[Review] Siege and Storm — Leigh Bardugo

Book Title                  Siege and Storm (The Grisha #02)
Author:                        Leigh Bardugo
Number of pages:  435

Synopsis:

Siege and Storm - Leigh Bardugo - Book CoverDarkness 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.

(re: Goodreads @ Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo)

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?

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Initial Thoughts

It was “Mal or Darkling” BUT NOW IT IS “STURMHOND. ALL. THE. WAY.”


 

Afterthoughts:

Premise

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.

Setting

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.

Narration

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.

Characters

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.)


Overall

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.


Cheers,
Joey

connect: afterthoughtAn // twitter  |  anotherafterthought // goodreads

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24 thoughts on “[Review] Siege and Storm — Leigh Bardugo”

  1. “Here’s a question: why not just kill Mal?” — That is a question I pondered for the entire series…

    It’s interesting to me that you think this book doesn’t suffer from Second Book Syndrome. I thought it did a little bit, especially in the middle when Alina was doing her boring Alina things. But I agree that the beginning and end were more exciting and probably saved it from being a complete flop.

    The only other thing that could have saved it would have been to kill off Mal 😉

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    1. Right? I think Mal’s death in Siege and Storm (IF it happened) would have propelled the story in a different light that could have actually made it stronger. But that’s just me.

      I think my outlook on it not being a Second Book Syndrome was because she was still perpetually finding herself since book 1 and that part of her character arc ended with her revelation. In other titles, it seems like these internal struggles are a bit omnipresent in the first book and just show up rather randomly (or it feels that way) in the sequel.

      But yeah, you make a fair point with boring Alina doing Alina things not really driving the story forward — but there’s something that felt right (at least for me) in that regard.

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      1. Ok, I see what you are saying now in terms of the sequel. I think I always go with the basis of what happens in terms of plot when I classify the “book-2-slump” and this one didn’t really work for me in that respect. But you’re right, there wasn’t as much “self-discovery” in this installment

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  2. You’re gonna be in a for surprise as to why Mal is kept around lol

    But I totally agree that Siege and Storm didn’t become that typical second filler novel in a series/trilogy. Siege and Storm is actually my favourite out of the three books =). I liked how the world building got expand and more in-depth because I gave me a stronger sense of the world the characters were living in and the situation they were dealing with.

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    1. I actually wrote this review with the intent that “I don’t know what happens in R&R” (even though I already read it before writing it haha). — LET ME JUST SAY THAT I AM NOT PLEASED.

      I really think S&S is my favourite of the 3 as well! It was really the character development from Alina that really propelled it. Normally, I’d hate being inundated by the MC going through her “should I cut my hair transformation” debacle but most of those are “new” to the plot whereas Alina has struggled since book 1. (She would have been a really strong character if she got rid of Mal though…but I digress.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Totally agree with you on the point of Alina’s further character development and growth in the second book! I think if I had to reread the books, xD I’d reread the second book first just b/c I liked it that much more!

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  3. Excellent review! I love the way you format all your reviews! The infographic at the start is always so cool!
    So I’m disappointed that the Darkling becomes one dimensional. *sigh* I had such high hopes for him. And I am beyond frustrated that Mal isn’t killed off either. Gosh I couldn’t stand him in book 1. But this Sturmhond character seems to have captivated you so I am once more interested and will continue the series just to see what’s up. 😁

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    1. Your words are too kind Nicolette!

      I think it’s a common feeling for readers to leave Shadow and Bone enjoying Darkling as a character (or at least, that’s what I’ve seen) so when you get into Siege and Storm, it’s a bit disheartening that he’s only there to do evil deeds and that’s only it. When he’s way more morally ambiguous than that. It’s the overall plotting that decided that.

      I think if you like Anonymous for what he’s worth, then you’ll enjoy Sturmhond for the value he brings :D!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I love these little teasers you dangle in front of me about new books I should read! Lol, why you do this to me!!? Jk I love it. I love books. I just need a few years of paid leave to get through All the books, lol. P.S thanks for your response, I know how busy you are and I try not to flood you with comments unless I have something valuable (I hope) to say, or perhaps the fangirl can’t sit down for long enough not to say something, its difficult to reign that one in, lol.

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  4. Great review Joey!
    I share a lot of the same sentiments when it comes to Mal. I’m hoping for a swift exit of him in the third book, but I have a strong feeling he’s going to be the romantic winner in the end.

    The Darkling hasn’t developed enough, Nioklai is LIFE, and my heart broke for Genya. Poor Genya T___T

    I guess, we’ll have to see what happens in book three (even though I know you probably already finished it by now)

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  5. Love Sturmhond! I agree he is one of the best things about this series. I’m interested to see what you think of the next book as it answers some of your questions and I also think The Darkling is a more complex character than this book makes him appear.

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  6. Fine, I agree that the book would’ve been better if Mal had died. There’s really no reason why he should be alive when almost all the Grishas are dead, since he’s supposed to be the normal one. Idk, I still don’t dislike him as much as you all do 🙂

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