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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

“Siege and Storm” by Leigh Bardugo (Reviewed by Casey Blair)

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Siege and Storm is the second of Leigh Bardugo's The Grisha Trilogy, following her wonderful debut Shadow and Bone. A middle book it may be, but the plot drives forward without getting mired in final ending set-up.

Bardugo uses prologues and epilogues to great effect, tying the novels together with a common structure and deftly managing the passage of time without merely listing exposition. Then, right from chapter one, she ups the stakes, making our villain more dangerous (and creepy, if still compelling) and leaving our heroine Alina dangerously lacking in power, but wondering whether the very act of wanting more power at all is the first step down a slippery slope. There are some interesting things going on with the dangers of charm and the burdens of leadership as well, often seen through characters' biting sarcasm.

Siege and Storm gives us a few new major characters, one of whom is every bit as compelling as the villain (no mean feat), and the parallels and contrasts between them are really fascinating. No matter how far they might have come, Bardugo is able to keep in mind the different mindsets between those who grew up as royalty or as peasants, which makes for some interesting tension. We also got some really cool new technology in this book and some interesting integrations between the Grisha “Small Science” and “mundane” technology.

There are a few things that bothered me in this book. One character gets mutilated pretty severely for no apparent reason—or rather, no plot reason; I get that it was supposed to jerk Alina's heartstrings, but it felt gimmicky to me. I was also bothered at how easily Alina, who was never particularly well-liked by most of the Grisha, is able to shift long-standing traditions with almost no resentment or backlash from the Grisha. The set-up was all there: Alina worried about the changes, and about how far she could trust the Grisha, and then all that set-up never became relevant. I think it's a missed opportunity, and given Alina's understandable paranoia, it doesn't seem like the sort of thing she'd just take in stride without any follow-up commentary or thought.

Alina does deliberately miss the point a lot, and she's pretty practiced at denial. She also spends a lot of time angsting and, while her life is undeniably hard, it does get old. What particularly gets old is how often she worries about the affections of her boyfriend, and vice versa. I realize two people very in love can still be insecure, but about halfway through the book I was starting to roll my eyes every time Alina started fretting over it, which tells me the emphasis was laid on a little too thick.

Siege and Storm ends on a not-quite reassuring note, having once again amped up the stakes and introduced more complications to an already murky situation. I look forward to seeing how Leigh Bardugo resolves all these plot threads in book three, Ruin and Rising, next year.


bibliotropic said...

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed reading the first book of this series, though had my issues with it (mostly in the serious lack of subtlety when it came to foreshadowing). I'm quite interested to see how the second book holds up in my mind. Hopefully I'll get the chance to read it soon. Great review!

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