A rocky beginning, but after about 2/3 in, I realized I couldn't take a break, and I NEEDED to finish. Then, I NEEDED the sequel. No cliffy, thank goodness, but the storyline gripped me by the end. I would say more of a 3.5, it definitely needed some help with the beginning 5 or so chapters. The opening chapter was so stark and horrific, and set the tone well. The characters were a little flat until the last third; the heroine had some sue-ish problems with her story, but they weren't so bad that I couldn't take it, and I ended up appreciating her more as the story went along.