Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Length: 435 pages
Read Date(s): May 15, 2021 – May 16, 2021
Reading Challenge Update
Before I get to the review, I wanted to celebrate the fact that this is my 50th book of the year! I can’t even remember the last time I read 50 books in a year. Honestly, it may never have happened before. So, I’m excited to have reached this milestone. It also means I’m already halfway to my goal for the year!
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, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But 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.
NOTE: This review contains some spoilers. So, read on at your own risk if you haven’t read the book yet!
I liked this book more than the first one. It had the same engaging style and witty dialogue that I enjoyed from the first book. It also gave me many of the things I felt were missing from the first book. I wanted to see more of the machinations at court and deeper building of the world and lore, and I got it. This book provided a lot of background information about the amplifiers that helped me understand the plot of both this story, and the previous one, much better. It also spent more time devoted to politics and the squabbles of the royal family, which I enjoyed.
Alina’s character was also deepened considerably throughout the course of the novel. It was interesting to see her grapple with what to do with her power now that she accepted it. She grew in many ways, and I liked reading about her struggle with learning politics and how to become a leader. The loneliness and greed that can often accompany great power and positions in leadership were things she worked to understand and overcome during the story while also navigating relationships with a wide range of men who wanted to use her power for their own gain. These struggles made the character much more relatable.
The new additions to the cast in this book were fantastic. I especially loved the privateer and his relationship with Alina. They had great chemistry and a playful dynamic. I enjoyed his charisma and intellectual nature because they added some levity to the book.
The one character I still hated was Mal. His pettiness and jealousy almost ruined this book for me. The relationship between him and Alina is super angsty. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing; he just always seemed to be holding Alina back. I think her relationship with him is the security blanket that she needs to grow beyond to come into her own, and I can only hope that will happen before the series is over.
The plot of this book left a lot to be desired, as well. I was frustrated by the first several chapters because it felt like a lot of the character development, especially for Alina, had been undone, and the story quickly became a rehash of the same plot points from the first book. I think at one point she even commented in the book that they were right back where they started. Luckily, that changed pretty quickly into the book, but I still think the beginning could have been better. After the rough beginning, most of the book was spent preparing for a siege, as the name of the book implies. I enjoyed this because it gave time for learning about the world, the character development, and politics. However, not a whole lot happened plot-wise during this time. Then after all the time preparing, the climax of the book only lasted 20-30 pages, if that. I enjoyed how it all happened, but I wish more time had been spent describing the actual siege. In the end, the characters are largely in a similar situation to the one at the beginning of the book, which was frustrating after reading over 400 pages, but my feelings of frustration were tempered by knowing many of the characters have grown because of what happened in the book.
Another big complaint is the lack of the Darkling for most of the book. He was my favorite character from the first book. So, I was disappointed not to see more of him. He literally phoned in his appearances, but they were still well done and continued to build his creepiness. I think the story may have been better if we got to see some of the things he was doing from his POV, but I also get that it’s really Alina’s story. I’m just hoping he will have more of a presence in the next book.
Overall, the book was an improvement on the first one. It added many elements I thought were lacking in the first book (more info about amplifiers, politics, and deeper world-building). I also liked most of the themes and characters a lot more, except for Mal. The plot wasn’t perfect, but it was interesting. I just wished there was more of the Darkling. Therefore, I rated the book 4 out of 5 stars.
Have you read Siege and Storm? What did you think?