Book Review: Siege and Storm (The Grishaverse #2) By Leigh Bardugo
Following the ending of book 1––Shadow and Bone––in Siege and Storm Alina is hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold. She must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But 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.
A Sneak Peek Into “Siege and Storm”
The boy and the girl had once dreamed of ships, long ago, before they’d ever seen the True Sea. They were the vessels of stories, magic ships with masts hewn from sweet cedar and sails spun by maidens from thread of pure gold. Their crews were white mice who sang songs and scrubbed the decks with their pink tails.
The Verrhader was not a magic ship. It was a Kerch trader, its hold bursting with millet and molasses. It stank of unwashed bodies and the raw onions the sailors claimed would prevent scurvy. Its crew spat and swore and gambled for rum rations. The bread the boy and the girl were given spilled weevils, and their cabin was a cramped closet they were forced to share with two other passengers and a barrel of salt cod.
They didn’t mind. They grew used to the clang of bells sounding the hour, the cry of the gulls, the unintelligible gabble of Kerch. The ship was their kingdom, and the sea a vast moat that kept their enemies at bay.
The boy took to life aboard ship as easily as he took to everything else. He learned to tie knots and mend sails, and as his wounds healed, he worked the lines beside the crew. He abandoned his shoes and climbed barefoot and fearless in the rigging. The sailors marveled at the way he spotted dolphins, schools of rays, bright striped tigerfish, the way he sensed the place a whale would breach the moment before its broad, pebbled back broke the waves. They claimed they’d be rich if they just had a bit of his luck.
The girl made them nervous.
Three days out to sea, the captain asked her to remain belowdecks as much as possible. He blamed it on the crew’s superstition, claimed that they thought women aboard ship would bring ill winds. This was true, but the sailors might have welcomed a laughing, happy girl, a girl who told jokes or tried her hand at the tin whistle.
This girl stood quiet and unmoving by the rail, clutching her scarf around her neck, frozen like a figurehead carved from white wood. This girl screamed in her sleep and woke the men dozing in the foretop.
“The ox feels the yoke,” she says, “but does the bird feel the weight of its wings?”
So the girl spent her days haunting the dark belly of the ship. She counted barrels of molasses, studied the captain’s charts. At night, she slipped into the shelter of the boy’s arms as they stood together on deck, picking out constellations from the vast spill of stars: the Hunter, the Scholar, the Three Foolish Sons, the bright spokes of the Spinning Wheel, the Southern Palace with its six crooked spires.
She kept him there as long as she could, telling stories, asking questions. Because she knew when she slept, she would dream. Sometimes she dreamed of broken skiffs with black sails and decks slick with blood, of people crying out in the darkness. But worse were the dreams of a pale prince who pressed his lips to her neck, who placed his hands on the collar that circled her throat and called forth her power in a blaze of bright sunlight.
When she dreamed of him, she woke shaking, the echo of her power still vibrating through her, the feeling of the light still warm on her skin.
The boy held her tighter, murmured soft words to lull her to sleep.
“It’s only a nightmare,” he whispered. “The dreams will stop.”
He didn’t understand. The dreams were the only place it was safe to use her power now, and she longed for them.
“I want to thank you,” the Darkling said.
“For the gift you gave me.”
My eyes flicked to the scars on his pale cheek. “No,” he said with a small smile, “not these. But they do make a good reminder.”
“Of what?” I asked, curious despite myself.
His gaze was gray flint. “That all men can be made fools.”
On the day the Verrhader made land, the boy and girl stood at the rail together, watching as the coast of Novyi Zem drew closer.
They drifted into harbor through an orchard of weathered masts and bound sails. There were sleek sloops and little junks from the rocky coasts of the Shu Han, armed warships and pleasure schooners, fat merchantmen and Fjerdan whalers. A bloated prison galley bound for the southern colonies flew the red-tipped banner that warned there were murderers aboard. As they floated by, the girl could have sworn she heard the clink of chains.
The Verrhader found its berth. The gangway was lowered. The dockworkers and crew shouted their greetings, tied off ropes, prepared the cargo.
The boy and the girl scanned the docks, searching the crowd for a flash of Heartrender crimson or Summoner blue, for the glint of sunlight off Ravkan guns.
It was time. The boy slid his hand into hers. His palm was rough and calloused from the days he’d spent working the lines. When their feet hit the planks of the quay, the ground seemed to buck and roll beneath them.
The sailors laughed. “Vaarwel, fentomen!” they cried.
The boy and girl walked forward, and took their first rolling steps in the new world.
Please, the girl prayed silently to any Saints who might be listening, let us be safe here. Let us be home.
3 Words to Sum Up This Book
LENGTHY, TEDIOUS, WEAK
What do you know, even when the series was a favorite of yours when you were a teenager, if you give it a few years it turns out everything could change.
The same thing happened when I read Siege and Storm. I mean heck, I know I loved this series, I was gushing about just how much I loved it non-stop for a good month right after I was done binge-reading through the series. But this time around, I don’t know if it’s because I already know how things might end, or that because I’m older now compared to when I first read this series, so that I can see this more objectively instead of subjective which leads to me seeing all its flaws.
Either way, I am more than a little bit disappointed by how Siege and Storm turned out.
Crisp. Bland. Bleh.
While things were dynamic in Shadow and Bone, I find the plot in Siege and Storm boring. It could be because we’re reading about Alina with Mal instead of Alina with the Darkling, but hey, what do I know.
