Thursday, May 16, 2013

ARC Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo


Title: Siege and Storm (Grisha, #2)

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 5 Stars

Release Date: June 4th, 2013

While Shadow and Bone was the debut of a magical new realm, of a complex villain impossible to fully understand, of new power, of old allegiances, of politics and confusion, all mixed together with a gentle, calming love, Siege and Storm is the aftermath of all well-intended decisions, the destruction of formerly stable relationships and the creeping movement of darkness, not light. Like any strong sequel, Siege and Storm is as far removed from its predecessor as is possible. Although I loved Shadow and Bone, its sequel is far more mature, unpredictable, and thrilling as a whole. In other words, Leigh Bardugo has surpassed my wildest expectations and if this is any indication, Ruin and Rising will promise to be the best novel in this trilogy by far.

Siege and Storm picks up promptly where Shadow and Bone left off with Mal and Alina on the run from the Darkling. As you can imagine, their freedom is short-lived and they are soon back to being puppets, operating only by the choking hold of the Darkling himself. Yet, not all is the same. Alina’s previous battle with the Darkling left him with scars, but also with an ancient, more evil power than before. Now, the Darkling can create shadow creatures of his own and to combat him, Alina will need more power than one amplifier can give her. In the midst of this battle enters Sturmhond, the captain of the ship that the Darkling hires to sail after Mal and Alina. Sturmhond, however, has plans of his own and as Alina will soon learn, she has friends in the unlikeliest of places…if only they don’t turn into her enemies too.

Siege and Storm is a stronger novel that Shadow and Bone merely because of its maturity. With Shadow and Bone, Alina was insecure, constantly fearing the Grisha she was newly surrounded by. Now, however, Alina is forced to accept her power. Although she starts out running away from her past, she quickly realizes that she must embrace her abilities and join the throng of politics that will enable her to become a player, not a pawn. In fact, Alina’s growth throughout the novel is simply remarkable. As always, she retains her inherent flaws, such as her insecurity, but it is expressed in different ways now as she must battle the evil within her, one that thirsts for power and ambition. Nevertheless, Alina’s rise to who she needs to be to ultimately face the Darkling in the conclusion of this trilogy is perfectly timed, complexly written, and seamlessly arrived at.

In addition to Alina, though, Mal too grows immensely in this novel. For the first time, we see Mal as a character on his own right, not simply Alina’s childhood friend. Yet, there are hurdles that prevent these two from further developing their relationship and rather, it fades away slowly as the novel progresses, leaving us with only a sliver of hope by the end. With Alina as the Sun Summoner, the power imbalance between her and Mal only increases with time. Not only is Mal not a tracker anymore, having deserted the army, but he pales in comparison to the royals that Alina is forced to spend her time with. And, to make matters worse, Alina can’t help but be consumed with a thirst for more power, pulling her away from Mal. What makes their relationship so heart-breaking is that we’ve seen them before Alina claimed her powers as Sun Summoner and an imbalance of power existed then too, with Mal having the upper-hand. As such, it seems almost impossible for these two to work through their differences and see each other again amidst their new roles in life.
                                                                                                         
Yet, the question arises if Alina has any other options but Mal for he loves Alina for who she is, not her power, and all the other men in her life, no matter how charismatic they are, all want Alina for the power she holds more than they want her for the person she is inside. Still, the Darkling remains a strong contender for her heart. Although the Darkling may not love Alina, he certainly understands her in a way no one else does, a fact she must slowly come to accept as her relationship with Mal declines and they are unable to understand each other. Granted, the Darkling only has true screen-time for roughly ten percent of the story, but he remains a constant fixture in Alina’s mind. I, for one, found this to be all the more alluring and creeping. Without even appearing for much of this story, the Darkling manages to cause a rift between Alina and Mal and, even more, his words never escape Alina, practically haunting her. It remains true, then, that our resident evil lord is just as sexy, bad, and unpredictable as ever – just the way I like him.

