Grishaverse Re-read: SIEGE AND STORM by Leigh Bardugo
In preparation for the Netflix show, Thea is re-immersing herself in Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse and rereading the Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows books! Today, she tackles the second full-length novel in the original trilogy: Siege and Storm.
Title: Siege and Storm
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Publisher: Square Fish
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Paperback: 435 pages
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.
Stand alone or series: Book 2 in the Shadow and Bone trilogy, and part of the overall Grishaverse
How did I get this book: Purchased
Warning: This review contains unavoidable spoilers for Shadow and Bone. If you have not yet read the first book in the trilogy and wish to remain unspoiled, look away!
Alina Starkov–humble, orphan mapmaker that was–has been discovered as a Grisha of rare and terrible power. Alina has the uncanny ability to call sunlight in the same way other Grisha can move water or air, and through training has learned to sharpen and hone her abilities to deadly precision. With the help of the stag bone amplifier, now permanently set around her neck as a collar, Alina’s powers have grown even stronger–maybe even strong enough to challenge the Darkling himself, though he intended the collar to control Alina and her powers.
Some call her the Sun Summoner; others think of her as a holy and blessed Saint, sent to deliver Ravka from the Fold and the monsters within.
In truth? Alina does not feel very holy. Following her dramatic escape from the Little Palace and using the Cut to strand the Darkling and his followers in the Fold, Alina and Mal find themselves on the True Sea, without much in the way of friends or provisions. Soon enough, the Darkling finds them. Yet again, he coerces cooperation from Alina by threatening violence against Mal–and yet again, they are on the search for a mythological beast whose body can serve as an amplifier for power.
Luckily for Alina and Mal, there are other players in the game of power with vested interests in Ravka’s future. An unlikely ally emerges in the form of Prince Nikolai–the royal younger son, rumored bastard, and apt charmer who always knows the right thing to say to any audience. Alina agrees to help Nikolai for the sake of Ravka, seizing control of the Second Army and, yes, even agreeing to embrace her “Sainthood” if it means stopping the Darkling once and for all.
Of course, things are never so simple and this time, the Darkling has learned some new tricks. Instead of just calling the darkness, it seems he can literally create monsters from the Fold and control them, as Alina learns with horrified dismay. With the future of her friends, her country, perhaps even the world on the line, Alina is determined to embrace her power–even if it means sacrificing her own humanity.
Ah, Siege and Storm. I have a confession to make: when I first attempted to read this book, I DNF’d it. I had a hard time shifting back into the Grishaverse with Alina and Mal playing the same game–weak, meek Alina hiding herself away and swaggery, brawny Mal making friends and Providing–and the emergence of a potential third love interest for Alina (i.e. Prince Nikolai). BUT, I came back to the book and ultimately was able to push aside some of those trope-laden misgivings and enjoy the fast plotting, high stakes, and wicked good world-building Leigh Bardugo wields with Cut-like precision.
This second time around, I found myself more forgiving of Alina (which, incidentally, I think is the key to the entire series). Once I could get over the fact that, yes, this is another Chosen One storyline with a main character of nigh unprecedented power, I felt much more sympathy for our Sun Summoner. I appreciated the implications and dangerous fanaticism of becoming a Saint and the power struggles of the Grand and Little Palace that she has to navigate. Moreover, I appreciate how ill-equipped for the job Alina appears to be, and how she rallies despite Mal being basically THE WORST (sorry, Mal fans) and comes into her own abilities as a negotiator and… well, general. I have a deep respect for Alina’s arc in this second book (and third book) as she also struggles with her own desire for more power, her attraction to the Darkling, and her own tangled allegiances and emotions.
Beyond Alina’s journey, there are some other standout characters in this second book, such as:
Genya. One of my absolute favorite characters in the entire series, I respect Genya’s choices especially in this book.
Zoya. Another favorite character, who has layers and depth and whose behavior Alina questions, rightfully!
Tamar and Tolya–the siblings from Shu Han who also end up becoming part of Alina’s retinue, but of murky allegiances in this particular novel.
There are also the many other members of the Grisha, like Sergei and Nadia and Adrik and David, who will become important, pivotal players in the war to come.
And of course, there’s Nikolai–the charming, adroit bastard prince with a plan, who is so much more than what he seems.
Beyond the characters, I love the vision of Os Alta as a slowly dying city, more preoccupied with grandeur and appearances than in the lives of its people. The juxtaposition of Crown Prince Vasily versus Nikolai was also a welcome addition of nuance to the series–the political entrapments of the King and his First Army juxtaposed against the tension with the Grisha and the Second Army was particularly well developed this time around.
Of course, I can’t write a review of this second novel without acknowledging the pull between Alina and the Darkling, right? There’s a Kylo Ren x Rey visitation vibe (and yes, I know this series predates The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker but you know exactly what I mean, right?) that is undeniably sexy and works because of Alina’s isolation and hunger for power–ultimately, this shared, destructive bond is irresistible. Less likable is the bond between Alina and Mal, but that is mostly personal bias–I have a really hard time liking Mal mostly because of his controlling, shitty, bad boyfriend flags.
There are hints at what might have caused the Fold to begin with and the mythology behind the Darkling’s origins that appear in this book. There are also political machinations and power plays that will shape and change everything, all of which I loved deeply upon this re-read.
Ultimately? Siege and Storm delivers and is significantly better than the first book.
Onward, to Ruin and Rising.
Rating: 7 – Very Good
The re-read continues next with Ruin and Rising (book 3 in the Shadow and Bone trilogy)…
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