It’s almost the end of January, and here’s a review for my tenth book of the year! Siege and Storm really surprised me this time, seeing as I had low expectations, but ended up really loving it? I annotated this less than I did Shadow and Bone, but that is also partially due to the fact that I ran out of blue (Nikolai) sticky tabs 🙁 But without further ado, here’s the review.
SIEGE AND STORM — ★★★★
Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Alina Starkov’s power has grown, but not without a price. She is the Sun Summoner—hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Shadow Fold. But she and Mal can’t outrun their enemies for long.
The Darkling is more determined than ever to claim Alina’s magic and use it to take the Ravkan throne. With nowhere else to turn, Alina enlists the help of an infamous privateer and sets out to lead the Grisha army.
But as the truth of Alina’s destiny unfolds, she slips deeper into the Darkling’s deadly game of forbidden magic, and further away from her humanity. To save her country, Alina will have to choose between her power and the love she thought would always be her shelter. No victory can come without sacrifice—and only she can face the oncoming storm.
I… I’m shocked. I’m not supposed to enjoy this book as much as I did. For some context, I rated Siege and Storm 2 stars and DNF the first time (last year) and swore that I’d never finish the trilogy. But here I am again, and absolutely loving it. The middle was a bit slow, I agree, but the ending SAVED EVERYTHING. I am emotionally unstable. I cannot deal with this many emotions.
This is definitely a character-driven story, as opposed to a plot-driven one. The character development leads the events, and I’m not completely against it. However, I do think it’s important to point out that there is… a lack of development. There, I said it. I don’t like any characters, and I don’t really think they grew (aside from Alina, for obvious reasons that I shall not spoil) from the first book.
“Why do you still give the book such a high rating?” You ask. Well… I’m just attached to everyone now I guess? I may rant about how useless they are, but my book is full of my scribbles of “YAAS QUEEN” and “KING BEHAVIOUR” for whenever they do anything mildly powerful. There are some obvious character flaws (ahem, lack of consent and communication that’s just gLOSSED OVER), and I don’t feel particularly connected to anyone, but Leigh Bardugo makes me love them anyways. Are we surprised? nOPE-
Breaking it down further, I shall do a mini-review on the main characters. Why only the main characters? Because the side characters hAVE NO PERSONALITIES *ooh tea*. Tolya and Tamar, all we know is that they guard Alina, and that they’re Shu. Literally nothing else?? But anyways, as I was saying (may be minor spoilers):
Alina – She definitely grew the most in this book. She starts off very self-consious and weak-willed, not knowing what to do or what to think. She relies on Mal for most things (which I find dumb, since SHE HAS SO MUCH POTENTIAL) and believes herself to be ugly still. But then she accepts her power (surprise surprise!!1!) and grows into such a powerful character!! I actually really love her character by the end of the book, even though she cries over Mal being douchey at least 4 times in between. But still, I think end-of-S&S Alina deserves a 4.5/5 stars, if not a full 5/5.
Mal – Easily my least favorite. Maybe 1/5 stars, and the 1 star is because Archie Renaux (Mal’s actor in the Netflix show) is such a sweetheart. Mal literally does not change at all in Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm. He starts off a douchebag, he finishes a douchebag. Literally, he’s only there for Alina when she’s in mortal danger, and that’s it. When Alina is having problems, he just disappears and doesn’t help her at all. When Alina is trying to embrace and learn to use her powers, he gets all salty and distant. In short, I hate him. He has the rare few sweet lines in the book, but HE IS USELESS. TOXIC MASCULINITY.
Nikolai – Honestly I think I like him most in the Mal/Darkling/Nikolai triangle. He still has flaws, specifically when he lowkey ~uses Alina as a prop to gain public approval~ without her consent. Warning bells, anyone? But he learned from that, which is evident later in the book when Alina wanted to use him back, which I thought was good character development on his part. Also, he is so sweet to his parents, even though they don’t deserve it in the slightest. He’s always thinking of his family, and how to save his country (even though that idiot Vasily should have been thinking about that), and I really appreciated a depiction of an actual family in a YA book. Overall, he’s probably a 3.5 or 4/5 on my character star chart.
The Darkling – I have such mixed feelings about this man. I love him, on a “fictional character theoretical” standpoint, because he’s just so complex and that makes for a great story. But on an “actual human being” standpoint, he doesn’t even deserve any stars. None of his feelings for Alina, or anyone else, are genuine, so technically he’s just the “total villain”. He has no cares for consent, for his mOTHER, for humanity as a whole. But on the other hand, this is a completely fiction story, and he is an amazing villain, and his scenes are always the most memorable. I adore every time he appears in the book, because something dramatic is always going to happen, but also it makes me so icky when he interacts with Alina in a noncon way? I’ve got to admit that his hexagonal room is quite a vibe though. Perhaps I’m just ageing out of the fanbase, but I’m actually finding toxic behaviour to be toxic? Can I pls go back to my ignorant days please… I just want to simp for fictional characters without my moral conscience to judge my decisions. Overall, perhaps a 2/5 stars on the “person with morals” chart, but INFINITE STARS on the villains chart. The Darkling is the best villain, hands down, because DARKLINA WOULD BE THE MOST POWERFUL DUO. I WANT TO SEE THEM CONQUER RAVKA, AND THEN THE WORLD. I want it so much that I even made a Spotify playlist for it. See, I’m obsessed.
The plot definitely has some lapses, but overall I really enjoyed it? The beginning part with Sturmhond’s crew and the Darkling all happened so quickly and there was so much happening in each chapter. I think it was only the middle few chapters, when they’re at the Little Palace once more, that are a bit slow. Starting again from Chapter 18, the plot moved SO FAST and everything was happening and I was in tears. This definitely exceeded my expectations once more…
However, to be more critical, I think this book tried to cover too many plotlines all at the same time. The Mal/Nikolai conflict plotline was front and center, while the Darkling’s plotline was the provoking action and the Apparat was just there to add some spice. I found the entirety of the Apparat plotline very strange and lowkey creepy, while I think Nikolai’s plotline was kinda butchered to be combined with Mal’s angst. I personally think that it would have been really great to see more of Nikolai and Alina solving problems together, as self-appointed King-to-be and the leader of the Second Army. Alina would have had so much power with Nikolai OR the Darkling, but she chooses to cry over Mal instead?? I’m still salty about that, yes.
I ADORE EVERYTHING ABOUT LEIGH’S WORLDBUILDING. I CANNOT SIN ANYTHING. I LIVE FOR THE GRISHAVERSE. I AM A CORPORALKI HEARTENDER, AND I’M PROUD TO FLAUNT IT. Literally though, I am immersed in the Russian-inspired setting of Ravka from the first page, and the magic systems, the social hierarchy… everything just makes sense. This is my favorite world for a reason. I would like to be a Grisha and wear a kefta, thank you very much. I just think that Leigh has fleshed out the world a lot, and the small science has set rules that only a few really powerful Grisha can break, and a lot is based on the mythology/folklore, which I thought was a nice touch.
I’m still so shocked at how much I loved this book! I have a S&S book club discussion coming up on Sunday, so I can’t wait to share my thoughts further. I now change my mind about my statements in the past months that bashed the Grisha Trilogy — I do think it’s worth reading. The characters might suck compared to Six of Crows, but that’s all relative. Overall… I’m completely and utterly in love with yet another one of Leigh’s books.