Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 / 5 stars)
After escaping the Darkling, Alina and Mal have fled across the True Sea to hide. Yet, their salvation is short lived, leaving at trail of bread crumbs for the Darkling to find. Alina is pitted once more against friends and foes to save Ravka – and the world – while hunting for the final two amplifiers that will bring her powers to light. But, who can she trust? And why is she seeing the Darkling everywhere she goes? And is her own desire for power turning her into what she fears the most?
I may have an unpopular opinion here, but I actually liked Siege and Storm far more than Shadow and Bone. The story allowed me to sit more with Alina, Mal, as well as newcomer Nikolai, as well as really get to know the world of the Grisha. It’s those slower moments that really let the worldbuilding shine, and while some stuff meandered for a bit, I thought it meandered in just the right way. This might not be what everyone enjoys, but for me I reveled in the chance to really get to understand the world and characters more.
Speaking of characters, the slower pace by far let us see them more. Alina is granted more autonomy, making decisions about her future, rather than being treated like a pawn in the Darkling’s game. Mal’s reactions to everything is human (more on that later). And Nikolai, well, I understand why people adore his character. He is absolutely repulsive and charming in the best ways.
Alina’s growth as a character is noted: it’s an example of the corruption of power, and how she and the Darkling are two sides of the same coin. Yet, the Darkling thrives in, well, darkness…while Alina strives for the light. But, it requires equal sacrifice from both of them…to the point of dehumanization.
It is because of this that Mal’s reactions make sense for me. I’ve seen on social media that Mal is probably one of the more controversial characters. Personally, I think he is the most human character in the story…and I think that is why people struggle with accepting him as Alina’s love interest. In no way is he perfect. He makes mistakes typical of any young man – jealousy being the prime example. But, in some ways, he’s no worse than Alina as well who is worried about Zoya taking him away. Really, the way I interpreted Mal, is someone not quite cut out for the crazy world that has taken over his best friend. He wants to protect her, but he doesn’t think he can. He doesn’t feel like he belongs. So, instead of speaking to Alina about it (just like Alina withholds information about the Darkling from him), he turns to fighting, he turns to the bottle, and he turns to somewhat toxic behavior. This doesn’t make him a bad character; it makes him human…and in my opinion, that is what Alina needs in both a partner and a friend: someone who is human, someone who wants her to be human. Whether that person is Mal or someone else (though by the way the prologues and epilogues are…I am pretty sure Mal is endgame for her), that is the best option. So yes, while Mal isn’t the “perfect partner”, I do think some of the discourse around his character (which I try not to get involved in) is unwarranted.
Perhaps that is just how I interpret it though, and some people might see his behaviors in a different light, which is totally fine.
Yet, Alina’s relationship with Mal is one of the reasons why I knock off a star from the book as well. A lot of their issues fall under the “constant misunderstanding trope” – whether it is about Alina’s powers, Mal’s happiness, Nikolai’s flirtations, or the Darkling. While I don’t mind the misunderstandings, one after the other caused the plot to drag a little bit…especially when things could have been resolved with a simple conversation.
This, coupled with some of the standard YA tropes that I don’t like overall (love triangles being the best example), impacted my overall rating.
Still, I find that Siege and Storm was better than Shadow and Bone. I was worried, since some people told me they couldn’t get through this book. But for me, this was just the right sweet spot, and provided the perfect bridge as a middle book in the series.
If all goes to plan, I should finish Ruin and Rising before I finish the TV show.
What’s it about?
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.