Title: Siege and Storm
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: YA / Fantasy
Series: The Grisha Trilogy
Synopsis: Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.
The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm. (taken from Goodreads)
I liked Shadow and Bone a lot that I was excited for this next one. I was delighted to find that the themes in Siege and Storm were darker than the previous ones. The stakes were higher as well. Apart from all the old characters, and we also get a couple new additions to the crew. I took an instant liking to most of them, most especially Sturmhond.
Alina finally learns to accept who she is and grows alongside her power. However, with that power comes a dark side of her that she can no longer hide. Her character development was good for the most part, but there were some minor things that ended up annoying me. My main disappointment would be how the Darkling barely had any page time. His appearances were brief, lasting only several chapters. Other than that, I though the book was enjoyable, even more so than Shadow and Bone.
The pacing was slower compared to Shadow and Bone but surprisingly, I didn’t actually mind it all that much. Bardugo’s writing style constantly makes up for it and she keeps the world interesting enough for me to make it to the end.
This portion of the review is a slightly more in-depth discussion of the book and will contain spoilers/rants/raves. Read at your own discretion.
Definitely better than Shadow and Bone. Siege and Storm basically starts where Shadow and Bone ended: with Alina and Mal on the run from the Darkling. It jumps into the action real quick, and within the first two chapters we find our duo once again caught in the Darkling’s net.
We get a new set of characters! Okay, let me talk about them for a quick second. First we have Sturmhond, the privateer, later revealed to be Nikolai Lanstov, the second son of the king. It was love at first page for me. I adored Nikolai when I first read about him in Crooked Kingdom and I absolutely adore him even more now in Siege and Storm. He’s crafty and charming and hilarious as hell. I find him to be as fascinating as the Darkling, and he quickly became one of my absolute favorite characters. I loved everything about him. His ambitiousness, his humor, his moral ambiguity (I see him kind of like the Grisha version of Robin Hood), just everything. I would kill for a companion book or two about him. Never can have too much Nikolai Lanstov.
We’re also introduced to the Shu twins, Tamar and Tolya. They were pretty badass. Tamar especially! At first, I thought she was gonna end up as the new “best friend” character to replace Genya and boy, am I glad I was wrong. But I really enjoyed her friendship with Alina because let’s face it: Alina could use more girl pals in this series.
Alina was finally standing up for herself! And doing stuff! Her character also took a dark turn in this one. She spent the book torn between wanting to return to her old life with Mal or fighting against the Darkling. She chooses the latter and as she accepts her role as the Sun Summoner, we see her struggle with the burden of having two amplifiers. Her power continues to grow and with it, her darker side begins to surface. She has to deal with visions of the Darkling, the temptation to submit to him, and the undeniable pull that she still feels towards him despite all that he has done. I’ll admit, I would have loved to see Alina actually embrace her dark side as well. My one gripe? She was whiny as hell. I mean, she was pretty whiny in Shadow and Bone but that was understandable, considering how her entire world suddenly changed once she discovered she was the Sun Summoner so yeah, she never really asked for that to happen. But in this one, we see her taking charge and actually being the Sun Summoner. She has great power and an army at her disposal and yet… she just whines. She also seems to rely on Mal way too much.
Mal. Oh Mal. His character went downhill for me. I get where he’s coming from, I really do. The person he loves kept being taken away from him. First by the Darkling, then by Nikolai. She has a duty to fulfill as the Sun Summoner. She was branded a Saint. She was even encouraged to become Queen. She was wanted; he was not. And I get that it’s hard for him to accept change, especially one so drastic. He didn’t like how he seemed useless compared to Alina and felt as though he no longer had a place in her life. But he acted too much like an ass throughout most of the novel. Mal came off as immature, even selfish at times. Whenever Alina needed him, he was off sulking or fighting or drowning himself with a bottle of kvas all because of the stupidest misunderstandings. His loyalty to Alina was the one thing I appreciated about him, and I hated how he made it seem as though he was being forced to be loyal to her.
Also can we take a moment to talk about how stupid their fights were? All the drama could have been avoided if the two of them just sat down and talked to each other. If Alina just went ahead and told him about her visions of the Darkling. If Mal just went ahead and confessed to her how he really felt about everything that was happening.
Ah, my precious Darkling. I was disappointed to find that he was basically M.I.A. for the majority of the book. He only showed up at the beginning, and then again at the end, which was unfortunate since he has been the most charismatic of all the characters so far, save for Nikolai (who had kept my interest in the Darkling’s stead for the entirety of this book so thank god for Nikolai). He discovers this new power at the beginning of the book and is now able to create living shadows that are creepy as hell. The way Bardugo wrote them was absolutely chilling.
I think I felt more betrayed by Genya than Alina did. Might have to do with my dislike for books where basically everyone keeps the protagonist in the dark. Pun intended. So finding out that Genya had sided with the Darkling (and that she had been the one to burn Alina’s letters to Mal) was pretty damn painful. But Alina seemed to forgive her pretty easily, whereas I still personally haven’t forgiven her and unless she actually helps the cause in the third book, I probably won’t. That said, I do like her character and I actually like the fact that she betrayed Alina instead of simply being this pure, do-what-is-right type of friend.
Something I wished the book expanded on: Rusalye. Oh my god, the part when they were hunting for the sea whip was so fucking interesting. Unlike the stag, we actually get some sort of backstory with Rusalye. He was once a human, cursed to be an ice dragon. So I wanted a little bit more, you know, other than Rusalye just… dying. I don’t know, I just thought the whole myth behind him was intriguing and it reminded me of that prince who turned into a bear from Brave. It was a bit anticlimactic for me. I wanted them to dig deeper into the mystery of Rusalye (or the mystery of all three amplifiers) but nope. They kill Rusalye, Alina puts on the amplifier, and then they move on.
The story kind of drags at the middle due to the lack of action. I noticed this in Shadow and Bone too. The beginning is always interesting, then the middle kind of serves as the “character growth and planning” phase where the characters learn something new or they start coming up with some sort of plan. Then we get a twist at the ending and a ton of action. I felt that the pacing is this one was definitely slower than Shadow and Bone. It quickly speeds up near the end when the Darkling suddenly invades. Chaos ensues and everything that they had been planning easily turns into shit. The way Bardugo crafts her action scenes are crazy good. The tension was high and I was on the edge of my seat from the dinner scene to the very last page.
That little twist at the end with Alina losing her powers? Yeah, that bit made me eager to start reading the final book. I’m looking forward to see what will happen and how this series wraps up!