September 25, 2013

Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha, #2
Published: 2013, Henry Holt and Company
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Format: Hardcover, 432 pages
Source: Personal collection
Contains spoilers for Shadow and Bone (my review)
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"I don't care if you think I'm a Saint or a fool or the Darkling's whore. If you want to remain at the Little Palace, you will follow me. And if you don't like it, you will be gone by tonight, or I will have you in chains. I am a solider. I am the Sun Summoner. And I'm the only chance you have."

With the constant self-inflicted pressure to read more and more these days, it seems I'd forgotten the power that settling into a familiar and beloved story can possess. I tend to read series back-to-back when possible, and, while I love re-reading, I haven't re-read anything for a while now. In opening the pages of my copy of Siege and Storm, viewing the expanded map of Ravka and its surrounding lands, once again reading the description of Grisha orders, I felt a palpable sense of relief. I knew these characters, this story, and was more than ready to see what would happen to them next.

Alina and Mal have successfully dashed the Darkling's plans to expand the Shadow Fold. Leaving him and his crew to the monstrous volcra, Alina and Mal have attempted to start over in Novyi Zem, far across the True Sea from Ravka. Although they both left everything behind for each other, Alina has a much more difficult time accepting their new lives and the limitations that come with them; primarily, her guilt in not acting upon the good she could do for her people as the Sun Summoner. She's willing to try, though, for the sake of Mal.

Before the two of them can decide where to go and what to do next, however, the Darkling has caught up to them once more. He has new and frightening powers, but still craves the amplified power that Alina possesses while wearing Morozova's collar. And better yet, he's discovered a the fabled ice dragon of the northern seas holds the key to yet another amplifier. The Darkling hasn't given up hope of harnessing Alina's power, and he's not the only one.

Where Leigh Bardugo really excels as an author is in her attention to detail. Shadow and Bone introduced readers to a whole new fantasy world, replete with Russian influences, an order of element-wielding sorcerers, political intrigue, destiny, and a young orphan girl caught in the middle of it all. Does this series bear similarities to many other published fantasy series? Certainly. But Bardugo skillfully writes a story that is worth reading, both in comparison to other fantasy novels and as a unique work of fantasy fiction in its own right.

Like any good sequel should, Siege and Storm reintroduces readers to the world of the first book and then expands it tremendously. While Shadow and Bone took place solely in the country Ravka, this newest installment offers a much wider scope of the world. Even though the characters do not explore all the various lands themselves, through the introduction of new characters and political intrigue, Bardugo convincingly fleshes out the world. Alina finds herself back in Ravka at a certain point in the novel, but it's more than simply the Ravka introduced through her childhood at Keramzin, her time spent in the First Army, or through her Grisha training at the Little Palace. Bardugo treats her worldbuilding much like a character, slowly revealing bits of new information. Readers become acquainted with the upper workings of the Grisha order, the royal family, tense political alliances with outside countries, and even with a fanatical new religious movement. 

Solid characterization is another strong point of Bardugo's, and in Siege and Storm there are three secondary characters worth mentioning: Mal, the Darkling, and Strumhond (although there are many other great ones as well). Not all three function as love interests necessarily, but all do offer something different and relevant to Alina. Mal is Alina's best friend and has recently become more than simply the subject of her unrequited love. He has given up everything in his life for her, but their relationship is not all bliss. Sure, he's a bit edgy and becomes increasingly discontent with many of Alina's decisions over the course of the novel, but he also is the only person who looks at Alina and sees Alina, not the benefits her power has. The Darkling remains the most enigmatic character in this installment, in part due to his lack of presence. He is only physically present for a small percentage of the novel, although his influence extends far beyond his page count. His desire to possess Alina's powers may border on obsessive, but so, too, does Alina's constant preoccupation with his presence indicate that she's just as drawn to all he can offer her. Strumhond, the privateer that the Darkling hires to transport them all to the northern seas, is new to this book but has already become a major player in the story. The twists and turns associated with his character are among some of the best. Although the best secondary characters are all male, there's no true love triangle (or quadrangle) that develops. All three are incredibly well depicted, and all three have distinct relationships with Alina herself.

Against three such male characters, it would have been easy for Alina to fade into the background. She still retains a tendency to think of herself as unremarkable, as unimportant. Certainly not as the all-powerful Sun Summoner, the girl sought after by some of the most powerful men in the world, or even as Sankta Alina. And yet, that's the type of person she's become to the rest of the world. Through much of the book, Alina still struggles to reconcile the difference between the image that she has of herself and what she's truly capable of. As the Sun Summoner in possession of an amplifier (with the possibility of acquiring another), Alina also struggles to balance the dynamic between what her powers could and should allow her to do. It's a very slippery slope that Alina balances above, and she does rely on the suggestions of others. But this is ultimately Alina's story, and it is she who gradually comes to learn just what she hopes to accomplish both with her powers and by herself.