Siege and Storm, though, shines not because of any of the characters we’ve already met, but rather because of ones we are about to meet. Sturmhond, the privateer of the ship the Darkling originally hires, is a force to be reckoned with. Seriously, this guy could charm all the books off your shelves – that’s how charismatic he is – and he isn’t afraid to use his skills to get what he wants. Although Sturmhond has an agenda of his own, he is more friend than foe to Alina and I found myself unable to resist his charms. I wound up underlining nearly all of his lines in this novel – he’s just too witty for his own good – and it is his presence that I am most eager for in the next novel. And, to add to his appeal, there is a plot twist or two surrounding this mystery man – all brilliantly executed, I might add – which only improve this stunning sequel.

In fact, I have to admit that many of the decisions that Bardugo made with this novel surprised me. We have the incorporation of the Darkling – how he was present in Alina’s mind, but not within the actual plot – a clever decision that both increased his power, maintained his mystery, and allowed for the screen time of other characters, all while keeping him very much within the story. Even more surprising, though, is the sudden importance given to the Apparat. In Shadow and Bone, the Apparat was a rather creepy figure we all were more than happy to brush off, but he makes a startling appearance in Siege and Storm, rallying up followers of “Saint” Alina. Although this sudden introduction of religious fanatics, all believing that Alina possesses other-worldly abilities, isn’t explored in too much depth in this novel, it is important and its role in Alina’s growth is subtle, but surprising.

For me, though, the most astonishing aspect of this novel was its ending. You know you’ve written a good book when your readers don’t like the ending, but they accept it for what it is and come to slowly see the brilliance of it. Now, looking back, I am able to appreciate the infusion of themes re-iterated throughout this story line, particularly the fact that deadly repercussions can result from even the best-intended decisions. We all try our best in life and even when our actions have terrible consequences, we are forced to keep going on; perhaps this is why I love this trilogy so much. It may be fantasy, but its themes and ideas are just as prevalent to all our lives, Grisha or not.

With such an impressive cast of characters, it should come as no surprise that Siege and Storm can do no wrong. Its plot, although a little slower than that of Shadow and Bone and slowing down considerably after the first half, is vital to the continuation of the story arc of this series, which I truly appreciate. Unlike with most trilogies, this second novel isn’t a filler story, merely meant to make money and keep readers entertained. Rather, it allows its characters to grow, change, and reach the necessary areas in life mentally and emotionally to be ready for an earth-shattering conclusion. I, for one, am prepared for what Leigh Bardugo has in store for us next. After all the heart-break that I went through with this novel, my duct-taped heart can bear anything. And if not, I’ll just have a Corporalnik Healer nearby.

A huge, huge, HUGE thank you to Macmillan Teen and Henry Holt for sending me an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review. You have no idea how flattered I was to receive this in the mail, so thanks! :)

16 comments:

  1. Siege and Storm is a stronger novel that Shadow and Bone merely because of its maturity.
    ^ I completely agree with this. For me, S & S was even better than S & B.

    I love the growth that Alina went through, and how she slowly began to embrace who she was.

    My heart just broke with all the Mal and Aline FEELS. I really, really hope they end up together. And again, I agree that although the Darkling wasn't as present in this book he did still make an impact.

    Brilliant review! <3

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  2. I still haven't read Shadow and Bone but all the reviews I've read of it were good. Siege and Storm sounds just the same. It is very uncommon for me to accept an ending which I didn't like so I'll definitely be adding this book to my tbr :) Thanks for your review!
    new follower :)

    Janhvi @ The Readdicts

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  3. I haven't read the first one yet, but really want to read it. Oh and you have me scared about that ending. Still, you are right. If it is heartbreaking but still good... it does say something about the writer. Oh I can't wait to try this one.

