SIEGE AND STORM (The Grisha #2) - by Leigh Bardugo

SIEGE AND STORM - Leigh Bardugo
Published: 2015 - by Henry Holt and Company.
Pages: 435.
Genres: Young adult / romance / epic fantasy / action /
Source: Library.

Darkness never dies. Alina and Mal are on the run. Hunted and haunted, but together at last, they can't outrun Alina's past or her destiny forever. The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and he needs Alina to realise his dangerous plan. There are others who would like to use Alina's gift too. And as her power grows, somehow, she must choose between her country, her power, and her love - or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

I buddy-read this book with the wonderful Di @ Book Reviews By Di, and the awesome Uma @ Books.Bags. Burgers. We had such fun chatting about this book, and it was fantastic to get three different perspectives coming through!
Check out Di's review HERE, and Uma's review HERE.

Much like they were for the first book, my feelings are mixed. I'm still not sure if I prefer Siege and Storm to Shadow and Bone, and I'm having a hard time deciding what I think of it individually as well.

“The less you say, the more weight your words will carry.”

The world building is stronger than it was in the first book. The atmosphere's darker, more distinct, and I got to hear and see more of the Grisha world. The whole tone of the book is chillier, and it seethes with foreboding as the characters themselves battle their own inner darkness.
The plot's much more intricate and complicated. There's a lot more action, and the romance is a fluctuating light amongst it - offering an exhilarating balance.
In addition, the last 10% of the book is INSANE. I was utterly gripped.

The character development is rich and natural. I loved watching Alina wrestle her demons and grow more confident and assured as a person. The only thing I didn't like about her is that she's too passive. She doesn't lead the story, and it's characters like Nikolai and the Darkling who actually move the plot forward.
Then there's Nikolai. The Nikolai, who every fangirl seems to be in love with it! Personally, I only liked his character - didn't love him; yet I think the main reason I didn't warm to him was because I've seen his sort of personality so many times in YA, and as a result his wit and charm just got tiresome for me.
I still hate the Darkling, and I'm disappointed with how little - if any - of his back story we were given. I feel as if there's still so much to him, and I hope Bardugo sheds light on that in the 3rd book. He's obviously got secrets, but it's about time we saw them.

“I have loved you all my life, Mal," I whispered through my tears. "There is no end to our story.”

The secondary characters are mostly unmemorable. I did love the twins, and I liked how Genya's story went, but no one else really made an impression.
Mal is a love-hate character for me. I still ship him with Alina, but he's very annoying and frustrating in parts of the book. I could see his perspective and I felt for him, but he needed to sort himself out. He's also become a bit too much the stereotypical protective good guy.

The romance is strong. I liked Mal and Alina's relationship arc, and how the struggles they face come across naturally and realistically. It's also unpredictable, and caught me pleasantly off-guard a few times.
But I hated the love shape. I say shape because I'm not sure whether it's a triangle or a square or something else entirely. Basically, I hated how almost every main male character either proposed to or flirted with or actually loved Alina. Seriously, there were like four guys who wanted her, or least hinted at it. I hated that.

Siege and Storm is a dark, chilling epic fantasy with great dialogue and lots of action. The character development is good, but the writing and the book as a whole remain unremarkable.