Book Title Siege and Storm (The Grisha #02)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Number of pages: 435
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.
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr review:
– You may find your newest favourite character in Sturmhond
– Contextual world building steps further to deeper into science v.s. magic and the mythology of the Grishaverse
– Story focuses heavily on building [Alina’s] character to transition her from plot-driving threads to more of a character-driven notion
– Less development in main ensemble (Mal remains whiny, Darkling typecast into antagonism); introduces a variety of refreshing voices
– Did I mention Sturmhond?
It was “Mal or Darkling” BUT NOW IT IS “STURMHOND. ALL. THE. WAY.”
Though Alina has left the Grisha world behind, she can’t truly escape her power that craves attention. Nor can she dismiss the silent calls drawing her home to the people that mourn the Saints death—hers. As she takes two steps forward into the political landscape of Ravka, she is challenged by forces pushing her one step back. But to hope for a future is to stare straight into the shadows itself; only the shadows are most terrifying from within.
Shadow and Bone is like a Belgian waffle—dense with lore and the base of something great. Siege and Storm is a step up. Here’s where you willfully add those strawberries, the ice cream and Nutella, the whip cream—because why not?!—and begin to taste and understand the subtleties of not only the world being meld together but also the nuanced intricacies of it being engaged separately.
What a shitty analogy, right?
It’s a sequel blending worthy additions that stretches what we know of the Grishaverse (landscapes and communities inclusive) to look at the foundation of the world rooted in Small Sciences versus magic and how the Russian mythology came to be. It shifts the thought toward a battle of learning, of adapting—and ultimately—a fight to grow. It is where heroism struggles against curiosity; power and greed contend with love; and where survival is found at the heart of identity.
This is a book about the small wars you fight; a battle of within.
What does this mean in terms of writing?
What you have is a slow paced, limited plotting, internally driven narrative that focuses the grit of story development from a character standpoint—meaning it’s a book about Alina doing Alina things. Don’t get me wrong: the action we love from the first book is there but it mainly happens in the opening and ending bit.
What I’m getting at is you have to be on board with the onslaught of self-examination. This is the warning I give to those thinking of continuing the Grisha trilogy: it’s a sequel juggling little conflicts challenging Alina to get from point A-to-B. She enters this story heavily influenced by her surroundings and burdened by passivity. Before, the story only progressed when conflict swept her up. By the end of Siege and Storm, her evolution becomes self-sustained and conviction sparks action. There is indeed useless drama and drabble but this microscopic writing is necessary to define Alina going foward.
If Mal was tolerable in Shadow and Bone, he’s infuriating to read about in Siege and Storm. He goes from BFF to McBroody within pages. In what scenario reinforces the need for friends to need to have some tangible worth in order to remain in someone’s life? That quantification of value establishes any relationship? This is the [unfortunate] romantic struggle between Alina and Mal. (And people wonder why I dislike Mal? Yeeeeeeeeeesssssssh.)
And you know what’s worse? It has to naturally translate to Alina’s perspective. Somewhere in the rise and fall of her character reconstruction lives these whiny threads of doubt that push her along. It encourages her…because you know, fiction and shit. (Note: you are much more than a boy, lest one that broods.)
First off: there is less Darkling in Siege and Storm. As much as I loved his morally ambiguity, this book definitely puts him into that villain check-box for no truer reason than to a) strain the thread of romance and b) to make his antagonism absolute. What you had before was a complex character whose strength was found in making “difficult”—not evil—choices. He unfortunately becomes one-dimensional and there’s this disingenuity that feels different than the calculative and enigmatic Darkling witnessed in Shadow and Bone.
But aside from Love Interest #1 and #2, Sturmhond is the reason why the rating is inflated. That, and the new voices that are introduced into this story. I can’t stand to reason why as some things are better left discovered for yourself. (Though I will say that I was often confused between Tolya and Tamar and which one was the boy/girl.)
Here’s a question: why not just kill Mal? It’s silly when characters get a pass to survive while every other character dies or is maimed (10 points for the reference). I don’t even believe the stance that Mal is necessary to do tracker-y things when it felt so easy for the Darkling to capture Alina again. Maybe there’s a special snowflake thing happening but Darkling stands to gain so much more if Mal just peaces out. I don’t get it.
Anyhow. Siege and Storm is a follow-up that hits the marks of not suffering Second Book Syndrome and Leigh Bardugo continues to craft a surprisingly easy read full of Russian influence and descriptive prose. Though the action is sparse this time around, the writing captures the essence of tense politics, magical intrigue, and bolsters a well-written slow-burn of an internal revelation as it enters the beginning of the end.