In Siege and Storm, there were a lot of high-school-esque drama consisting of our main characters bickering and fighting against each other over stupid shits. That aside, there were also a lot of preparing for that one big fight against the Darkling in the end, but welp. Let me just say, all that buildup for hundreds of pages was not worth it in the end for that sad-ass ending.
I suppose, if there was anything good to be said about this book at all, it was the presence of Nikolai, but really, he doesn’t do that much for me to turn the ship around either.
THE CHANGE IN ALINA STARKOV
As most things go, let’s start off easy with the good parts of Siege and Storm. Alina Starkov, my, how she’s changed.
The hunger struck me suddenly. I want them, I thought. All that light, all that power. I want it all.
Before in the first book––Shadow and Bone––Alina was this eager-to-please jealous girl who wanted nothing else but a place to belong. However, with the growth of her reach and her powers coupled with the amplifiers that she received, her personality seemed to have changed alongside that as well. Now, it’s not that it’s a bad thing. It’s actually very refreshing to see her have a backbone for once and stand for what she believes in instead of letting people push her around, however, as I’m reading Siege and Storm, there’s a feeling that her character growth had been too slow.
I expected her to change more drastically seeing that she came into quite a lot of powers of her own in Siege and Storm. I could foresee her growing into her own more rapidly had she let her past go (read: Mal). I mean, I am not saying it out of spite here, but for some reason, whenever I see the two of them together, it always felt like Mal was holding Alina back from reaching her full potential somehow.
Whenever if this is a good thing or a bad thing however, that leaves to be seen in book 3.
Hm. Let me just get this out there, I don’t care for Mal. Other than having to see him every so often floating around Alina like the appointed guard that he is and having to see how his relationship with Alina unfold, I really do not give that much of a shit about how he’s doing.
While Shadow and Bone (book 1) was more about the Darkling and Alina’s relationship with little to no Mal, reading Siege and Storm felt somewhat like reading an apology letter from Leigh Bardugo to Mal for cutting him off so much in Shadow and Bone. Because fuck man, all we see is Mal in this book. Not that your girl is complaining––I definitely am––but for the love of fucking god, this boy has the personality of a fucking brick.
The Darkling didn’t turn, but shook his head and said, “You’re predictable, at least.”
“Sorry to bore you. Where is he?”
“How do you know he isn’t dead?”
“Because I know you,” I said with more confidence than I felt.
“And if he were? Would you throw yourself into the sea?”
He has not changed whatsoever in Siege and Storm, other than being more annoying than he already was. The thing is, since I get where he comes from, I couldn’t exactly hate him for it either because lord knows I would have reacted the same way had I been put in his shoes.
But fuck if this boy is one of the boringest character that I have ever had the displeasure to read.
NIKOLAI LANTSOV, THE PRINCE OF THE SEA
This one is going to be short and sweet because your girl doesn’t have much to say about this guy. First off, having Nikolai in book 2 made the read bearable. Not only due to the fact that he brought in some much needed jest and life into the book, he is––unlike a certain somebody named Mal––an interesting character all on his own.
“I thought you worked for Ravka,” I said angrily.
“I work for the fattest purse.”
“So you’d sell your country to the Darkling for a little gold?”
“No, for a lot of gold,” he said. “I assure you, I don’t come cheap.”
His banter with his crews, and how he takes care of emergencies like it was nothing but a sneeze in his grander plans are like a breath of fresh air when all you have been reading is this serious we-are-going-to-die-any-minute Alina and Mal. Not to mention, I’m forever curious about the workings of his mind. Nothing with Nikolai is what you see, there are always layers under even more layers, back-up plans and secrets for trade. A clever fox, indeed he is.
THE LACK OF THE DARKLING
My dear, dear, darkling. I honestly did not realize just how much his presence drives the story forward. Siege and Storm had been god awful boring that I was near weeping when he appeared in the book.
You cannot violate the rules of this world without a price.
Sure, he might be the personification of evil, the things he does is unforgivable, he shall be crucified and left to die, yada yada yada. Sure, there are a lot of questionable things that the Darkling had done through this series and we can argue about his intention and goal behind his actions until we lost our voices, but one thing we can’t deny is how every time he’s around, you know for sure something interesting is going to happen.
Not exactly good, of course, because the Darkling is evil and whatnot. But for what it’s worth, we can always count of him to take things up another notch and make an interesting read.
Out of all the 3 books in the Grisha trilogy, I believe Siege and Storm would be the weakest plot-wise. It simply doesn’t offer much in terms of character growth and pushing the plot forward. Now that I have had the chance to distance myself from this book, it started to feel like reading Siege and Storm was like going through a circle. The storyline just kept circling in and on itself without really offering anything interesting for the readers.
The lack of the Darkling seems to be one of the biggest error that Leigh Bardugo made when writing this book. If I didn’t realize just how much the Darkling’s character drives the story forward, now I do. It’s astounding to see just how awful this series would have been if the Darkling hadn’t been in it. I can wholeheartedly say that had Bardugo not thought of the Darkling’s character, this series would have been a flop like many other YA series out there.
With the second book in the Grisha trilogy had been a flop, I’m hoping that Bardugo pick up her slack in book 3 because if things continue to go like this, your girl might just hurl the whole series into a blazing fire-pit. Just sayin’.
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