of an action story and just decided to stay for a while. And parts of the writing were just very lazy and sloppy. The Aparat? Yeah, why was he even in this book? He popped up twice to be 'creepy' in a manner that was about as subtle as a brick to the face, then he wandered off again, contributing fuck-all to the story. The mid-point reveal was handled like an on-off switch, with Alina having no doubts either before or after. She just fully believe a guy was good, then fully believed he was evil, *poof* like that.Beauty was handled very poorly in this book. It was a major theme, and about every other page was all "OMG, YOU GUYS, ALL THE OTHER CHARACTERS BUT ME ARE SO PRETTY AND WOOOOOOOEEE!" And then that was it. It seemed to imply that everyone else was...bad for being pretty. Until it's time for Alina to get pretty and then stand in front of a mirror and admire herself. But those other bitches, gosh, so vain, am I right? I guess they just didn't have...um, good intentions when they primped? Yeah, it was weird. HAVING SAID ALL THAT, this really wasn't that bad a book. I mean, sure, I've seen it all before, but so what? I liked it when I saw it the first time, so there's no reason I wouldn't like it on a second time. Shadow and Bone doesn't do anything to stand out from the crowd, but neither does it do anything really terrible, either. It's a pretty middle-of-the-run offering.