Shadow and Bone Trilogy: A book review on Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

What do you do if you find yourself facing an extremely powerful enemy who is intent on chasing you until the end of the earth? You stop running and start fighting back.

I truly enjoyed reading Shadow and Bone (The first book of the series) and I couldn’t wait to get started on the second book! Fortunately, I could read the second book right after finishing the first because I managed to buy the trilogy at Borders in Ibn Batuta, Dubai, UAE.

You can grab a copy at any major bookstore in Dubai!

Summary

The second book of the Shadow and Bone trilogy is Siege and Storm and it takes place after Alina and Mal flee from the Darkling. They managed to escape and find refuge in Cofton, a town in Novyi Zem. During their stay in Cofton, they started to take odd jobs to finance their escape from their Darkling. However, their plans fail because the Darkling manages to track them in Cofton. Alina tries to fight the Darkling but she realizes that he has grown stronger and he now can summon creatures that are unafraid of sunlight, the Nichevo’ya. With his newly found power, the Darkling was able to capture Alina and Mal. He later reveals that he was able to track them because of the trail of expensive payments that Alina and Mal left behind while they were fleeing from Ravka.

The Darkling takes them to Sturmound’s ship, who is a notorious privateer, to find the second amplifier which he plans to give to Alina. The second amplifier is a sea dragon known as Rusalye or otherwise known as The Sea Whip. The Darkling is aware of Mal’s tracking abilities and that he is an equally capable tracker on the sea as he is on land. To help him find Rusalye, The Darkling blackmails both Mal and Alina to cooperate with the search or he will hurt either one of them. However, both Mal and Alina are kept safe from physical harm as Sturmhound declares to the darkling that neither one of them shall be harmed or the deal that they struck would be canceled. While Alina is on the ship, she is reunited with Genya, however, their friendship sours once she learns that Genya had betrayed her because she was the one who prevented her letters to Mal from being sent.

Mal is an exceptionally gifted tracked and their search for Rusalye led them to the Bone Road where they were able to find the mythical creature. However, unexpectedly, the Darkling and his crew are unable to capture Rusalye as Sturmhound stages an ambush using another ship under his command to attack the Darkling and his crew while they were busy fighting Rusalye. The ploy works and he manages to saves both Alina and Mal while also capturing Rusalye.
Aboard Sturmhound’s ship, Alina and Mal both observe that it is full of Grisha crew. Using the combined power of the Squallers and Tidemakers in his ship, Sturmhound was able to flee outside the range of the Darkling’s Nichevo’ya. Once their escape was confirmed, Alina proceeds to slay Rusalye. After slaying the beast, Sturmhound returns to her some of her belongings which he found that the Darkling kept in his cabins, and amongst these items was the Book of the Saints. Though Alina is aware that Grishas are only supposed to own one amplifier in their lifetime, she changes her mind when she sees the illustration of Sankta Ilya from the Book of the Saints that the Apparat gave her. Based on the image in the book, she learns that the stag, Rusalye, and a firebird were three amplifiers that could be used together which could help her defeat the Darkling. Though she wasn’t certain of the risks that comes with having multiple amplifiers, Alina decides that using additional amplifiers was a small price to pay to kill the Darkling. With the help of Sturmhound and one of the Fabrikators in his crew, Rusalye’s scales were fused into her wrist.

Sturmhound then informs Alina and Mal that he was taking them back to Ravka. However, before returning to Ravka, he takes some members of his crew along with Alina and Mal back into The Fold. Deep inside The Fold, they were able to test some of the weaponry that Sturmhound possessed. They even managed to destroy a nest of Volcra but things take a disastrous turn when Alina suddenly sees a vision of the Darkling which causes her to lose control of her powers.
The ship was able to escape from the Fold, however, it crashes in Ravka. The accident led to many casualties but what Alina first notices is that the face of Sturmhound had changed, making her realize that his appearance was modified by a Tailor. However, before getting the chance to confront Sturmhound, the crew finds themselves surrounded by Ravkan soldiers. Without any choice, Sturmhound was forced to reveal his true identity as Nikolai Lantsov, the second prince of Ravka. He then declares to the crowd that he has brought the Sun Summoner home.

