Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Review - Siege and Storm - Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)

Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #2
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on June 4 2013
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 432
Rating: 2/5 stars
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. 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.
I don’t know why I decided to read this book. Well, I do, but I probably shouldn’t have. I knew going into it that the likelihood of it impressing me was miniscule. But when I saw it sitting pretty on the shelf at the library, I just couldn’t resist grabbing it and Ruin and Rising. I really regret that spur of the moment decision.

The pacing in Siege and Storm is wildly inconsistent. The first two or three chapters move at a break-neck speed (I almost felt like I was getting story whiplash it was going so quickly) and then about a third of the way through the book it takes a serious nosedive into epic slowness. The scenes on the Hummingbird just didn’t work for me. I think what got me about this section of the book is that there is just so much monotonous travelling going on. There just wasn’t much to keep my interest. The pace picked up again toward the end of the book with a very sudden and abrupt battle that I was about as prepared for as Alina and company were. The last quarter of the book was SO DISAPPOINTING to me. It got my hopes up that a certain twist was in store and that I’d get to see more of the Alina I actually find interesting, but alas, it was not to be. Siege and Storm was, in so many ways, a series of let downs.

The biggest qualm I have with this book is the characters. As you may know, I am very much a character reader. I don’t have to necessarily like a character, but if I don’t feel any connection to the characters there is zero chance I will enjoy the book. This is one of those books where I just can’t get on the same emotional level as any of the characters. Alina has moments when I think she’s totally awesome, but then she lets her guilt take over and gets very self-sanctimonious and I just have no patience for that. Mal is a complete write-off as a character. He’s so freaking boring. I’m two books in and literally the only thing I know about Mal is that he’s a good tracker. Not because he works really hard at it, he just is. Also, he’s really attractive and all of the ladies fawn over him. Lame. I have never seen any chemistry between Alina and Mal, especially compared to the chemistry she has with both the Darkling and Nicolai/Sturmhond. Sure, the chemistry she shares with them are very different, but at least there’s something. I can honestly say that I prefer the side of Alina we see when she’s around the Darkling to when she’s with Mal. When Alina is around Mal she becomes an insecure mess. The Darkling makes her feel powerful. Be honest, which would you prefer?

I was quite happy to meet Sturmhond in Siege and Storm. He’s definitely my favourite of the three main men in Alina’s life. What can I say, I’m a sucker for a charmer. He also seems a bit more complex than Mal and the Darkling. Where there is a clear indication of good versus evil when it comes to Mal and the Darkling, Sturmhond occupies the grey space in between and I’m into that.

One other niggling thing that I noticed while reading Siege and Storm is the way that Alina perceives other women. It is so unhealthy and there is a vast amount of internalised misogyny clouding her judgement. It’s particularly evident in the way that she interacts with Zoya. Every time Zoya is mentioned, some aspect of her appearance is noted. She is constantly described as beautiful and threatening, and I find it rather disconcerting. The only character who isn’t looked down upon for her beauty is Genya, and we all know what happens to her by the end of the book. It just struck me as odd that all of the men in the book are praised for being good looking, yet Alina is constantly comparing herself to other women and simultaneously putting down herself for not being pretty enough and them for being too pretty.

Because I’m already two thirds of the way through the series, I’ve decided to read Ruin and Rising, just to see how everything turns out. I figure I’ve already invested so much time and energy into this trilogy that I might as well see it through to the bitter end. I’ve read about 20 pages and so far I’m even less impressed with book 3 than I was with book 2. How promising… Hopefully things will turn around enough in the next 400 pages to make me not regret ever bothering with this series. If not, I probably won’t be reading whatever Leigh Bardugo comes up with next. It’s not you, Leigh. It’s me.

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