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  4. Lovely review, Keertana! I am so jealous that you've already read this, but at least the wait isn't so long for me anymore. :) I am so relieved to hear that you think the series got even better with the second novel. I am all for stories becoming more mature as time goes on, so looking forward to seeing that play out. I am a bit sad to hear about Alina and Mal continuing to drift apart, although I think that does make a lot of sense within the context of the novel. Although I cannot remember who the Apparat is, so I need to review book one before continuing on I think!

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  5. Oh gosh...I love this review. Seriously. There is something to be said for really taking your time to delve into what works and what doesn't, so thank you for that! Seriously though...if it is even better than SHADOW AND BONE because it ups the ante on maturity, I'm sold. Fabulous review!

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  6. Oh, dear. I know I'm going to love this one (although this situation with Alina and Mal might just break my heart), but I think I'll wait for book 3 to come out, and then read them back to back.
    I'm glad Bardugo showed a new level of maturity and I'm especially glad that this book isn't predictable. I just love it when authors fly free.

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  7. I know it's not nice but I'm really jealous. I mean I really want to read this book and when I hear all these amazing things about it..wow! I can't wait to read it. I'm so happy that you've enjoyed this story :)Great review Keertana :)

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  8. Keertana this book was just full of awesome. I didn't know how to write a coherent review at all, but you've managed to mention everything I loved about this book beautifully. I was really disappointed when I first heard that the Darkling wouldn't be around as much but I agree his lack of appearances still made him seem even more incredible and powerful. Also I'm glad Bardugo introduced Sturmhond into the story, this book already had such a dark feeling about it, that I loved that Sturmhond was around to brighten things up. All my favourite quotes in this book were mostly Sturmhond's too. I can't wait to see where Bardugo will go with the next book. Wonderful review Keertana! :)

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  9. "Yet, there are hurdles that prevent these two from further developing their relationship and rather, it fades away slowly as the novel progresses, leaving us with only a sliver of hope by the end."

    That aspect of this story just made my heart hurt Keertana! But I felt like it needed to happen and wasn't simply tossed in to create added drama - they've been close for so long and both need room to grow, but I have every hope that they'll get everything straightened out. LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH! Stunning review:)

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  10. I came to fangirl all over your review and the internet died on me! I'm back now though. ;)

    I'm SO glad you loved this one too, Keertana! I completely agree about Mal! We DO see him as a character of his own now (more so than the last book, anyway) and I don't think I could be more in love with him if I tried. The Darkling's presence was very cleverly incorporated here, too. Unlike most people, I don't really like the Darkling, though I do think his character (and the development there) is stunning. You make a very valid point about the ending, too. If anything, though, I'm just desperate for the next book. It might just kill me.

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  11. I'm not going to read this because I haven't read the first one, but I'm so excited after seeing your 5 stars. There's a launch party for Leigh Bardugo and I think I'm going to go! Especially after seeing so much praise for this series! :)

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  12. YOUR REVIEW = AMAZING

    Ahhhhhh I'm so happy to hear that this is even BETTER than the first book! I loved Shadow and Bone, and I'm very excited to read Siege and Storm. Like you, I love the Darkling and I love that his presence is constantly felt in this book even when he's not actually there physically. And I'm thrilled to hear that there's new characters introduced! Like Sturmhond! So anxious to read about him! And the Apparat was super creepy. Cannot wait to read this! Wonderful review! :D

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  13. I agree, S&S is definitely a stronger novel that S&B. And I didn't think about it before, but you're right--Mal does grow a lot in this book, too! He's much more interesting to me here than he was in the first book.

    And you know, it's not a problem for me if Sturmhond charms all the books off my shelves. Because he's going to be living with me anyway, and he can do exactly as he pleases. :D

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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  14. Aw man! I loooove when you give a book such high ratings but sadly, I almost threw Shadow and Bone across the floor so I won't be checking out this book until I (maybe) finish SaB. Great review though!

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  15. Unexpected twists, high-seas adventures, military plots and uneasy alliances, complex relationships and character growth all make for a fantastic sequel in this second book of the Grisha Trilogy. The epic battles were heart-pounding, and the story is as powerful and magical as its characters.
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