Siege & Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Published: June 4th, 2013 by Henry Holt & Co.
Genres: Fantasy, young adult, romance
Trigger Warnings: violence, death, gore (but not crazy amounts)
Pages: 435 pgs.
2016 Reading Challenges:
Bustle’s Reading Challenge – Read a book about women in war
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.
Finding one’s self is often one of the most difficult internal struggles that a person can face in their lifetime. What’s our purpose? What are we meant to accomplish during our short time here? Imagine having these same thoughts all while being hailed as a living saint as the Sun Summoner. In the second installment of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy, newly-realized Alina Starkov is just settling into her role in the midst of a story jam-packed with action, romance, and, of course, good ‘ol ass-kicking. Just like its predecessor, Siege and Storm is one of those rare novels that’s almost impossible to put down.
Picking up right where readers were left off in the previous novel, Siege and Storm tracks Alina and Mal as they cross the True Sea after narrowly escaping the Darkling’s grip in the Shadow Fold. After spending some time getting into their life together in Novyi Zem, the pair are eventually cornered by the Darkling once again and forced onto a ship headed to the icy north. The Darkling has his sights set on yet another powerful amplifier to be used on Alina: a sea dragon’s scales. However, Alina and her allies cut loose once more after capturing the sea whip and head back to Ravka with an unlikely friend heading the way. Once again, it’s up to the Sun Summoner to ease the unrest bubbling beneath Ravka’s surface and prevent the Darkling from getting any stronger. At what cost will Ravka be secured?
As much as the first book gripped me from the first page, Siege and Storm dug its claws into me almost from the first word. I am a woman obsessed with this series and I don’t care who knows it. Once again, Bardugo has crafted a tale that masterfully blends romance, action, and fantasy in a way that neither aspect feels particularly heavy-handed over the others. Her prose leaves no stone unturned, no question unanswered, no detail missed. Bardugo’s world building continues to give us a fully-realized place with its own language, religion, government, everything. While clearly she does pull major influences from pre-Revolution Russia, it’s clear that she has set out to create her own place for her characters to call home in her alternate universe. Readers are able to taste the salt air of the True Sea, feel the adrenaline coursing through Alina’s veins while riding the Hummingbird, experience the chill rolling up her spine as she’s visited by the Darkling. I’d dare say that she’s improved upon what she’s already established in the first book.
Furthermore, her characters are far more fleshed out than most authors can dream to say about their own. Characters’ motivations — especially those of our main three characters: Alina, Nikolai, and Mal — are less so done for the greater good of all people, but to protect the ones they love, to further themselves, to find where they truly belong. While on the whole, I’m moreso about making sure my actions are done to do the most good for the most amount of people, I love it when characters get on the more neutral side of things when it comes to their main goals. It shows a lot more humanity in these characters to make them far more three-dimensional than some of their counterparts in other releases. Alina, for instance, doesn’t necessarily want to side with the King of Ravka when she makes her return, nor does she really want others to hail her as a great hero and a living saint; however, the alternatives include living under the Darkling’s rule and being treated as nothing more than a breathing puppet for his demands. In her struggle for her own independence, she chooses the path that will get her what she desires most. It’s this grittiness and drive to be the master of her own destiny that calls me to her. And, as is repeated time and again through these books, like does call to like.
If you’re not reading the Grisha Trilogy, this definitely is a series that gets better as the books move forward and deserves a spot on your TBR. While taking place in a real-feeling fantasy setting, Siege and Storm touches on topics that still resonate with its real-world readers. If these books are already this good two-thirds of the way through the series, I can’t imagine how killer — maybe even literally — the final novel will be.
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