Series: The Grisha #2
Published by Henry Holt Books for Young Readers on June 4th, 2013
Genres: fantasy, young adult
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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.
WOW. Do not be fooled by the sorta-low rating – I really enjoyed Siege and Storm. It was a ton of fun to read. The characters, particularly Alina, are much more interesting. And the plot was engaging and, for the most part, fast paced. It wasn’t without its problems, particularly in the romance area, but I’m so happy I decided to continue on with this series.
I was decidedly NOT a fan of Shadow and Bone. I didn’t like the way the one “Asian” character was treated so stereotypically. I really hated Alina. And I thought the book as a whole wasn’t very inspired – basically, it was just another Chosen One story, with a magical school, and a whole lot of focus on appearance. These problems did kind of bleed into the second book, but it wasn’t nearly as frustrating.
Alina was shallow and petty and kind of an asshole in Shadow and Bone. She was so focused on what she looked like – seriously, there were one million passages of her just looking in the mirror at herself. There was an overarching theme of beauty = good that didn’t sit well with me, and that has a lot to do with the worldbuilding too, what with the Grisha getting better looking as they use their power. But Alina’s constant picking on herself and her low self-esteem just gnawed at me. Now, in Siege and Storm she is much more confident, especially now that she knows how to use her power. This new Alina was focused and determined, and when she took action, she made smart decisions. This was such a welcome change, and if it weren’t for the silly romance drama, I would have loved Alina dearly, especially with her snarky attitude and quick comebacks.
There’s nothing I hate more than when a great, interesting plot is derailed by a heroine whining on about her relationship troubles. I mean, Alina is literally the only hope in saving the world from the Darkling’s shadow army, of eliminating the Fold, and basically just elevating the people of Ravka out of this hellish hole they’ve been dumped into. And while Alina does worry about this and forms plans to attack the Darkling, at the same time she’s preoccupied by thoughts of Mal liking other girls and oh maybe Sturmhond wants to kiss her. Like, I understand that Mal is important to her, but right now we should be worrying about the end of the world not the end of your relationship.
And don’t even get me started with Mal. For the love of the Saints, this idiot needs to STAHP. Like, for fuck’s sake, Alina ran away from her old life with you, deserted her power and her place in Ravka, she sacrificed her health for you. She’s not going to leave you at the first sight of a sexy pirate (even though she should.) I wish Mal would see that as he continues to act more and more like a fucking child, he’s just going to push Alina further and further away. But let’s not forget the obvious – what does Alina even see in him anyway? He’s nothing but a limp noodle. So he’s a good tracker. But being a good tracker doesn’t just magically give you a personality. Maybe the Fabrikators can make one for him.
All this brings me back to Sturmhond. STURMHOND. Why does it seem like there are a million authors out there who make their side characters a thousand times more interesting than their protagonists? Sturmhound was hilarious and sexy and wild and interesting and layered. He’s an adventurer, a privateer, with secrets and genius. He’s basically the best thing that Ravka can hope for. I loooooved him. And I loved his friendship with Alina, and their witty banter and the sexual tension. They had so much chemistry, and every scene with them together was exciting and fun to read, even the tense and sad scenes. He brought life and vibrancy to the pages. Without him, this book would have been a huge flop. All the hype you’ve seen about Sturmhond? TOTALLY LEGIT.
Now, even though I felt that Siege and Storm was a major improvement to Shadow and Bone, I still have some underlying issues that I can’t let go of. First, and probably least worrisome, was just the pacing in this book. The beginning opens with a huge, exciting bang. The end was just out of control and infuriating, but still kept me up until 4am to read. But the rest of the book moved slower than molasses in winter. And there was a lot of repetition, especially in Alina’s head, both about her problems with Mal and her repeating over and over and over again the plight of Ravka. I’m pretty sure we know that Ravka’s in the pits by now – we have been reading these books for like 900 pages at this point, we get it. Another problem I had, that I mentioned earlier, was the excessive focus on appearance. It wasn’t too bad at first, but once Alina got back to the Little Palace and around other people again, she turned into such a shallow, judgmental asshole. She rated everyone by appearance and it got to be so tiresome. I mean, she’s basically the most powerful Grisha in the world next to the Darkling, but she’s still comparing herself physically to everyone else. UGH. View Spoiler »Also, what happened to Genya just didn’t sit well with me either. There’s a sinking feeling in my gut when I think about it, but I can’t place exactly what my problem is. I don’t know. I didn’t like it. « Hide Spoiler
You want to know my biggest problem of all, though? Not enough Darkling. The Darkling is what made book one for me – he’s just the perfect villain. But he just wasn’t in this book enough, and that distance took away from the tension and urgency of their situation. Oh well. I’m hoping for lots and lots of Darkling in Ruin and Rising.
I didn’t expect to have this much to say about Siege and Storm but there it is: I had a LOT of fun reading this book. The world and characters are just plain exciting. This isn’t the perfect series by a long shot, but I’m glad to have continued reading past the first book and I look forward to the conclusion!