Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

14061955NOTE: There may be some spoilers in this review, especially  if you haven’t read Shadow and Bone.

Siege and Storm, book two of the Grisha trilogy, made up for the slow pace which sometimes kept me from fully enjoying enjoying Shadow and Bone (I reviewed it here!)

Beginning on a note of action, book two of this magical series was impossible to put down.

Alina Starkov has been hiding in an obscure village with her childhood friend, Mal. She soon learns you can’t escape the Darkling for long. He manages to trace her whereabouts, forcing her to choose between servitude and Mal’s life.

The Darkling wants to use her power as the Sun Summoner for his own purposes; he’ll stop at nothing.

Alina and Mal are taken aboard a ship the Darkling has ‘borrowed’ by paying the captain, Sturmhond. He’s a privateer (pirate!) with a crew who remain loyal to him throughout the ordeal. There’s so much more to Sturmhond than a pirate; before long I was turning the pages just to see more of him!

Sturmhond rallies his crew and gets rid of the Darkling. Having taken back his liberty, he immediately steals the show. We wonder what his real name is and where he came from; when we find out, the story is almost unbelievable!

His aid in freeing Alina was not selfless, for although he isn’t as creepy as the Darkling, he also has his own motives. Yet even though he blackmailed Alina into following his own plans, he remained likeable. I never shipped Alina with Mal or the Darkling, but hoped she’d go with Sturmhond.

Which brings me to my only gripe: Everyone seems after Alina for something—her abilities, political power, or maybe because a religion has sprung up in her honor. I suppose it’s not unrealistic; whoever has Alina by their side will have a huge advantage. Still, it felt like there wasn’t enough focus on her power because of all the potential relationships.

(Even though I did ship her with Sturmhond so, so badly.)

Siege and Storm is a fantastic read for anyone who enjoys fantasy and tales of adventure. The characters are well thought out, even if some are annoying (not everyone can be Sturmhond #shameless) and Leigh Bardugo’s writing is magical. Her descriptions pull you through the most aggravating scenes.

At the end of Siege and Storm, we witness a radical change in Alina’s mindset. She’s lost again, and suddenly wants what months ago she dreaded—power and honor. It’s this change that makes me restless to pick up the next book: She’s accepted who she is and wants nothing but to take it back.

I’m rooting for Alina to find herself again (and maybe Sturmhond, too…)

This is my new favorite series. I’ll be reading the Grisha books again; they’ve earned a place of honor on my favorites shelf, because they are enchanting!

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

shadow-and-bone1In Shadow and Bone, we meet Alina Starkov. Orphaned as a baby, she’s lived a quiet childhood alongside her best friend Mal. They did everything together until he became a Tracker and his focus shifted to outdoor activities, creating a divide between them.

Alina hasn’t recovered from this separation. Even when they both join the army, Mal’s popularity among soldiers and women causes her unrest. Not only is she mildly jealous, but she feels he’s known his calling all along while she followed him blindly—until their troop crosses the Unsea, a cursed land shrouded in darkness.

On this journey, Alina discovers she’s got the ability to summon light. This is a rare ability, even for the Grisha—people with gifts like control over wind or water. None have her ability to summon light from nothing!

Only one Grisha has power equal to hers in rarity. The Darkling summons shadow, like Alina summons light. He is respected and feared by everyone; though he works for the king, the Darkling is the one they fear in the Little Palace.

Alina has caught his attention, so he takes her in for training. He watches her power develop, impatient for her to reach full potential, and later we learn he’s got a motive. If Alina keeps training for him, her power will cease to be hers.

The Darkling has been sending parties to find a magical stag. If caught, the stag’s antlers will create an Amplifier that’ll increase Alina’s power…for his purposes. Upon learning he has plans for her, she escapes. In her flight she runs into Mal, and together they trek through the snowy land of Tsibeya.

Shadow and Bone ends on a note of escape and fear: Tsibeya can’t keep the Darkling away. He catches the stag and forces Alina to wear the Amplifier, essentially claiming her power for his purposes. But is there a chance she can use her ability to get away?

I found Shadow and Bone to be a slow read at first. The story didn’t sweep me away until Alina was captured for her ability. Even the slow scenes were a treat to read, because Leigh Bardugo has a gorgeous style. She painted pictures for me without getting too wordy; the dialogue provides satisfying insight on characters’ personalities.

Having read the second book, Siege and Storm, I realize the worldbuilding in Shadow and Bone lacks a bit. Don’t let this discourage you from trying the book; the series gets better with each installment.

Bardugo has become one of my favorite authors! Shadow and Bone is a tale worth reading, sweeping readers into a cold, snowy dream. Give it a try if you like fantasy and worlds where power takes  part in everyday life, inciting greed and darkness—but also awakening fighting spirits.