stuck in the middle with you.
I like a lack of romance in YA novels, too, because it seems like the only tropes that are followed are crazy, rapey, or murderous dudes and the girls that are obsessed with them. In the first book, the romance was kind of like that - Akiva was trying to kill Karou and then they instantly loved each other, like you said - but the difference was that the whole Madrigal backstory at least made it tolerable. Still, I was looking forward to reading the otherworldly stuff in this book because Laini showed spectacular world-building in Smoke and Bone. This was just really complex and confusing, in my opinion. But the lack of romance is fine by me.

I'm sure the tone of the third book will be the happy ending you always see in YA. I just hope the third book is better than this one has been.