Alina was infuriated with the deception and Nikolai explains to him that he is intent on helping his country but this could only happen with her support. Because of her powers, the rest of Ravka was already referring to Alina as a saint and her influence could help unite the First and Second Armies together. To achieve this, Nikolai proposes marriage but Alina refuses. However, she is willing to work with him and return to Os Alta to lead the Second Army. Once Alina is reunited with the Second Army in the Little Palace, her claim to lead was challenged by some of the Grisha. However, she forms an unlikely alliance with Zoya and she was able to receive the support of the other Grishas after she demonstrated the extent of her powers to them. Under Alina’s guidance, she forms a council that consisted of seven members and these members were representatives from the three different kinds of Grisha: Corporalki, Etherealki, and Materialki. As Grishas started working together, the segregation between the different kinds of Grisha eventually dissolved, and the hierarchy that once existed when the Darkling ruled them vanished.

Alina and Nikolai both worked in tandem to prepare Ravka for the invasion of the Darkling. However, their efforts were ruined by Vasily. Vasily is Nikolai’s older brother and he was sent to Fjerda to negotiate with the Fjerdans. While negotiating with the Fjerdan’s, an alliace was struck with the following terms: Ravka was going to gain Fjerda as an ally but in return, the road blockages which Nikolai ordered to help monitor the Darkling’s whereabouts had to be lifted. Vasily agreed because he was under the impression that the Darkling was based in Shu Han. However, the information was false and with the roads opened, the Darkling managed to sneak a surprise attack on Os Alta.

The Darkling manages to cleave through the forces of the First Army and the Second Army. With only a handful of her forces left, Alina and her crew are trapped in a chapel which forces her to negotiate with the Darkling. As an example of what he was capable of, the Darkling shows her Genya who was still alive face was marred with uncurable scratches and bites from the Nichevo’ya. To save what was left of the Second Army, Alina strikes a deal with the Darkling which he agrees to. However, Alina betrays him and manages to find a way to take control of the Darkling’s power by leveraging the connection between them which the stag’s collar allowed. Knowing that summoning the Nichevo’ya weakens the Darkling, she controls his power and forces him to continuously summon Nichevo’yas which were under her control. With every beast that they summoned, they both weaken however before Alina could kill him, Mal gets in the way by taking her away from the Darkling before she could summon the last batch of monsters which could have led to their death.


Reaction

The first thing that I noticed is that the relationship between Alina and Mal has deepened compared to the first book. I found it sweet when Mal bluntly rejected the advances of one of his admirers who blatantly tried to seduce him in front of Alina and as a supporter of the Malina pairing, I was happy whenever they shared a few stolen kisses- it helped to satisfy my fandom hahaha!

However, Siege and Storm also reveal the frailties of Mal. As Alina returns to Os Alta to lead the Grisha army, Mal begins to deteriorate and fall into depression because he feels out of place in the palace. He spends less time with Alina and more time drinking. He also begins to develop deep jealousy over Nikolai and all of these issues compound, placing a strain on their relationship. By the near end of the book, Mal was set on leaving Alina but his mind changes when the Darkling attacks.

I found it particularly hard to believe that Alina and Mal were so easily captured by the Darkling. The Darkling was able to recapture them within the first chapter because they both used gold pins to barter for their needs in key points of their journey and it seemed rather unbelievable that they did not think of trading these pins in just one transaction so that they can hide their trail. Considering that both characters had experience in running away from the Darkling in the first book, Shadow and Bone, I found their carelessness out of context. Additionally, these characters had skills that could help them survive in the wilds because Mal is a gifted tracker and Alina was an experienced mapmaker who was familiar with the land. So, it was rather frivolous that they chose to stay in a tiny town where they could be easily tracked and recognized because of Alina’s bone necklace which was fused to her collar, instead of hiding in the wild.

