This is a tough one to review. There were times I was completely sucked into the story but just as many times where I wasn't that invested. The writing style here could be to blame. Kristoff is a bit long winded at times and the tome is rather dense throughout. The writing is beautiful, to be sure, very poetic and descriptive - - almost too much. There were times I wished he would just state something outright rather than carrying that description verbiage into every passage.
I've read some debate as to whether this is truly YA or if this should be categorized as NA. I think that probably boils down to the sex scenes. Most YA just glosses over sex/alluding to it but never outright mentioning it....or just pretends that teenagers don't get it on. So the existence of actual sex scenes here is likely what makes people question the designation. To be clear, teenagers have sex. Particularly teenagers that have already killed people. This is YA. It just happens to be YA that doesn't pretend an entire facet of human life doesn't exist. The scenes are descriptive, as descriptive as any other passage in the book would be, but it is by no means erotica.
The plot here is great. Mia is amazing as well. And the world building is fantastic. I really enjoyed how Kristoff put this together, as far as it being a story someone is telling you (complete with random asides and backstory). This was pretty clever, I thought, and allowed for a depth to the world building. I have a fairly complete understanding of the environment, the politics, and the history that went into creating the characters and the world they live in. And I adored the intro to the book. Having competing firsts, such polar opposites of each other, described with the exact same language was quite the feat. Kristoff outdid himself here. It really set the stage for the kind of story you were about to get.
Mia is amazing. She wasn't just magically gifted the skills she has, and she doesn't somehow automatically know how to do everything. She doesn't excel at every task immediately. She has to work for it, suffer for it. And that makes her more relatable to me. I loved the interactions between her and Mister Kindly. I also liked her time with Tric and how that developed.
The side characters, particularly the Ministry and Speaker/Weaver characters were really well developed and awesome to read about. The other acolytes, while some were glossed over, added a lot to the development of Mia as did Naev. I really appreciate the fact that these characters were given some development, stories of their own, rather than only existing within Mia's story.