Saturday, May 10, 2014

Book Review: Siege and Storm

As I believe I mentioned recently, occasionally I just plain forget to review something and that was the case with Shadow and Bone last year where I didn't realize until months and months later that I hadn't reviewed it and by that point my memory of the book was just fuzzy enough that I didn't feel as if I could do a good review. Which is strange, not only did I enjoy the book but I also looked through it's list of references in the back and was reading this enormous, 1980s tome of Russian history from practically it's beginning in modern-day Ukraine up until the late 1800s, you'd think that sitting down to read that nearly every day for a month would have reminded me at the very least....

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Alina and her childhood friend Mal are now on the run from everyone, the crown, their country, and most importantly the Darkling who has taken steps to make Alina the most powerful grisha ever and completely submissive to him. They're soon caught however and the complicated politics they've fallen into only seem to get muddier with each passing day.

Since I don't have another review for people to quickly reference, I more or less enjoyed Shadow and Bone. The world building/magic sat right with me, neither was very original but the ideas were solid, and I could explain a lot of Alina's actions because she was suddenly in a very different position in life and that takes some getting used to! But I didn't really like how the book handled her romance, the attitude of her old friend Mal just rubbed me the wrong way (even when the book put time and effort into giving him reasons for having a complicated relationship with her) and the sudden romance with the Darkling wasn't unexpected but left me rolling my eyes regardless. Unfortunately all of these things also apply to this book (with the addition of me being exasperated and baffled by the Darkling's real life fans since he's now rather evil and not in a shades-of-gray way either). On the one hand I understand where Bardugo was trying to go with Alina, the young person thrust into greatness with no preparation and a bit scarred by some of the experiences. And I can tell that Bardugo is trying very hard to give all the characters (not just the main ones but also the minor, reoccurring characters) multi-layered, complicated motives but that's because I read a lot and am familiar with the setup, not because the story convinced me of this. Instead all of the characters came off as muddy and unsteady and Alina is yet another heroine who's fiery in a fight and terrible at politics and can't seem to get better. 

I'm also not happy that another love interest has been introduced, not only because I felt like they make the story unnecessarily complicated instead of realistically so, but also because I feel like they should have been mentioned at least in the first novel one way or another, and because they highlight just how bad Alina is at said politics (which always becomes even more awkward when you realize it's the guy whose good at something and the girl who doesn't seem to get better). I was a bit surprised to discover as I read this but Alina just doesn't work as a heroine in general. She's powerful but not strong in personality, gifted like no one else ever has been with magic but not that great at anything else (in the first book it even sounded like she was struggling as a cartographer). I plan on finishing out the series but really wonder at this point if I'll be satisfied with the ending given how many problems I've already had with the story and how it seems that the setup of the last one will magnify those even more. 

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