Anything worth doing always starts as a bad idea.
I came off of reading Shadow and Bone, the first novel, feeling decidedly unimpressed. It was a good novel; I enjoyed reading it, but it wasn’t quite something I was raving about despite the impressive amount of love there is for it. Siege and Storm is so much better. I think it helps that the novel is longer. Bardugo is able to explore her world a bit more, showing readers the corners that hadn’t yet been introduced fully.
After defeating the Darkling on the Fold, Alina has been running and hiding. She and Mal have been trying to make a life for themselves in a strange land, but as the days pass, it becomes more and more difficult for Alina to hide who she is. When she discovers that the Darkling survived against impossible odds and is now more powerful than ever, Alina realizes that she’s going to have to face her past and confront the Darkling and his allies.
Alina came into her power in the first book, which meant that she finally is a character I like in this second book. I found her pretty annoying in the first book, a standard heroine that whines about her powers (or lack of) while doing little to advance herself. Obviously that had changed toward the end of the novel, but I still wasn’t sure of her and the Grisha series. Now I’m pretty eager to finish the series.
I am a soldier. I am the Sun Summoner. And I’m the only chance you have.
One of the best things about Siege and Storm was how much Alina struggled. She had been told by the Darkling that Mal, an otkazat’sya–someone without powers–would never understand her and her power. As much as she tried to ignore his words, they stuck with her, barbs that keep pricking at her heart even as she gets closer to Mal. The resulting inner conflict that Alina goes through makes her a much better character. I felt far more invested in her this time around because I wanted to see how she would overcome–or succumb to–this inner darkness that seems to have been planted in her by the Darkling. As the book progresses, Alina realizes that she maybe can’t blame the Darkling for all of the negative thoughts, greed, and thirst for more that has grown in her. I loved that. I loved that she owned up to her feelings instead of blaming someone else for it. She has all of these pressures on her that are personal and political, and sometimes they become too much for her.
I particularly liked how Bardugo focused on how people sometimes outgrow their old selves, which allowed for a lot of conflict between the three main characters: Alina, Mal, and Strumhond. I loved the addition of Strumhond as a main character because he caused tension between Mal and Alina, which I found very realistic. It’s natural to feel jealous of someone the way that Mal does, which gave an additional facet to his character. All three characters are dealing with inner conflict that sometimes doesn’t mesh well with the others. It’s more complicated for Mal and Alina when they’ve known each other since they were children. They both have expectations for the other, but sometimes those expectations aren’t met. And when they’re not met, that puts stress on their budding relationship. I love that this was portrayed in Siege and Storm.
As for the setting, I think Bardugo’s strengths lie in creating characters and their positions rather than the actual physical setting. While there is a pretty decent amount of world building in the second novel, I still feel like it’s not as extensive as I’d like it to be. That said, I’m also someone who love love loves creating settings and reading about settings, so I’m a little more critical when it comes to them. I’m really interested in seeing how the setting expands in the next book. I hope that there are opportunities for Bardugo to show us more.
When people say impossible, they usually mean improbable.
A lot of times I review novels that do not have enough plot to continue across multiple ones. Not so with this series. As much as I complain about the world building, I did really enjoy the way that the story progressed in Siege and Storm. I was engaged the whole time and I liked how the climax of the novel was set in amongst the various events and character plots. With the addition of new characters, Bardugo rounded out Siege and Storm into a great middle book.
As someone who could have gone either way with the first book, Siege and Storm was a huge turnaround for me. I still feel like it’s light fantasy, but the series has taken a step in the right direction to make it stand further apart from the standard girl-with-powers trope. I’m truly surprised by how much I enjoy it. Definitely good for fans of other young adult fantasy series like Throne of Glass, Red Queen, or other novels with dystopian-fantasy settings. It’s no wonder it’s so popular.
For the living and the dead, she would make herself a reckoning. She would rise.