‘Siege and Storm’ (The Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo

*This review will contain spoilers!*

‘My life would be allegiance instead of love, fealty instead of friendship. I would weigh each decision, consider every action, trust no one. It would be life observed from a distance.’

First things first: if you haven’t read my review of ‘Shadow and Bone’, go and read that – I’m not going to recap any of the plot of the first novel or the nuances of the world, I’m just going to dive straight in!
Second things second: if you’re turned off by the Grisha trilogy because of the quotes on the front of the novels, don’t be. This series is not “The Hunger Games meets Potter meets Twilight meets Lord of the Rings meets Game of Thrones; basically epic magical fantasy but completely for grown-ups.’ This series will appeal to the teenage market and the adult market, so it’s not completely for grown-ups, and referencing every popular fantasy and YA series ever written? Yes, it has aspects of all of them, but which books don’t? The Grisha trilogy is very much an entity all of its own. 
At the end of ‘Shadow and Bone’ our protagonist, Alina, and her boyfriend, Mal, had just gone on the run from the Darkling, the evil overlord of the Grisha universe. Alina had an amplifier fixed around her neck that allowed the Darkling to call her power forward, giving him full control of the light and the darkness. Understandably, Alina wasn’t happy about this occurrence, and when he destroyed the entire of Novokribirsk, the country to the West of the Fold, Alina was distraught – so many people wiped out because of her power.
When we left Alina and Mal, they were on a boat travelling over the True Sea to parts of the world that we’d never explored, and I was excited to see them continuing on their journey together. Unfortunately, it’s only the very start of the novel that’s based over the True Sea – the Darkling tracks Alina and Mal down very quickly. ‘Siege and Storm’ wastes no time getting started, and there’s no illusion of escape or happiness: it’s pretty obvious that Alina is still in a dire situation, and escaping will not be as easy as she thought. The Darkling has developed new powers: he can now summon creatures called the nichevo’ya or ‘nothing’. Summoning them depletes his strength quite rapidly, so he cannot do it for too long and they can’t stray too far away from him, but they’re extremely strong and have unhealable bites. This means he’s gone from being a bit of a dick to being downright terrifying. ‘Siege and Storm’ is a much scarier book than ‘Shadow and Bone’. The nichevo’ya bite infects Alina and, while she’s passed out and struggling to survive, the Darkling takes her on board the Volkvolny, a boat run by privateer Sturmhond. Sturmhond will do anything for money, so he’s helping the Darkling for the bounty he’ll be able to get – no matter how much Alina begs him, there’s no way he’s going to help her.
The Darkling is on the search for Rusalye, the mythical water dragon who is the second of Morozova’s amplifiers. No one really believes Rusalye exists, but then again no one believed in the existence of Morozova’s stag, so it’s no surprise when super tracker Mal jumps into action and takes them right to the creature. They’re just caught Rusalye, when suddenly Sturmhond turns against the Darkling – his back-up boat attacks the Volkvolny, and Alina, Mal, Sturmhond and two of his crew members, Tolya and Tamar, only just manage to survive the destruction.
It turns out that Sturmhond has been working against the Darkling for a long time, because he has another client who would be grateful for Alina’s sun summoning powers: himself. It turns out that Sturmhond is actually the prince of Ravka, Nikolai, who has been absent from court and the palace for years and years on end. He’s disguised himself as a privateer, thinking he could do much better things for Ravka from the seas, but with the appearance of Alina he knows that she can help him save the country. Their alliance will unit the people and the Grisha to complete equality, thwarting the Darkling’s attempt to take the world completely for the Grisha.
My only problem with ‘Siege and Storm’ is that it feels like there’s an awful lot of nothing happening. Everything that I’ve recapped above (and that is a heck of a lot going on, you have to admit!) happens within the first one hundred pages of the four hundred page novel. There’s some exciting goings on at the end of the novel, when the Darkling attacks the Little Palace where Alina is staying, and there’s lots of death and destruction, but until that point it’s a lot of travelling and court scheming.
I did really enjoy the novel, despite the amount of faffing about. Nikolai being Sturmhond was one of the most shocking reveals I’d ever experienced (normally I’m fabulous at knowing exactly what is going on, but that one was a real surprise), but after proposing to Alina and kissing her to impress their followers, he became a little bit obsolete.
