Rummanah Aasi
  I have been meaning to pick up Leigh Bardugo's Grisha series ever since I read great reviews about them. I finally got the chance to do so a month ago and was lucky enough to get an advanced reader's copy of the second book ahead of time. If you are interested in a fantasy that uses Slavic and Russian lore, be sure to pick this series up. The second book in the series, Siege and Storm, will be released next month (June 4th) according to Amazon. Many thanks to the publisher for allowing me to read an advanced reader's copy of Siege and Storm via Netgalley.

Description (from the Publisher): Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
   Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

Review: At first glance, there is really nothing new to Shadow and Bone. Bardugo sets familiar tropes of fantasy such as court intrigue, magic, and characters finding dormant powers against the backdrop of a Russianesque land. In the opening passages, we are transported back in time and meet two small orphans, the handsome, competent Mal and the fragile, tiny Alina, who never seems to do anything right, who have developed a tight bond. Jumping forward present day, the story follows the two friends after they have joined the King’s First Army: Mal as a soldier-tracker and Alina as a cartographer. When placed in a life and death situation in the Shadow Fold, a mysterious, magical darkness that seethes with flesh-eating monsters, Alina discovers that she possesses a magical power that she had not known. Quickly, she is taken to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, magicians who practice the Small Science.
  My issue with Shadows and Bone is not in its worldbuilding. Bardugo's skill is demonstrated in making Ravka come to life, however, I didn't really have a good grasp of the surrounding kingdoms that posed a threat to Ravka. I also thought the story took too long for the intrigue aspect of the plot to take flight. Apart from the charismatic, enigmatic Darkling, the people of the court were very blase.
    Bardugo has engaging characters, but I didn't think they were allowed time to develop. Alina is a somewhat likable character, but she got too whiny at times for me. Her wishy-washing actions made me wonder if she was truly capable of being an important leader that she is destined to be. I thought her strong friendship with Mal was evident, but I had a hard time believing their relationship could be anything else because there was virtually no development in their romance. When they did get together, however, their romance lacked heat. There are some clever turns in the fast moving plot, however, some of them were revealed too quickly. Despite these issues, I was interested enough in Bardugo's exotic and vivid world to see what happened next.

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language, sexual innuendo, and strong fantasy violence. Recommended for strong Grades 7 readers and up.

If you like this book try: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson

Description (from the Publisher): 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.

Review: Shadow and Bone reads like a coming of age story set in a fantasy world. Siege and Storm, the second book in the Grisha Trilogy, changes the tone from a bildungsroman to a political thriller. Alina and Mal are on the run. All they want is to put Ravka and the megalomaniacal Darkling far behind them. Alas, this is far easier said than done. Captured by the Darkling and forced onto a ship captained by the notorious pirate Sturmhond, they find themselves in pursuit of the second of three magical amplifiers that will make Alina powerful beyond belief--and bind her ever-closer to the ancient, evil Darkling. Sturmhond has an unexpected agenda of his own, though, and turns on the Darkling. Darkling temporarily thwarted, Alina and Mal find themselves back in Ravka's capital as part of the ailing king's younger son's attempt to find his way to the throne.
   I definitely liked Siege and Storm much more than Shadow and Bone as it fixed a lot of my issues with Shadow and Bone. Alina's voice isn't as whiny this time around. I actually felt that I understood her and her predicament much more, especially as she struggles to deflect the allure of power that she draws from her ability. The relationship between Mal gets complex without the use of a love triangle yet I was surprised to see how much these two characters have trust issues. For a couple who seem to be all about devotion, they sure are insecure about their relationship and easily jealous of other people.
  There are also some great new characters added to the mix. I absolutely loved the Sturmhound. He is incredibly talented as playing the part of a ruler and a diplomat. Though I liked Mal, I couldn't help but hope that he and Alina would get together. I thought they did have some chemistry. I really hope to see him in the final book. While there really isn't a big cliffhanger in Siege and Storm, there are some serious questions that need to be addressed: Who is Alina?  Is she Mal's lover? Prince Nikolai's pawn? Commander of the Grisha Second Army? Saint? Though the book may seem large, over 400 pages long, I had no problem speed reading through them. Scheming and action carried me until the last page. I'm really curious to see how Bardugo ends her series.

Rating: 4 stars

Words of Caution: There is some language and strong fantasy violence. Recommended for strong Grade 7 readers and up.

If you like this book try: His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers, The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Clarke
9 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    Awww I'm sorry you didn't love Shadow & Bone Rummanaah, but I'm glad you still have Siege & Storm a try and liked it better:) I agree with you on Sturmhound, I absolutely adored him. He filled the Darkling-shaped hole nicely I thought. I'm super curious to see how she ends this series too, I just wish I didn't have to wait another year to find out!

  2. I loved Shadow and Bone last year, I am sorry it wasn't a bit better for you, but it is nice to see that you liked the sequel even better. I am very anxious to read it!

  3. Oh glad you kept going with the series and liked the second book so much. I have yet to read it, but I've read nothing but good things about it. So of course, the first book sits on my shelf. Lonely (not really it's got company) waiting to be read. Your reviews were pretty thorough as opposed to being mini. Thanks for explaining the romance in Siege and Storm, I couldn't tell how many characters were in that from other reviews.
    I was afraid there were three along with Alina.
    Great reviews!


  4. Wow, your comments are now on your page instead of a pop-up. Cool!
    I really liked Shadow and bone although I was a little disappointed that the Darkling turned out to be evil. I'm excited to read Siege and Storm and am glad you liked it better than the 1st book.

  5. Candace Says:

    I LOVED Shadow and Bone but I didn't feel romance between her and Mal. I felt it with that certain someone else (tricky tricky) but not him. I'm glad you loved the second one more, I plan to read it next!

  6. I have to agree with you about Alina in the first book. She was too whiny at times, and if there's one thing I can't stand, it's heroines who don't stand up for themselves. I'm glad this gets better in the second book, but her and Mal's relationship doesn't sound like it's well done at all. This worries me a bit.
    I'm still very excited about the second book.
    Great reviews!

  7. Anonymous Says:

    I'm glad that enjoyed Siege and Storm more than Shadow & Bone. I really enjoyed book one, but I do understand your reservations, especially about Alina's wishy-washiness. I'm glad you enjoyed Alina's growth and Sturmhound. Wonderful review!

  8. A lot of the reviews I've read seem to like Siege and Storm better so I'm excited because I already loved Shadow and Bone. I have to agree that the countries surrounding Ravka aren't described very well in book 1. Is this addressed in book 2? Sturmhond seems to be a new favourite of everybody so I'm looking forward to meeting him.

  9. Anonymous Says:

    I am one who is left behind with regards to these books. Haven't got the time to pick these up and I've been hearing great things. Need to remember these on my next purchase. Great review btw! :)

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