Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina 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.

Synopsis by Goodreads

I’ll admit it. I didn’t enjoy Siege and Storm nearly as much as its predecessor Shadow and Bone but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. I just loved how Bardugo established Grishaverse in Shadow and Bone. She wrote an incredible universe that generated intense feelings for me. Like most second novels, attempting to replicate first novel feelings without bringing something big to the table is pretty hard. I neither liked nor disliked Siege and Storm. Considering that it took me over a month to post this is a testament to my neutrality.

Genuinely, I enjoyed a lot of moments from Siege and Storm. There were just a few things that put me off from adoring it. Or I should say, there was only one character that put me off…

Spoilers Ahead

As most of you know from my last review, I’m not a fan of Mal. I had hoped by this point, I would like Mal. Is it even possible to dislike a character more in the second novel than the first? In Shadow and Bone, I merely hated Mal and Alina together romantically. Separately, I had no qualms with his character. NOW, I have never disliked a character so much. He spent the entirety of Siege and Storm brooding, drinking and being jealous. Jealousy is not a good look on anybody. Mal’s destructive behavior takes a toll on Alina who, in turn, spends most of the novel on a repetitive internal monologue.

Then there was the fight club… Mal’s jealousy leads him down a dark path. Not only does he voluntarily get beat up by Grisha night after night, he publicly kisses another woman (as far as we know, it was the first kiss.)

The crowd surged toward Mal, carrying me with them. Everybody was talking at once. People slapped him on the back, jamming money into his palms. Then Zoya appeared in front of him. She flung her arms around his neck and pressed her lips against his. I saw him go rigid.

A rushing sound filled my ears, drowning out the noise of the crowd.

Push her away, I begged silently. Push her away.

And for a moment, I thought he might. But then his arms closed around her, and he kissed her back as the crowd hooted and cheered.

Leigh Bardugo, Siege and Storm; pg. 362-363

To a certain extent, I understand Mal’s frustration. For a few short weeks, Alina and Mal were living the normal life of two young lovers before abruptly being ripped apart. But I cannot condone the childish actions that followed whilst in Os Alta.

Ok, I think I have sufficiently ragged on Mal enough for one review (there’s always Ruin and Rising for more jabs!) Let’s move on to a happier topic, such as Nikolai Lanstov – the notorious privateer, and a prince of Ravaka. I adored his character and instantly wanted to know more. He’s mysterious, layered and honest. It was the introduction of Nikolai that turned Seige and Storm from a standard fantasy novel into a political fantasy novel. If there is any take home from this review it’s that politics rule this book.

Politics played a huge role in the division between Alina and Mal. While Alina was heading The Second Army, attending war room meetings and overthrowing Grisha traditions, she simply couldn’t join Mal in frivolous activities. As I discussed above, we know how well Mal adjusted to Alina’s new role (insert eye roll here.)

Politics (and stupidity!) also happened to be the reason for the capture of Os Alta by The Darkling.

Ahhh The Darkling.

We’ll get back to him. Obviously. The capture of Os Alta was so silly but relatable. I felt like it was something right out of a history book. Vasily, though rightful heir to the Ravakan thrown, did not have the support of the people. As history dictates, support from the people is everything. His pride led him into trusting Fjerda, who in turn, betrayed him.

It was nicely written and a real surprise. I didn’t anticipate Vasily’s royal stupidity.

And finally, I saved the best for last, our favorite villain. I couldn’t possibly conclude this review with anyone but The Darkling. And I have just one question to pose to my readers. I’ve scavenged the internet in hopes of the answer but no one seems to have talked about it. Maybe I’m overthinking it?

Do you think Alina and The Darkling had sex in Siege and Storm?

“I missed you Mal,” I murmured against his ear. “I missed you so much.”

My arms glided up his back and twined around his neck. He kissed me again, and I sighed into the welcome press of his mouth. I felt his weigh slide over me and ran my hands over the hard muscles of his arms. If Mal was still with me, if he could still love me, then there was hope. My heart was pounding in my chest as warmth spread through me. There was no sound but out breathing and the shift of our bodies together. He was kissing my throat, my collarbone, drinking my skin. I shivered and pressed closer to him.

This was what I wanted, wasnt it? To find some way to heal the breach between us? Still, a sliver of panic cut through me. I needed to see his face, to konw we were all right. I cupped his head with my hands, tilting his chin, and as my gaze met his, I shrank back in terror.

I looked in to Mal’s eyes – his familiar blue eues that I knew even better than my own. Except they weren’t blue. In the dying lamplight, they glimmered quartz gray.

He smiled then, a cold clever smile like none I’d ever seen on his lips.

“I missed you too, Alina.” That voice. Cool and Smooth as glass.

Leigh Bardugo, Siege and Storm; pg. 369-370

It kind of sounds like they started to make love before Alina realized that it wasn’t Mal. Honestly, I’m rather surprised that connection was there at all. Whether it was Mal or The Darkling, to me, Alina seemed to only want to be in that situation to “heal the breach.” It felt very wrong and I couldn’t stop thinking about that scene. It stayed with me long after I closed the book. Not only that, The Darkling, confirmed his feelings towards Alina when he said: “I missed you too, Alina.” Obviously, that is just my opinion. Whether or not The Darkling actually loves Alina for who she is a hot topic. There is one camp who belives The Darkling loves the idea of loving Alina because she is his equal in power, while the other camp (the one I belong too) belives he loves her, unequivocally.

I do have a lot more to say regarding The Darkling’s feelings but that would give away a touch too much from Ruin and Rising. Since ya know, at this point, it took me so long to get this review up that I’m 226 pages into the third novel. Stay tuned for that review, I promise not to take a month to post it!

Amanda

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