Release Date: June 4, 2013
(Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy.)
Published by: Henry Holt
Spoiler free! Some quotes are included at the end too.
Darkness never dies.
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.
Shadow and Bone was one of my favorites of 2012. When I finished it, I wrote a blog post raving about how wonderful it was, how I kept rereading it because I was so captivated by the story and characters. I later wrote a review as well. I know many people do not set store by early reviews, but seeing as I had posted about my initial impressions of Shadow and Bone, it seemed appropriate that I do the same for its sequel. At least, this is what most other reviewers do on Goodreads / what I would do if I were more active there. So, Siege and Storm.
As you can tell, I had huge expectations of this book. When you love the start of a trilogy that much, you anticipate loving the rest of the books. Here is my ultimate feeling: Siege and Storm did not "wow" me as much as Shadow and Bone did, but it did not disappoint me much either. If I rated books, I would probably give Shadow and Bone five stars, and Siege and Storm four.
Why one less star? Because the middle dragged. There were so many subplots that were interesting but were ultimately all build up. Most of the major action occurred either in the first 100 pages or in the last 100 pages. That's not to say that the middle didn't have its merits, more that while it advanced the ultimate plot and made me eager for the last book in the series (and for the climax), it lacked a certain kind of urgency. Though I felt this fervent need to finish Shadow and Bone, I did not feel the same for Siege and Storm; it did not engage me as much. I was also kind of disappointed by the Darkling. He was my favorite character in Shadow and Bone, so when he wasn't as present in its sequel, I was a bit miffed. Granted, Bardugo introduced a really clever way to involve him despite the situation, but even when he was involved, there was something about him that disappointed me. Maybe it was because he had changed from the first book--which should happen, I know--yet then I didn't completely understand those changes? I'm hoping to understand my disappointment more later...
THAT BEING SAID...
This was a good book.
Protagonist growth/development? Check.
New, lovable characters introduced? Check.
Characters developed & having their own motives? Check.
Romantic interest(s) development/growth? Check.
Romance ups and downs? Check.
Expanding magical & political world / explaining more on Grisha powers, their limits, Alina & Darkling's limits / intricacies of the Grisha & Ravkan world? Check.
Developing consequences re: the battle on the Fold / re: most of the actions in the first book? Check.
Highlighting what the Darkling's new powers are? Check.
Explaining more about the Apparat's actions? Check.
New setting? Not really. Sometimes yes, but mostly no.
Advancement of the story? Yes and no.
Plot twists? Check, and the foreshadowing is a lot more subtle than that in the previous book.
Pacing done well? Very uneven.
Clear idea of what Ruin and Rising holds? Check.
It's a great mixture of religion, politics, court intrigue, magic, romance, character introductions and growth, and subtlety. It does suffer a bit from sequel syndrome in that a lot of what happens is build-up, yet I still have been rereading certain sections. Maybe not as much as before, but Leigh Bardugo has earned herself an assured spot on my trusted authors shelf. She knows how to tell a story, how to create characters whose motivations and growth are shown, how to expand on a world while keeping its previous intrigue and consistency. How to create a protagonist whose struggles you can relate to, and how to include humor, intensity/passion/sexiness, and doubts within a budding romance.
SOME NON-SPOILERY QUOTES:
*Note: These may be changed in the final copy.
1. "So you told him I had a goiter?" I whispered incredulously.
"Well I had to say something. And it makes you quite a tragic figure. Pretty girl, giant growth, you know."
I punched him hard in the arm.
"Ow! Hey, in some countries, goiters are considered very fashionable."
"Do they like eunuchs, too? Because I can arrange that."
"My goiter makes me cranky."
2. "I can see my shadow pass over them, pass over the road and the barren winter fields, the black shape of a girl, borne high by her own unfurling wings."
3. "Your friend seems to be enjoying himself."
I shrugged. "Mal's always been like that. You could drop him in a camp full of Fjerdan assassins, and he'd come out carried on their shoulders. He just blooms wherever he's planted."
"I'm more of a weed," I said dryly.
... "I like weeds," she said, pushing herself off from the railing and gathering her scattered lengths of rope. "They're survivors."
4. "You have no idea what I can make possible."
5. "There was no sound but our breathing and the shift of our bodies together. He was kissing my throat, my collar bone, drinking my skin. I shivered and pressed closer to him."
FYI: There will be an actual review of this at a later date. For now, I've donated my ARC to a tour site; if you're a member of ATWT, sign up for it before it gets closed. And later, I will also be giving away the ARC to one of you so that you can help me spread the word about this book :).