The sequel to Shadow and Bone (which I reviewed here). The second in the Grishaverse trilogy. Soon to hit your Netflix screens, Siege and Storm introduces Bardugo’s best character ever. I still wouldn’t call it great YA. Is its awkward tone the result of a fundamental writing mistake?

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Genre: YA, Romance, Fiction

Link to Goodreads: link

Rating: 2 out of 5.

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.

The fact that I realized I read this entire series years ago only after reading A BOOK AND A HALF. I’m definitely insane but part of it has to be the first book’s fault for being so forgettable, right?

It took a book and a half—right until a very specific reveal—but I’m eating my words on Shadow and Bone. If you know you know: Nikolai will save us all. The other boys absolutely WISH. Shame on Leigh Bardugo for writing the perfect fantasy novel prince, but also—I expect nothing less of her. All the stars I give to this book are his.

Prince Nikolai Lantsov in one of ingenious his inventions

It took a book and a half—right until a very specific reveal—but I’m eating my words on Shadow and Bone. If you know you know: Nikolai will save us all. The other boys absolutely WISH. Shame on Leigh Bardugo for writing the perfect fantasy novel prince, but also—I expect nothing less of her. All the stars I give to this book are his.

Choices I liked

One of my favorite things about Bardugo’s Grishaverse books is the scale: it never feels too big—it’s never too much to keep track of—even when she ups the stakes as high as they’ll go.

I suspect many dislike Mal in this book—or what Bardugo did with him—but I actually don’t mind. It felt like she was being true to the character and writing him the way he is. I wound up pretty satisfied with where that relationship went and the rocky path it took…whatever that says about me.

The biggest reason this book was so much more fun than Shadow and Bone was because Bardugo leans into Alina’s darker urges. I mean, who doesn’t flirt with a little bit of power-hungry-ness every once in a while?

Or hell, if you’re that powerful, why not a lot? As a Dune supremacist, I am weak for plots that involve people navigating excessive power, pretending to be saints and gods. I’ve also been listening to playlists on YouTube with titles like “they broke my heart so I ruined their life//a villain playlist” which probably doesn’t help things.

BUT—and this ‘but’ will be a doozie—there is an eerie disconnect in the narrative that wasn’t there with Six of Crows. People have commented on this issue, and even on the problem I’m about to point out. So let’s call the take uncomfortably warm.

Was it the right decision to write this in the first person?

I have several reasons for asking the question. First, Bardugo relents occasionally and writes in an eerie, detached third person that basically functions to create a distant (though overdramatic) perspective.

She needed to regress to third person because first person wasn’t enough.

The second reason I ask: Alina is not supposed to be an unreliable narrator, but she is. In the wrong way. In YA fantasy that takes the third person, the author can hide the main character’s plans from the reader, even if it’s limited third person and we only get one perspective. With Siege and Storm, we feel stuck in an internal narrative that doesn’t reflect a character’s actions or choices. Alina sounds like she’s being pointedly vague even to herself, which doesn’t make any sense. It’s confusing and annoying to the reader, and I didn’t find it as dramatic as it seems intended to be. Some examples of first person messing with the experience (SPOILERS FROM HERE ON):

  • Alina would have thought about doing the thing she does at the end before she does it! Or if she hadn’t, she would have at least had some kind of epiphany. No—instead, Alina hides things from herself in order to hide them from the reader. It makes her sound stupider than she is.
  • Her boring internal narrative interrupts our glorious glimpses at Nikolai’s character.
  • Alina’s first person narrative makes the reveal surrounding Tamar and Tolya uncomfortably obvious.
  • Even the opening, when she’s in “hiding” with Mal. I’d rather the narrative had the freedom to describe how tired and scraggly she looks without it sounding self-deprecating and shallow coming from her. I’d rather see the satisfied sparkle in her eye when Mal rejects other girls’ advances than hear her talk about how it makes her feel for a page.

Final reason I ask: her internal dialogue is almost never the most interesting thing happening. Usually it’s so obvious I find myself skimming. In contrast, the uncertainty about Nikolai’s goodness/ambition is demonstrated in how he acts—in the occasional vulnerabilities and lack thereof. And it’s fantastic.

Imagine any of the scenes or characters described in that quintessentially YA fantasy style that Bardugo does so well but in the third person. Am I crazy?


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