Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: YA, high fantasy, AWESOME
Publication Date: June 4, 2013 (Macmillan – North America)
Source: Publisher-provided ARC
Summary: 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, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But 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.
☆: 5/5 stars – Another hit for Bardugo! Now I need that new novella and third book STAT.
Review: Holy wow. This is a very hard review to write – I have to agree with other reviewers when they say that it’s hard to really write reviews for Leigh’s books, because they just kind of knock the wind out of you, they’re so good, yet they leave you totally incoherent with it. All I can say is if you liked “Shadow and Bone”? You will LOVE “Siege and Storm”. I know I did. The stakes are higher, your book boyfriend/girlfriend harem will grow by several characters, and there’s a lot more character exploration in general. Oh, and new magical monsters. Yes, yes, yes. I need that next novella and book three NOW. Definitely up there in my top five faves of 2013, “Siege and Storm” is nothing short of breathtaking and will leave you aching for more.
I think my favorite part of this book is the deeper examination of Alina’s character, and how no one gets away with being black or white, but with a very wide gray range of “darkness” or “evil” (depending on the situation). I’m trying to write this review without spoilers, but it’s pretty difficult. So I’ll try to minimize them as best I can. Alina definitely goes through a very interesting personal character journey arc throughout the entire book, and if book one was about discovering/unblocking memories of her true identity as a Grisha, then book two is all about really understanding what her role is, and in turn, learning how to deal with that role and everything that comes with it. With the aid of new characters like Sturmhond (more on him later), and good ol’ Mal, we get a very deep, dark look at what Alina’s going through – a continuing push-pull of “I want power/I don’t want power” as she fights with the idea of going after the other two animals that create amplifiers – the Seawhip and the Firebird. I won’t spoil any further than that, but let’s just say that all of the initial interactions with Sturmhond do set the rather reflective and contemplative tone for this installment of the trilogy.
There’s also the world expansion – we travel outside of Ravka for the first time, both by land and sea, and we see what life in these other countries/kingdoms are like compared to that of Ravka. We also get some “this is what’s happened since the end of book one” information about Ravka – what the Shadow Fold has become, and how things have really changed in terms of who has power, who’s been overthrown, and who’s looking to get back into their seat of power. It’s soldier against soldier, Grisha against Grisha, and it’s absolutely brutal. But the little we do get to see of these other lands (and of the parts that are bordering Ravka) are nothing less than stunning – especially the scenes on the sea with Sturmhond. Those were among my favorites of the novel. Absolutely breathtaking in terms of sensory imagery and language – an area I didn’t think Bardugo could get any better in, but she DID.
And then there’s the characters. Sturmhond is by far my favorite in this book (alongside the Darkling, of course) – another character with a double identity, and a double agenda. He’s absolutely wonderful, even at the times you just want to throttle him. I don’t talk too often about book boyfriends/girlfriends, but man, if I had a harem? Sturmhond and Darkling would find themselves in there faster than you could say Jack Robinson. All of the characters get a tune-up this time around, and they’re all a great contrast to Alina, really showing how isolated she’s become in her role as the Sun Summoner and also highlighting her struggle just to find simple human contact with another person that’s not out for her power, her prestige, or anything attached to her role as a Grisha. My heart really kind of hurt for her throughout this book, especially with seeing how happy she was in the beginning, outside of Ravka with Mal.
And then of course, there’s that ENDING. And we’re not going into that because I’m going to need a great deal of kvas to even think about talking about it.
Final verdict? This is a stunning follow-up to book one, which was insanely awesome in its own right. Definitely one of my favorites of 2013 and a must-read for the YA high fantasy genre, I seriously can’t recommend the Grisha trilogy enough – and if you haven’t started yet, what’s stopping you? “Siege and Storm” will be out June 4th, 2013 from Macmillan in North America, so definitely be sure to check it out when you get the chance. Also watch for a review battle between me and co-blogger Ashleigh Paige before the blog tour stop on May 31st, 2013!