Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo is book #2 in the Shadow and Bone series. It picks up where Shadow and Bone left off, and I was really excited to read it. Leigh Bardugo has quickly become one of my favorite writers, and I could not wait to start this book.
HEADS UP: This is book #2 in a series. While I promise not to give away spoilers about this book, if you haven’t read book #1, you might want to skip reading this review until after you’ve read Shadow and Bone. This review will include spoilers for the first book, and I don’t want to ruin the experience for you.
Alina and Mal flee across the True Sea, trying to make a life together in a new place. Alina keeps her identity a secret, but she struggles with what happened on the Fold, and she can’t run from her destiny forever.
Meanwhile, the Darkling has also made it out of the Fold, but he has a horrifying new power, and a dangerous plan that threatens the known boundaries of the natural world. A notorious privateer helps Alina return to Ravka, where she is determined to help save her country. As Alina’s power gets stronger, she gets drawn into the lure of the Darkling’s forbidden magic, and slips further away from Mal. She is forced to choose between her country, her power, and the love that she always thought would guide her — or she will risk losing everything in the oncoming storm.
This story starts off with Alina and Mal fleeing across the True Sea. They get to Novyi Zem, and we see yet another part of this incredibly imagined world revealed. But Leigh Bardugo’s creative genius lies in the depth of the Grishaverse that she has created. They don’t stay in Novyi Zem for long. They wind up traveling around a bit, and we learn about visible characteristics of the world — the geography, the climate, the look and temperament of the people from various countries, and how the Grisha are treated in each country.
What interests me the most is the belief systems — Ravkans have no shortage of fairy tales and stories about their Saints, despite the fact that religious worship seems to have fallen by the wayside. I loved reading their stories, although the sainthood stories are decidedly gruesome, much like the ones that you’d find in the Catholic Church from the Middle Ages.
Alina has always grown up with a feeling of otherness, separateness, and this has only grown more since discovering her unique power as a Sun Summoner. As her strength grows, those feelings also increase. She’s not the only one who feels it either — the Darkling plays this up, Mal realizes it as well and it puts a wedge into their relationship. Her power is definitely changing her, and she’s divided between who she really is and who she is becoming. Speaking of becoming, Alina is working on not only being a strong Grisha, but she’s doing her best to learn how to be a leader. Time will tell if she can actually be a leader.
Mal struggles a lot in this book, and my heart breaks for the two of them in this book. I just started the third, so I’m going to reserve my judgment, but I’m kind of rooting for Mal. He’s just a regular guy with a gift for tracking and being in the army, which he gave up for Alina. He gave up everything for her, and is struggling with what is happening to her. I really have a soft spot for Mal. Plus, they’re hilarious together.
While the action took a lot longer to build up to in Book #1, it starts fairly early in this book. Once it gets going, it’s kind of like an avalanche and builds upon itself. I couldn’t put this book down if I tried. I was often on the edge of my seat, although there were some really funny parts. I loved the witty banter between Alina and Mal. She comes off as too serious, but she has a dry sense of humor and it works really well with Mal, especially since he seem to be able to charm just about everyone. There’s a scene where he’s learning to use different weapons with people they aren’t sure if they can really trust:
“‘Mal’s always been like that. You could drop him in a camp full of Fjerdan assassins, and he’d come out carried on their shoulders. He just blooms wherever he’s planted.’”
I loved the pace and found myself immersed in the storyline right away. The book ended with some closure, but I still found myself antsy to start the next book immediately. Thanks to a flash of genius, when I took this book out of the library, I had also taken out the final book in the trilogy. I’m pretty glad I did.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn't an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 18
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars