April 3, 2015

Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

“When people say impossible, they usually mean improbable.”

The Book Rest - Book Review of Siege and Storm by Leigh BardugoTitle: Siege and Storm (Grisha #2)
Author:  Leigh Bardugo
Genre:  Young Adult Fantasy
Rating:  A
Recommended For:  Fans of Throne of Glass, The Young Elites, Shatter Me
Source: Library hardback

One-sentence review: I thought I enjoyed Shadow and Bone but Siege and Storm has so much more action, adventure and evokes more feelings than I realized it could, shaping this series into something you definitely don't want to miss!

TBR It: Goodreads
Buy It: Amazon

This review contains spoilers for Shadow and Bone (Grisha #1)

In Siege and Storm, Leigh Bardugo doesn't delay in throwing readers right into the action as Alina, a Grisha Sun Summoner, and her companion/best friend/boyfriend(?), Mal, are on the run from the Darkling. Almost immediately they are captured and put on a ship to go back to the Little Palace where the Darkling intends to use them for his dark purposes. But Alina and Mal quickly learn that they have friends in unexpected places, immediately highlighting how teamwork is better than single-handedly attempting to reach a goal, especially when trying to defeat a Grisha as dark and powerful as the Darkling.

There was so much more world-building in this book and access to information beyond Alina, Mal and the Darkling. I was thoroughly impressed by Bardugo's ability to expertly craft a new layer to this story that utilized everything learned from the previous book in the series. Now that the main three players have been established, there is much more time to focus on developing other characters, which also translates to Alina growing and developing priceless friendships.

One of the new characters we're introduced to is Sturmhond who I cannot elaborate on if I want to keep this spoiler-free (and, for the record, my reviews are always spoiler-free unless explicitly stated). Sturmhond has easily become one of my favorite fictional characters period. He is charming, laugh-out-loud funny, and gives enough advice and one-liners to fill a self-help book. His personality also warrants Alina and Mal to be weary and distrusting of him because he's a master of deception. But this only makes him a more interesting and complex character to observe.

The addition of new people and characters also highlights Alina's questions of, "Where do I fit in?" and "Who can I trust?" Even moreso, we find Mal wondering where he fits in within Alina's Grisha world, too. But Alina and Mal cannot defeat the Darkling alone, so they must learn to trust. They must learn to work as a team with everyone around them willing to help. And of course, that doesn't come without its own set of consequences: betrayals, people who fall short of Alina's expectations, people who are sacrificed because of the risk. All of these instances continue the dialogue of what friendship and teamwork is worth for a common goal and what it means to have friends and/or be a friend.

A fascinating element in this series (at least to me!) is the religious connotations. Alina is viewed as a Saint who has been delivered to save Ravka. From what I could gather about Ravkan religion, Saints are effectively gods, as there was no mention of an actual god or gods superior to the Saints. Another religious idea is Alina's trinity of magnifiers which stood out to me (I double-majored in English and Religious Studies, so these things might not matter to others so much). The religiosity of Ravka and its surrounding territories made me ask what this book is saying about religion. While obviously it's powerful, it tends to revere people as gods more than a superhuman god. But people aren't perfect; they can change and be manipulated. They can let you down, they will die. These seem to be issues Alina has with being revered as a Saint and the religious themes would make a great dialogue for any discussion about this book (especially a book club consisting of English and Religion nerds like myself!).

Sometimes great series can hit a sophomore slump, hitting the breaks after the momentum of a great first installment. That is definitely not the case of Siege and Storm. Leigh Bardugo doesn't slow the action of this series and doesn't intend to until its over. I highly recommend this series to anyone who loves (high) fantasy YA and even those who just want to get their feet wet in this genre.

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