Siege and Storm: review

Title: Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Release Date:
June 4, 2013
Publisher:
Henry Holt and Co.
Age Group: YA
Source: ARC provided by the publisher

“The boy and the girl…”

A beautiful beginning. Simple, intimate, yet with so much promise. I feel like this encapsulates the very vein of the book: a quiet story of the heart framed in blazing adventure.

Leigh Bardugo’s Siege and Storm has been garnering praise, and when you read it, you will understand why. Bardugo is a storyteller. She moves words across the page effortlessly as if they have been her friends all her life. She creates imagery appealing to our senses; builds tension and fervor, panic and wonder. She knows how to express a scene, as though she has planted herself right in the middle of it and shows us exactly where and how to look. She does more than tell us, she makes us understand.

Which is crucial, as this second installment is, in many ways, as much a psychological journey as it is a physical one. It speaks of religion and the blinding influence it spreads to people desperate for something to believe in. It talks of war, a country torn and slowly degrading. We see and relate to the struggle of families and neighbors as they try to survive. We witness heroes rise and cowards fall as the clock strikes and a person must choose where they stand. The battle is not only on the field, because first you must fight to get yourself on the field. We see this in a number of characters. A privateer of questionable virtue yet with undeniable patriotism. A slave girl who defies despite fear and threat. A score of young men and women who understand the cost of war yet are still willing to fight.

Alina’s own battle is just as harrowing. Alina has been tainted by the Darkling. She’s marked. Her light is bound to his darkness. Her struggle is holding on to her good when, at the core, she feels evil, doomed, fated. The question is…can we turn against nature? We see Alina, over and again, choose the right thing, but oh, the Darkling is temptation. The promises oozing from his lips seduce and she is tempted. Worse still, we ourselves are convinced by him.

The Darkling. A complicated man. In my eyes, almost irredeemable. And yet. His intentions are sincere. And yet…

Bardugo makes it just as hard for us to let him go as it is for Alina. And as it is with Mal. The consideration between Mal and Alina is one of the most touching I’ve ever read. As Alina grows closer to reaching her potential as Sun Summoner, her ties with Mal is severed thread by thread. What she needs is the very thing tearing them apart. But they hold on and we hope on because the relationship is healthy and true. And, of course, it’s romantic. [Swoon break]

Alina and the Darkling push and pull. Alina and Mal give and take. Herein lies another of Bardugo’s  talents. These characters and their interactions are colourful and complex. They fail and succeed. They are honorable and sometimes selfish. Each one is instilled with a solid personality; flawed, authentic.

Other high points? The dialogue. High fantasy requires a certain formality in the language but oftentimes they sound saccharine and melodramatic. Never here. Her language flows. It is never awkward and always lovely. Bardugo uses a dictionary of “old words” like skiff and fetter, which I loved. I had to look up a heck of a lot of them but it was worth it. The atmosphere was tangible.

I must end here. If I don’t stop myself now, I never will. Just know that Siege and Storm satisfies and justifies. Real things are at stake, real things are sacrificed. I think this delivers as much as any novel can deliver, whatever that may mean. All I know is that I was floored. My brain rates this a 4.5 because, yes, I am still left with question marks.

But the rest of me? A METEOR SHOWER OF STARS!

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