My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Oh wow. A sequel that actually beat the first book and that too by a mile. Definitely 4 stars.
There is a lot to like in this book. The most interesting conflict is the central theme – power.
What would you do for power? How far would you go to get it? Is a Machiavellian ruler justified if it’s for the greater good? Is it all right to manipulate people and their emotions for a higher purpose? And most importantly, is power really worth it?
These are the questions Siege and Storm raises, and I don’t think it provides all the answers, but thats fine by me. Open ended questions are an excellent thing in any book, even more praise worthy in a YA book.
Alina develops into a very interesting character in this book. I find her strangely relatable with all her inner turmoil. Her characterisation is the best here – her lust for power and her simultaneous fear of it, the increasing distance she feels, her eerie visions, the way she is torn between her duty and her desires. She could have easily become a whiny, power hungry brat but Bardugo somehow manages to walk the line between humanity and depravity. I do wish the author had done more showing and less telling though.
Then we go to the next best thing, or actually maybe the best thing ever – Nikolai. I’m so happy that Alina doesn’t like him because it means I get to keep him for myself. (Does a little dance.) Smooth talking, good looking and absolutely absurd at some moments, Nikolai is a character full of personality. He seems to be the only person with his head screwed on straight. I don’t take Nikolai’s lying and scheming to heart as much as Alina does, so I often wonder why she gets so worked up over it. It’s just me I guess. I like men with enough pride to not kiss a girl who’s doing it to seek comfort. (I’m looking at you, Jacob Black.)
I don’t really care about Mal anymore, so whether Alina breaks his heart or he decides to join Cirque du Soleil, I don’t have much of a reaction. (Shrugs.) At this point, Alina has kissed everyone except Baghra and it’s not for the lack of trying. (I’m sure she would if the old lady gave her information in return. Just to be clear, Alina is not that mercenary; just that desperate.) I do wish the men would stop tugging the heroine around for kisses. Like chocolates, they become tasteless if you have too many.
We also have a plot this time, one that actually makes you want to read it. So much happens in so little time, but I never found the pacing too rushed – it was like a roller coaster ride and I just kept waiting for the next loop. I am wondering where the author is going with this given that she all but broke Alina in two, but I have faith that she’ll manage to keep me interested. I don’t have much to say about the prose, because frankly, there are many books, YA and otherwise, that have similar language. I’m also happy that there plenty of death and violence in this book; I do wish Alina would do more butt-kicking scenes without her powers, but oh well, I’ll settle for what I can get.
Overall, a genuinely good book that leaves you wanting more. Siege and Storm is the most human of all the books I’ve read lately and for that alone, I would say that you should read it. If not, you could always read it for the witty banter, gripping plot and interesting characterisation. Or certain plot holes even, such as the appearance of a gelatin horse, occasional slips in language and the fact that the heroine does not get blinded by her own light. Just kidding.