Hello stranger! If you are just joining me on my journey in rediscovering YA fantasy, I suggest you check out my review/essay on Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo where I explain everything.
I have arrived at the second milestone in reading the Grishaverse. This morning I finished Siege and Storm. This is the second book in the Shadow and Bone trilogy.
WARNING: if you haven’t read this book by now, I’m (not) sorry to inform you that there will be spoilers.
I was afraid this book would suffer from a severe case of the notorious “middle book syndrome”. My fears didn’t prove to be completely valid, thankfully. Okay, let’s talk about the plot.
The plot picks up a little bit after the previous one. We follow Alina and Mal as they try to survive and make a new life for themselves in Novyi Zem. They aren’t necessarily struggling, however, we can see Alina going back to the fragility and helplessness that marked her childhood. She is miserable even though she doesn’t admit it, not even to herself. After having experienced the joy of living fully as her true self, the misery of an ordinary life without her powers seem grim. Not only is she miserable, but her body is starting to deteriorate again. And then there is Mal who is thriving. His charming persona has blended in perfectly with all the new people they are surrounded with. This does not make him a villain, but what does bother me is the fact that he seems unaware of Alina’s state. It reminds me of the way he acted before Alina discovered her powers in the first book. This time he does care for her more but it is foreshadowed that he doesn’t really understand her.
Their “idyllic” life is interrupted with our favorite bad boy-toy, The Darkling. He kidnaps Alina and Mal. However, the boy is simply too big of a showoff not to reveal his new power. He has found a way to create something out of nothing. These terrifying creatures are named nichevo’ya, nothings. In the way they look they resemble the volcra who live in the Shadow Fold, however, they are completely under The Darkling’s control.
After a few days Alina wakes up on a ship back to Ravka. This is where we are introduced to my new boy-toy Nikolai aka Thurmhond. This man is everything I look for in a man. He is a pirate, no, excuse me, a privateer. He is incredibly witty, cynical and charming. And then he literally turns into Prince Charming?! Is there no mercy for my heart?
“You’re mad,” I said. “You know what he can do. No prize is worth that.”
Sturmhond grinned. “That remains to be seen.”
“The Darkling will hunt you for the rest of your days.”
“Then you and I will have something in common, won’t we? Besides, I like to have powerful enemies. Makes me feel important.”
Mal crossed his arms and considered the privateer. “I can’t decide if you’re crazy or stupid.”
“I have so many good qualities,” Sturmhond said. “It can be hard to choose.”
Well, while The Darling is throwing many tantrums and simply being charmingly evil (to remind me he is still a snack), there is a conspiracy forming below deck. The Darkling’s new fabulous idea is to go hunting for one more scary, magical creature. A water dragon called Rusalye. The plan is to kill the creature and make the second amplifier for Alina. While it was though impossible and even unnatural for a Grisha to have more than one, there’s a catch. The Morozova amplifiers such as the Rusalye and the Stag are unique. After much turmoil and passive-aggressive bickering, Mal gets to show off his incredible tracking abilities once again and they find the Rusalye. And then bam.
Thurmhold turns against The Darkling and runs away with his gang of rascals taking Alina and Mal along. What follows is a collection of adventures that bind Alina, Mal and Thurmhol’s crew tightly together. They make their way to Os Alta to regain strength and prepare for The Darkling’s attack.
What I understood from a few reviews and rants on this book I’ve read, many people didn’t like it… I do agree with many of their points, however, at the same time I don’t. The problem I saw being pointed out a lot, is the pacing. The first part of the book was very fast-paced, on every page there was shit going down. I think it was a great decision, since there is this ambiance of anxiety created the pacing only made it more pronounced. This way you weren’t only told they were afraid and on the run, but you also felt it. Great job!
Then there is the middle part where everything kind of slows down. The switch is very sudden. But again, as soon as you get used to the slower pacing it all makes sense. Life at court is slow, everything must be idealized even though the apocalypse is coming. There is this fake security that the stillness of court brings to us. Again, great job!
The ending of the book is fast-paced again. Everything is happening at the same time and you feel anxious once more. Everyone is running and if you let yourself fall into the book completely, you just might feel the air on your face as if you are also running. Incredible job.
The downside of these pacing switches is the fact that they are so sudden, especially the first one. The second one is actually perfect if you think about it more. We are sitting at this peaceful dinner, without imminent danger and then chaos erupts. You are meant to be afraid and confused!
Moving on, people seem to have a problem with how Genya and Baghra’s fates were handles. I feel for them, especially for Genya since she is one of my favourite characters. However, I think the mutilations and torture was necessary! The Darkling is away for most of the book and we are only reminded of all the horrible things he has done. And then, when faced with Genya we are shown. It was important to show first hand what The Darkling is capable and ready to do, that he is really as cruel as we remember.
Okay, enough with my “unpopular opinions”. I need to talk about the cult. The whole Sankta Alina thing made me a bit uncomfortable even in the first book, but it wasn’t as pronounced then. Now we are thrown in the middle of that mob of sun worshipers. I don’t know what the general opinion of this is, but it makes me just incredibly uncomfortable as I already said.
I suspected Tamar and Tolya were secretly worshippers, but sincerely, I wanted to be wrong. When my doubts were confirmed in the final chapters of the book it made me instantly dislike them. I don’t know if my opinion of them can change, but for now… they are not my friends! I’m interested to find out if Nikolai knew about this. The main reason I’m so disappointed is because to me this is disloyalty. I don’t think this was them looking out for Alina or some other similar bullshit, this is pure betrayal. And everyone seems to be very eager to jump at the first opportunity to betray my girl.
Speaking of Alina… I like her even more than in the first book. I liked seeing her character growth. She is undoubtedly getting more mature. She is no longer that scared little girl who’s unable to make her own decisions. And I love it. What I must mention is something I haven’t many people say… Alina is quite funny!
The Darkling just stared out into the waves. I considered shoving him over the railing. Sure, he was hundreds of years old, but could he swim?
Also, I think Alina’s hair going white is iconic! I can’t wait to see what happens next and if she will ever recover from her injuries. I just hope she doesn’t die in the last book.
I will be starting Ruin and Rising shortly. I am very excited to see what happens next. I will certainly be writing about it as well, so watch out for that. Until then goodbye and happy reading.