Siege and Storm is an even stronger work than Shadow and Bone. As Bardugo herself has grown as a writer, so, too, have the story and characters matured. Bardugo has left many typical fantasy tropes behind in this latest installment, and the ending will be sure to leave her fans eagerly awaiting the release of the finale. Strong writing, strong characterizations, strong world-building, and a ton of originality make Siege and Storm well worth a read. Without a doubt, Leigh Bardugo has become one of my new favorite fantasy authors.

Rating: 5 stars
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Amanda loves few things better than sitting down with a cup of tea and a book. She frequently stays up far too late, telling herself she just needs to finish one more page. When she's not wrapped up in the stories of others, Amanda works as a children's librarian in a public library.


  1. Yes, I agree completely! I really felt as if this was a much stronger novel - politically, structurally, and especially in terms of characterization. Mal really comes into his own, the emotions are so raw, the lines of morality so blurred. I loved it. Plus, I have no idea how it's going to end, so I'm dying to find out what happens! Great review, Amanda!

    1. I know! I could never have guessed the direction this one took, so I'm pretty sure that Bardugo will continue to surprise me with new twists and turns in the conclusion. And I'm more than fine with that. :) I can't wait! And thank you, Keertana!

  2. I really love Bardugo's attention to detail too. It's one of the reasons why I appreciate this fantasy world so much. It's almost effortless to lose yourself in. And yes! I completely agree with your paragraph on the three male characters. Each contributed well to both Alina's development and the story itself, and I agree that there isn't a true love polygon of any sort. I'm so glad you enjoyed this sequel, Amanda! Let's hope the next book is just as brilliant. :) Lovely review!

    1. I do wish Genya had a larger role in this one, or that there had been another really prominent female alongside Alina, instead of three males, but I still enjoyed it. I like all four of those characters. And fingers crossed! Although I'm pretty confident it will be. It's just the wait now that will be painful. Thanks, Sam!

  3. Oh, I know what you mean about how nice it was just to slip into this one! There are often long stretches where I feel so pressured and unenthusiastic about books I have lined up to read - I hate that. But this one was almost like a reward or treat for me. It was nice to be able to enter into this familiar world and characters we already know so much about, but then have Leigh Bardugo also take the world and character development that we knew from Shadow and Bone to the next level. That was truly impressive. You are so right on all your points - this book really had everything going for it! Brilliant review.

    1. Exactly lol! It was a very satisfying read. Thank you, Aylee! Now we just have to wait for another year to feel this way again...

  4. I totally 100% agree --- I loved seeing the changes in the characters and it was incredible how much the story, the series, the characters -- everything matured from Shadow and Bone (even though I'm totally in love with that book too) to Siege and Storm. I love everything about this world that Leigh Bardugo has created!!

    1. Yes, there was nothing wrong with the story, characterization, etc. of Shadow and Bone. It was pretty well done, actually, so to see it trumped here was nothing short of impressive.

  5. Isn't it wonderful when you start a second in a series and are able to jump right back into the world, and then it just keeps getting better! I agree what you said about Bardugo's books. The first especially followed some predictable patterns, but it also deviates from them in ways that makes her story stand out. I like what you said about Mal here - he IS the only person to love Alina separately from her abilities. I actually still don't really see this story as having a love triangle. Or at least it's weighted in such a way that it's not stressful. Like you, I'm dying to find out what happens in the final installment!

  6. I love this review :)! And I love this book too. I agree that it was easy to return to the story and characters without re-reading Shadow and bone (not that I would have mind.) This is how you are supposed to write a sequel!


  7. Reading series back to back is the best. I just got into a series that I did that for and that I now have the urge to reread too, so how awesome that you were able to get back into the Grisha world! I was a little surprised the map wasn't a tad more detailed, though. Wasn't one of the cities (Novyi Zem, I think) in the beginning not there? Then again, one thing I do like is that maybe Leigh Bardugo will write about those other countries, and we'll already be familiar with the setting...

    I admit, her guilt about not being able to do good for everyone while in hiding wasn't an aspect that I'd anticipated. I thought that she'd be more plagued about the people she killed in the beginning, but I did love how many different aspects Bardugo explored with regard to the climax of the previous novel.

    Yes! Her attention to detail is quite fantastic. One reader had referred to the fantastic food sculptures in this novel, and I must admit that I didn't notice that aspect yet it does not surprise me. Between the magic system she's built and the political intrigue and the Russian influenced details, it's clear that Bardugo's got quite the handle on everything.

    And yes!!! I was so impressed by how much she expanded the world in S&S. Even though it's set in Ravka again, she's got all these other details to make us feel the potency of the world. Would you want the next book to be set in another of the lands? The next one will probably have more about the duke's estate, I'd guess, and more about the religious movement.

    You don't think Mal, the Darkling, and Sturmhond function as love interests? I agree that they offer something different for Alina, but they all seem presented in that light to me, even if the Darkling is mostly villain. And hmm, I'd agree that the love triangle isn't "true" in the sense that I think it's obvious who Alina will end up with and that the romantic interests share little fondness for one another, but I still think that it's considered a triangle.

    :) glad you enjoyed this one. Now our wait will be terrible!


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