“The less you say, the more weight your words will carry.”
I was caught between 3.5 and 4 stars when rating this book, but I eventually rounded it up to 4, because while it had flaws, I didn’t feel it suffered from the dreaded ‘sequel slump’.
The story continues on from where we left off, with Alina and Mal on the run from the Darkling. Alina is adjusting to life in hiding, but any normalcy is shattered when the Darkling find and captures them. After being rescued by a pirate crew (that isn’t all it seems), Alina must decide whether to go in search of the two other legendary amplifiers that will help her take on (and possibly defeat) the Darkling.
I found Alina’s character development more interesting in this book because she was far more confident in her abilities, but acknowledged that she needed to find yet more power in order to take on the Darkling. Her hunger for additional power surprises her and I found this very humanising to read.
She seemed both more and less vulnerable than in Shadow and Bone; so many responsibilities were thrust upon her, resulting in moments of great unhappiness and great triumph for those around her. At times, her immeasurable despair made me want to reach inside the book and hug her.
While I also wanted her relationship with Mal to work out (so badly), I couldn’t help but feel he was being a bit of a douche at times. His feelings of loneliness and inadequacy were understandable, but his actions as a result were often thoughtless and jeopardised their friendship, as well as their romantic relationship. He clearly cared for her but his pride kept getting the better of him. Get it together Mal.
I really liked the introduction of the new characters Nikolai, Tamar and Tolya; Nikolai in particular had such a snappy rapport with Alina that it’s easy to end up laughing out loud at their interactions.
The plot occasionally took a turn for the slow (some of the travelling scenes lacked any dynamism), but for the most part it was gripping. A few scenes were entirely too predictable (I knew the stable fight scene was coming about four chapters before it arrived), but the more dramatic changes of pace and twists in the plot made up for this.
One of the things that most impressed me about this book was the way Bardugo’s writing had the ability to imbue so much feeling into every page. There were moments when my heart wrenched because of events taking place. When characters were injured (emotionally or physically) it felt all the more harrowing because of the raw nature of Bardugo’s narrative. Her ability to make everything feel so close to home is colossal.
The end of the novel felt dissatisfying only because the writing style made it seem so melancholic. Alina spent the whole novel striving for enough power to defeat the Darkling, while trying not to lose herself along the way, and the outcome, although not tragic, was not the happy ending I was hoping for. But then again, this is the sequel, not the final book. I should know better really.
Siege and Storm was far more serious in tone than Shadow and Bone, but still managed to make me laugh plenty. Other than Alina’s, there was less of a focus on Grisha powers in general, but I could see how this served to further the plot, even if it make the narrative less diverse in places. Overall, while this book wasn’t quite as good as the first (and I think it won’t be as good as the third), it was a gripping read and one I really enjoyed.