Similarly, I felt that Sturmhound’s ambush on the Darkling to save Mal and Alina was rather dubious. It didn’t feel convincing for me because while the crew was sailing, they had no clear direction where Rusalye was so they relied on Mal’s instruction. This caused their whereabouts to be difficult to predict as it changed from a day-to-day basis. The questions that I had in mind when the ambush occurred were: how was Sturmhound able to communicate with the other ship? Secondly, how were Sturmhound and his crew able to conceal their intent from the Darkling when he had Corporalniks who are trained to identify a lie by listening to a man’s heartbeat? There were no details on how Sturmhound managed to pull of the ambush but it would have been great if it was explained. One idea that popped into my mind is that since Sturmhound has Grishas under his employ, he probably had some machinery made by a Materialki to help him communicate with the other ship but it still doesn’t address my second question on how he and his small crew were able to hide their true intent from the Darkling’s Corporalniks. Especially since Ivan, who happens to be a talented Heartrender who owns an amplifier that magnifies his abilities, was on the ship as well.

Nikolai Lantsov a.k.a Sturmhound

Siege and Storm introduce Sturmhound who is eventually revealed to be Nikolai Lantsov, a Ravkan prince. I found his character rather refreshing and he truly adds to the cast of skilled, male characters within the Shadow and Bone series. The Shadow and Bone series is full of interesting male main characters that have their own personalities and niches. Firstly, you have Mal who is a gifted tracker and would do anything for Alina. Then, there is the Darkling, a powerful Grisha who has no qualms in using cruelty and leveraging fear to have his way, and now, we are introduced to Nikolai, a charming yet arrogant prince with strong leadership skills. Having these characters with such different personalities, goals, and motivations truly adds flavor to the book. Plus, with his sharp wit, Nikola has the best lines and comebacks in the book!

Throughout Siege and Storm, many of the characters you meet will either die or have experienced an extreme form of cruelty from the Darkling. Though I was expecting many deaths, I found it depressing that Fedyor had to die. He is a minor character who was introduced in Shadow and Bone as part of Alina’s escort to Os Alta. I remembered him because he wasn’t as arrogant as other Heartrenders. I also couldn’t forget the reason he gave to Alina on why he chose to be a heartrender when he said “Of all Grisha, Corporalki have the hardest road. We require the most training and the most study. At the end of it all, I felt I could save more lives as a Heartrender.”. In Siege and Storm, he saves his fellow Grisha from the First Army and rallies the other Grisha who were in hiding to return to the Little Palace once he learns that Alina has returned. He also served in the council that Alina created. Though he is a minor character, it was sad to see him have such a brutal death because he seemed like a nice guy.

Lastly, Alina’s character continues to evolve throughout this book. At the start of the novel, she seems to have reverted back to her old self as she is running away from the Darkling. However, this changes when she is forced into a leadership role and you can see how far she has progressed. From being an insecure girl who was filled with so much self-doubt, she develops a stronger personality and leadership skills which enabled her to unite the remaining Grisha in the Second Army. The progression of her character development was particularly showcased in the scene when she introduces herself as the leader of the Second Army in the Little Palace.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book and I would highly recommend it. Compared to the first book, Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm is much darker and more depressing but this is because of the events that are happening in the story. You can feel the tension slowly building up with every flip of the page, it grows until you get this feeling in the pit of your stomach that something bad is going to happen yet when it does, it still hits you by surprise and leaves you eager for the series’ conclusion. Now, onwards to Ruin and Rising!


Quotable Quotes:

“I want to kiss you,” Nikolai said. “But I won’t. Not until you’re thinking of me instead of trying to forget him.”
– Nikolai to Alina

I took a breath. “Your highness – “
“Nikolai,” he corrected. “But I’ve also been known to answer to ‘sweetheart’ or ‘handsome
– Conversation between Alina and Nikolai

 “The less you say, the more weight your words will carry.”
– Nikolai to Alina

“I’ve seen what you truly are,” said the Darkling, “and I’ve never turned away. I never will. Can he say the same?”
– The Darkling to Alina

“I have loved you all my life, Mal,” I whispered through my tears. “There is no end to our story.”
– Alina to Mal

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