Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
“What is infinite? The universe and the greed of men.”
Siege and Storm is the perfect sequel to Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series, heightening the tension and upping the stakes. Flying ships, an ice dragon, a sea battle, man-eating volcra, and religious fanatics are just a few of the epic things you can expect from Siege and Storm.
Alina and Mal are on the run from the Darkling, hiding out in a foreign country and trying to make a life for themselves. When the Darkling finds Alina, he drags her aboard the famous Sea Captain Sturmhond’s ship to bring her back to Ravka and force her to help him in his quest for ultimate power. But Sturmhond has other plans …
This was a wonderful sequel. When the second book in a series comes out, I am often worried that it won’t live up to the first book or the expectations that naturally comes with sequels (though that’s nothing compared to what I’ve come to fear from the last book in a series).
“You know the problem with heroes and saints, Nikolai?” I asked as I closed the book’s cover and headed for the door. “They always end up dead.”
Like Shadow and Bone, the book picks up very quickly and continues this rapid pace through the entirety of the novel, which I enjoyed. So often fantasy novels lag during the filler scenes where the action of the main plot is set aside for a moment. This certainly doesn’t happen here. With Sturmhond’s help, Alina escapes from the Darkling and they continue to pursue the sea whip, the second of Morozova’s amplifiers which Alina must kill in order to enhance her own abilities. Meanwhile, in Ravka, the unnerving Apparat has boasted of Alina’s sun powers and turned her into a living saint. When she returns to Os Alta, Alina is appointed leader of the Second Army and she must contend with the difficulties of leadership and preparing for when the Darkling decides to come after her once more.
I really enjoyed the plot of Siege and Storm, much more than the first book. Alina really comes into her own here and goes through what I think is the best character development I have read in a long while. She has the option of becoming Queen, a figure-head pushed into the background while others do the work for her. She rejects that choice and instead forces her way into a positon of power and commands an army. She becomes a really complex character: she is forced to face new challenges that affect her deeply; she begins having visions of the Darkling, and starts questions who she is and her purpose in the battle to come and the future. She is slowly being seduced to the “dark side,” with the Darkling constantly attempting to prove to her that they belong together, which I can’t help but agree with.
“I’ve seen what you truly are,” said the Darkling, “and I’ve never turned away. I never will. Can he say the same?”
The Darkling is just as sensuous, sinful and sexy as he was in the first novel. Is it bad that I want him and Alina to get married, take over the world and rule together as king and queen? His yearning for Alina is equal parts exciting and terrifying, which is essentially the Darkling in a nutshell.
My new favourite character is the gallant privateer Sturmhond who has a dangerous secret and is a master at witty banter. He’s a great inclusion in the story, and provided much needed comic relief. Alina and Sturmhond have a flirtatious relationship that I would like to see develop into something more, but that would result in Alina and Mal breaking up.
Speaking of Mal … I have seen a lot of reviews lambasting Mal. I think around 90% of the fandom dislike him after reading Siege and Storm. But I didn’t feel that way. I felt sorry for Mal – it is difficult being the ‘normal’ one in a group of heroes, especially a group who have special abilities and incredible powers. It is only natural that he feels left out and as though Alina is falling away from him. They continue to drift apart which promptly breaks my heart. I really hope they find a way to patch things up and get back together.
“He tapped the sun over his heart. ‘I came here for you. You’re my flag. You’re my nation.’”
Bardugo has a great skill in compelling world-building; she kept me on the edge of my seat, especially for the last few chapters. Her writing has improved and the book was paced perfectly and smoothly. There was still plenty of tension and drama, but it is subtle and not as obvious; that is, until, it is happening and you find that you can no longer breathe from the strain it’s putting on your heart.
Siege and Storm was a wonderful sequel to an already amazing book. If this book is any indication of Bardugo’s skill as a writer and storyteller, she has an extensive career ahead of her, starting with Ruin and Rising.
Buy the book here.