It’s ridiculous, because I loved Sturmhond. Sturmhond was sassy and unforgivably sarcastic, and he was such an intriguing character. I liked Nikolai’s reasoning behind becoming Sturmhond, and his back story was interesting, but because of his focus on potentially taking the throne he ended up having a bit of a one-track mind.
But it did feel like they were making a mountain out of a molehill. Alina and Nikolai travelling through all of the little villages on the way back to the Palace was a montage that I really didn’t need to experience, and the ‘will they/won’t they’ love triangle (well, square, if you include her Darkling delusions) was a bit contrived, so it detracted from their interactions for me. I loved the snappy and quick retorts that sparked between Alina and Sturmhond, but as soon as she knew he was the attractive prince she just seemed to lose her confidence with him. The constant complaining and arguing between her and Mal was also groan-worthy: they’d just gotten their act together at the end of the first novel, but now Mal’s drinking all the time, joining a fight club and kissing other Grisha… All in all, being a bit of a douchebag. I really, really don’t like his character, and I don’t know why but it became even more obvious throughout this second installment. I don’t know what Alina sees in him.
I love the inclusion of the Shu Grisha twins, Tolya and Tamar. Tamar is a brilliantly strong and independent female character, and Tolya is one of those understated, silent but deadly males who obviously has a back story, so I’m hoping that will come out in the next novel. Their relationship with Alina is a bit strained, because her relationship with everyone is strained at this point, and it’ll be intriguing to see how they win her trust back and the changing dynamics between them.
I was a bit disappointed by lack of Darkling, because he’s a powerfully written villain that genuinely gives me the heebie-jeebies, and I’d been looking forward to more close calls and difficult situations. Maybe that’s just because I hate Mal and wouldn’t mind seeing him lose some bodily organs, but I’m finding myself craving the fight scenes in this series. It’s definitely because Alina is so much more of a badass when she’s in difficult situations, and she does scare the bejesus out of me at points – she seems like such a sweetie, then she’ll be pulling nichevo’ya out of the Darkling with no pause for thought. She’s one of the only protagonists that doesn’t rush into (many) stupid incidents or get majorly pig-headed: she’s calculating and considerate of all the potential outcomes to the situations she encounters, even if she does make some spur of the moment decisions. She’s also the perfect amount of self-sacrificing – she genuinely believes saving the world is worth her death, and she isn’t trying to shove the responsibility onto anyone else.
The whole concept of the Darkling and Alina being two halves of a whole (the light and the dark, the good and the bad) is well explored, and I do love the way he manipulates her emotions by telling her he’s the only one who’ll ever understand her: it’s realistic, because I do think you would think that way. The scenes between them are written in an absolutely electric manner, and some of their interactions did send shivers up my spine: I’m looking forward to more happening between them in the third book.
I don’t have my hopes too high for the final novel in the series, but I do have some ideas of what I want to happen so I’ve got my fingers crossed. It’s obviously going to involve the firebird, the third of Morozova’s amplifiers, and it’ll be interesting to see them return to the village where she was born – exploring more of this world is never going to bore me. I’m a bit nervous about what’s going to happen, but I feel so invested in this series, attached to the characters and absorbed in Leigh Bardugo’s writing that I know I’m going to be reading it this week. Look out for the review of it coming soon!
  • I only recently finished this book so this has made me really excited to continue with the final installment (though I'm also wary and hoping for more from the Darkling)! Even with all the hype that's been surrounding this series for some time I was actually put off picking it up by the quotes on the covers… I'm so glad that I finally read them though because they're epic! Great review, I'm glad you enjoyed 🙂

    Enchanted by YA: http://enchantedbyya.blogspot.co.uk/2015/10/sunday-post-1.html

    • I agree completely about them being epic – I was so certain it was going to turn out to be a Divergent or Twilight thing, when the series was so over-hyped that it couldn't help but be disappointing, so I'm glad that didn't happen. All of my fingers and toes crossed for more Darkling action, he's one of the best bad guys I've ever read, and it's almost impossible not to agree with his reasoning in some way.
      I hope we both enjoy book three, but I am so worried!