Friday, April 14, 2017

Book: Siege and Storm (Grisha, #2) by Leigh Bardugo

I've been in a reading frenzy because of this book series and I'm not even sorry. This is SIEGE AND STORM, the second book of the Grisha Trilogy, by Leigh Bardugo. I cannot promise a spoiler-free review so read at your own risk. *winks*

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Blurb:
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. 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. (via Goodreads)
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We left off from Shadow and Bone with Alina and Mal, on the run and hunted by the Darkling across the True Sea. As with most of contemporary YA series these days, I was worried that it might suffer the "Second Book Syndrome" but no - I was wrong. First chapter down and the action already started  - Leigh Bardugo doesn't even make us breathe.

In Siege and Storm, we get to see a different Alina from what we've seen in the first book. The Sun Summoner who now takes controls of her powers and her life. Pitted against one of the most powerful Grisha that ever lived and tasked with rebuilding an army that is in danger of collapsing, she pushed on and take on the responsibility. "For someone who has no idea what she's doing, I'd say you're managing pretty well." Sometimes, it's hard to imagine that she's just an 18-year old girl that got her life turned upside down because of a power that chose to show itself at the most unexpected time. At Siege and Storm, she grappled at the darkness rooting inside her brought about by the great power that she wield - whilst trying to deal with the visions as a result of a forged connection with the Darkling. She learned how to be a pretty good leader that the Grisha respects and abides. From a scrawny, invisible girl to this - it can't get any better than this.

For some reason, there's not enough
Stormhond fanarts around.
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This book also introduced several other characters that added color and action to the already breathtaking story - notably one that easily stole my heart: STORMHOND! I really did this backwards and I may have been spoiled by Crooked Kingdom with several things - but nevertheless, he was a welcome addition to the bunch! This book was a bit slow compared to the first one, but man was Stormhond the firecracker that he is. He just pops from the pages - a smooth talker, changes personalities at a whim, and has the buckets of confidence and wits that could charm the whole of Ravka and ME! As if having Mal and the Darkling in Alina's life is not enough, Leigh stretches it more and adds another one. Stormhond was a born leader, a political strategist and an innovator through and through. She guided Alina how to navigate safely at court - I felt like I was reading The 48 Laws of Power multiple times - and I've read my fair share of political drama to appreciate this kind of thing.
The less you say, the more weight your words will carry. 
Don't argue. Never deign to deny. Meet insults with laughter. 
Weakness is a guise. Wear it when they need to know you're human, but never when you feel it. 
Don't wish for bricks when you can build from stone. Use whatever or whoever is in front of you. 
Get them to follow the little orders, and they'll follow the big ones. 
"I want to kiss you. But I won't. Not until you're thinking of me instead of trying to forget him." OK THIS ONE = NOT POLITICS
He was funny and each of his remarks provides the light this dark series needed - and everything rang true. I love that he is honest and driven - and he paraded his ambition like it is something necessary and he is right. "I'm not going to apologize for being ambitious. It doesn't change the fact that I'm the best man for the job." God, I love him. His dynamic with Alina was easy and something to look forward to in the pages. And sad as it may, he eclipses Mal in every way I'm not even sorry for fangirling over him.

Another brooding art of the Darkling //
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Speaking of Mal - it was painful to watch Mal and Alina drift apart. I find myself slowly warming up to him and their lovestory, but of course, not enough - not with Stormhond on page LOL. But at least the story drifted out of the ordinary. "I feel you slipping away from me, and I don't know how to stop it." It was realistic, and painful. And I loved it as much as it broke my heart. "Would there be a time when it didn't hurt to look at him?" I can sense some impending doom somewhere and with these things, they usually are there - I just hope that by the end of this series, I can't still clutch my chest and whisper *it's okay* like I mean it.

As for the Darkling, there's still that same old PULL that got me hooked on him from Shadow and Bone. My problem with this book? Too little Darkling scenes. Much of the book had Alina cooped up at court practicing, strategizing with Stormhond - so the chances for confrontations may be a bit low. But alas, Leigh is there to give us what we desire - it seemed our little heroine is seeing things and beginning to think she is going mad. Yes, guys, Darkling apparitions are everywhere. It started off creepy - and like Alina, I slowly got used to it, found it comforting even. It was a different kind of high - the moments he appeared in Alina's sight were surprisingly quiet. I loved every minute of it. You could expect Alina to go berserk when talking to him face-to-face, but since this isn't real, they are conversing normally and the results are just goosebump-inducing.
"Why won't you leave me alone?" I whispered one night as he hovered behind me while I tried to work at my desk. [...] "Then I'd be alone, too," he said, and he stayed the whole night through, till the lamps burned down to nothing.
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For some reason, these fleeting moments are just too fleshed out in my mind that I can even see it when I close my eyes. It may be my imagination - or I am just too biased with my fangirling over the Darkling - but I can sense some real emotion there. It may be the desire to have someone like him on his side, almost a physical ache - what with all the brief vulnerable moments. The intrigue, the mystery, that *misunderstood* vibe - you can't help but be drawn in.


Overall, this a a great follow-up to Shadow and Bone - though the first book is still my favorite. The build up to the final chapters were properly done - and the confrontation was unexpected, surprising as it should. The twist at the last minute was out of the blue, and the sacrifice that was almost made was exciting to say the least. There's a small part of me that wants the Darkling to still be redeemable at the end, but after reading this - I'm not so sure. Scratch that - I think I'm not so sure about anything at all. Leigh Bardugo managed to be anything but predictable, it's amazing. I wonder how she does it. Recommended, still! 
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My Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 out of 5 stars)

If you follow me on Twitter, here's my Siege and Storm Reaction Thread: CLICK HERE.
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Quotable Quotes:

"Fear is a powerful ally," he said. "And loyal."

"Anything worth doing always starts as a bad idea."

"When people say impossible, they usually mean improbable."

"Understatement is overrated."

"We do our best. We try. And sometimes, it makes no difference at all."
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This is the 9th book I've read this year -- and this has been part of my 2017 Reading Challenge. #Bookworm2017

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