This book had me a bit stumped:
It was pretty "dark" for a YA book? The themes of evil vs. good were pretty brutal, and the representations of human suffering is what made me think this book was quite a bit different from the regular YA offerings.
I loved it so much, that I am now going to read all of Ms. Novik's books. She appears to be a stellar, but brutal, story-teller. In this particular book, there was no gentle deaths for the people who were slated to die. This seemed a bit different to me, because in most YA books I have read, there is some sort of "fairness" in the brutality? I can't say much more than this without giving away spoilers.
At the end of the day, this author is a stellar wordsmith and storyteller. It's quite an awesome, original book. I highly recommend it.