Review: Siege and Storm - Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #2
My rating: {★★★★☆}

YA Fantasy
Published June 4th 2013 by Henry Holt and Company

Source: Purchased
Darkness never dies.

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.
I buddy read Siege and Storm with the fantastic Amy from A Magical World of Words AND the amazing Uma from Books.Bags.Burgers. It was my first three-way buddy read and I LOVED IT. These girls are the best! Please take some time to check out both Amy's review and Uma's review when you can!

I was a little worried about going into this book having been somewhat underwhelmed with Shadow and Bone. As I mentioned in that review, I had already read the Six of Crows duology before going into this series and I confess that it probably gave me unrealistic expectations of the Grisha trilogy. While they are both set in the same universe, they are actually completely different styles of books: The Grisha trilogy is more of a sweeping epic fantasy highlighting the fantasy world building and the magic system and general politics and maneuvers of the power players involved and all written from a first person POV while The Six of Crows duology is more of a heist adventure urbanesque fantasy focusing mainly on six individual characters all equally important to the heist and told in third person from multiple POVs.

Siege and Storm was actually a fantastic sequel and I suffered from NONE of my fears and I managed to put aside a lot of my Six of Crows baggage as well which definitely helped amp up the enjoyment of this one.
“When people say impossible, they usually mean improbable.”
There isn't a lot of rehashing of the previous book which worked well for me since I haven't long closed Shadow and Bone. The world grows beyond the borders of Ravka and along with it the plot and our cast of characters expands. We didn't see as much of the Darkling as I would have liked nor did his character have any real development for me but I'm hoping that is remedied in Ruin and Rising.

I did enjoy that the overall tone of this book is grittier and the sense-of-place and general world building has so much more depth and atmosphere.

Alina's character development arc was refreshing - I liked seeing her delve into the darkness more and her enjoyment of her Grisha powers. I definitely felt more connected to her in this book and while I had a slight issue with the climax of her arc, overall she seemed to step into herself and is determined to do her best or her country.

Nikolai was easily my favourite character in this book and I enjoyed his clever wit and insouciant attitude. It was actually so different for me to read about a prince like Nikolai; one who actually WANTED the job and who may actually be good for it! I loved his drive and desire and cannot wait to find out more in R&R.

In both Alina and Nikolai I loved seeing the internal battle, the struggle between being power hungry and being able to make the changes they both so desperately wish to bring about. It's not easy to amass the power they need and there's a certain amount of selfishness and greed required to do the job and while they both have good intentions they can also both see the benefit in a 'stop at nothing' attitude but that could easily push them towards the dark side and closer to being the same as the Darkling. It's always nice to see an author take a risk with their characters and I think Bardugo has done that really nicely here.
“If you ever have trouble telling us apart, look for the person who isn’t torturing you or trying to kill Mal. That will be me.”
“Are you so sure you wouldn’t?” I shot back. “If it got you closer to what you want, to the throne and your big chance to save Ravka, are you sure you wouldn’t walk me up the gallows steps yourself?”
I expected another of Nikolai’s flip replies, but he looked like I’d punched him in the gut. He started to speak, stopped, then shook his head.
“Saints,” he said, his tone somewhere between bewilderment and disgust. “I really don’t know.”
My only complaint with this book was probably the romance aspect - I was a little disillusioned with Mal's personal struggles and his inability to accept the magical side of Alina. I also have to admit that with the introduction of Nikolai I wasn't shipping Mal and Alina anywhere near as hard as I was at the end of the first book. I do feel like Alina is still loyally in love with her childhood friend but I really hope that he will be able to come to terms with the balance of their relationship in the next book. It's not as though the progression of the relationship wasn't realistic and I actually like seeing characters that have faults so, again, I applaud Bardugo for actually being brave enough to even go there with her characters. The tension felt real and the struggle was palpable but I guess I just feel protective over Alina and all that she is going through while, you know, trying to be the saviour of her country and to come to terms with the fact that she might be the only person in the world powerful enough to do so.

I cannot wait to get started on the third and final instalment to this series - Bardugo has me hooked and I need to know the answers to a few of my questions: Can the Darkling still be redeemed? Will Alina let the darkness take over or will she be strong enough to remain in the light? And possibly most importantly.... What happened to Nikolai?

Shadow and Bone (Grisha #1) -- Ruin and Rising (Grisha #3)→

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