As I expected, the second Grisha book was much better than the first, filled with compelling character development and emotional moments.
This review will contain unavoidable spoilers for Shadow and Bone (Grisha #1), but my spoiler-free review for that book can be found here.
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. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. 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.
While Shadow and Bone left me very “meh,” Siege and Storm solved a lot of the problems I had with the first book and delivered a powerful story that I devoured in a day.
One of my biggest problems with Shadow and Bone had been the lack of explanation of Bardugo’s world building. Thankfully, Siege and Storm took major steps toward fixing this problem. I now feel like I understand the different Grisha powers more, though I still wish there had been a massive info-dump at some point. I know it’s weird to wish for something that is usually considered a writing flaw, but I’m fascinated by the different types of Grisha and I want everything to be explained at least once.
The star of this book is Alina. Her character experiences fascinating growth, developing past the scared girl of book one and into a leader. Her transformation felt natural, especially her hunger for power and the darkness that came with it. I loved the sense of uncertainty that dominated the story; I never really knew if Alina was transforming into a better or worse version of herself.
Another problem I’d had with the first book was a lack of interesting side characters, which was also fixed in book two. I loved all of the privateer characters that Alina met, and I was happy to realize that every character had a secret motive or at least an interesting backstory. The pirate captain was an amazing character, blurring the lines between good and evil and making the story a lot more interesting.
Even Mal, who had struck me as a fairly boring character in Shadow and Bone, grew into his own in this book. I loved seeing how he interacted with the Grisha world and with Alina’s new identity. Though it should have pained me, watching his character fall apart ended up pleasing me, just because it made him so much more interesting to read about.
I am still not convinced that Mal and Alina are each other’s “true loves.” The events of this book put a massive strain on their relationship, pushing each other apart as they grow into different versions of themselves. Though their relationship got more interesting in Siege and Storm, I ended up rooting (sort of) for their breakup.
Which brings me to the Darkling. I don’t buy him as a love interest either, but I missed his presence in the story. He was the most interesting part of the the first book, but he was mostly absent from the second one. I felt like we only ever saw repetitive cardboard cut-outs of him pop up every few chapters, and I think the story was hurt by that.
Even without the Darkling having a major role in the story, the plot of Siege and Storm was gripping. The story was the perfect length, and the pacing was done well. I didn’t want to stop reading from the first page through the last page.
Unfortunately, the ending struck me as very similar to the first book’s ending. I have never been one for cyclical or repetitive endings, and I found myself wishing for more from the last pages. Still, I have already ordered the next book, and I can’t wait to see how the series ends.