Blurb from GoodReads.com:
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. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. 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.
OK, for the sake of clarity, I should admit that I am a HUGE Leigh Bardugo fangirl. Regular readers of this blog will probably know I gave suitably glowing fangirl reviews to Bardugo’s Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom, and even Bardugo’s short stories (particularly the chilling and astonishingly gripping The Witch of Duva, which was even better than chocolate cake.) Some of you may even recall that Shadow and Bone, the first book in Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone trilogy (aka the Grisha trilogy,) was one of the first books I reviewed on this blog. I enjoyed Shadow and Bone (SAB) a heck of a lot for its Laini Taylor-esque world building, it’s Russian-esque touches and its allusions to folkore and folk magic, but sometimes found main character Alina too passive, too physically weak and too focused on her rather needful relationship with her childhood best friend, Mal. (Who I also found annoying.)
And yes, come to think of it she does remind me quite a bit of Elain, ‘the beautiful fawn’ (ugh, cringey description) Faerie girl who doesn’t seem do all that much in S.J. Maas’s A Court of Wings and Ruin. My favourite characters here were Genya and the Darkling-a far more complex, seductive, damaged and arguably more interesting character than Mal, Alina’s rather sexless, too-good-to-be-believable boyfriend.
Unfortunately, all of this passivity and slow pacing came back, seemingly doubled, in Siege and Storm (SAS.) Far from being the strong, bold Sun Summoner that Alina sort-of-became towards the end of SAB, Alina begins SAS cradled in the arms of Mal, hiding as fugitives on a shipping vessel in the middle of nowhere, hiding from the Darkling, who is chasing her down. (Not sure why he bothers, to be honest.) If that sounds exciting and kind of like the Bourne Identity, think again- it’s not. The plot and pacing of this is dull, dull, dull, and Mal and Alina together have to be one of the most boring, depressing couples ever. They have so little chemistry, it beggars belief, and worst of all, Mal is just as much of a downer as she is. Yawn. I so missed the amazing chemistry between Six of Crows characters like Wylan and Jesper (I LOVE THESE GUYS FOREVER #fangirling) or even Kaz and Inej.
But here, there are just redundant love triangles and a lot of moping around. Alina is (yet again) suppressing her power for fear it will lead her into the Darkling’s clutches, and has (once again) become the needy, clingy, pretty sad character I loved to hate- and Mal (inexplicably) loves to love.
Not even Alina’s clearly badass amplifier can stop her from getting lost in useless introspection, self doubt, and obsessing over the Darkling. Yet the Darkling is noticeably absent from SAS, much to my disappointment. Alina does see him in vision-like sequences, but chooses not to tell Mal because she thinks she might be going mad and hallucinating. *Face palm.* NO, ALINA, don’t be such a bloody victim! Take control, seize your fate, seize your power! I have no idea why she is so reluctant- if she doesn’t want her power, I’ll gladly take it. In fact, it takes Alina so agonizingly long to claim any part of her power I couldn’t actually even finish SAS- reading her scenes was like gritting my teeth- and so I very much doubt I’ll be reading the conclusion, Ruin and Rising.
This is a great shame, as I love Bardugo’s other work, and this novel DOES have some good points- badass Baghra, more info into the history and nature of amplifiers, good descriptions, some good fight scenes on Nikolai’s ship, and an amazing sea dragon creature who becomes a powerful amplifier. It says a lot though when so many of the supporting characters-flirtatious, witty Nikolai who reminded me a little of V.E Schwab’s Kell– Tolya and Tamar, even Zoya, to name but a few- out shine the main character (yep that’d be Alina again.) If you’re already a Bardugo fan, give this series a try, but if not, I’d recommend picking up Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone instead.
Overall rating: 2 out of 10
Favourite character: Baghra
This book in four words: Alina. Please. Stop. Whining.