Siege and Storm

Hello everyone and Happy Monday! Although it doesn’t feel like a real Monday for me because tomorrow I am packing my bags (actually I am doing that tonight) and heading up to camp to be a camp councilor for a week at FOCUS. The weeks that I am at camp are my absolute favorite weeks of the summer, and I have loved it there ever since I started going as a high schooler, so I am really excited for this upcoming week. ­čÖé

But before then I wanted to squeeze in one more review in an attempt to catch up with reviews on here since I am still behind. I was hoping to do two last week but that just didn’t happen between editing, babysitting, and getting ready for this week, but I am here now. ­čÖé

14061955

 

Also I suggest that if you want to avoid some SPOILERS if you are thinking of reading this series (which you should definitely do!) read my review of Shadow and Bone instead.

So Siege and Storm. I still have a lot of feelings about this series, and I am really excited to revisit the books again, which I feel will be much sooner than I usually reread a series. Siege and Storm starts with Alina and Mal on the run from The Darkling and the power he has over Ravka. While they are away they meet some new characters, including Sturmhoud, a famous privateer. While Alina’s true identity as the Sun Summoner must remain hidden, she and Mal must find a way to battle the growing power of The Darkling, all while keeping Alina in control.

The typical flow of the second book of a trilogy tends to push the main character to his/her breaking point, Leigh Bardugo definitely follows that path here, but there is also so many other things going on that it didn’t seem overly done to me. Alina now wears the antlers of a stag as an amplifier, which gives her greater Sun Summoning powers, but also puts her under the control of The Darkling. Much of this book is Alina’s struggle to reclaim her own power, and to find out what that really means to her. It is clear that she is falling apart on this inside, but that is all masked well by her exterior, which made for some good conflict.

I have read a couple of other reviews of Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm through my wanderings on the internet, and there seems to be a large group in the fan base who are Darkling/Alina fans. Granted I think The Darkling is a great villain. He is attractive, which makes other characters (and readers) drawn to him, he is good with words and knows what to say, and he is filled with drive and power. He makes a great villain and antagonist for Alina. And the fact that they had a fling in Shadow and Bone for a bit and that they are so similar (“like calls to like” with their Grisha powers) makes him all the more intriguing.

But in the second book he really does become downright creepy. Which was great for the plot and for pushing Alina to the edge, which is pretty much the purpose of this book. But that does not mean they should be in a relationship together. In fact it means they SHOULDN’T. I liked that Alina debates this┬áso much throughout the series, because it forces her to question her own power and her identity as the only Sun Summoner, but their relationship is pretty much the definition of unhealthy.

He appears to her as hallucinations that only she can see. Danger! Danger! And he wants to use her power for his own good. More danger! More danger! These made for great scenes, and it made my skin crawl whenever he appeared. And it made me like Mal even more. Because he was an escape from the darkness around her, but it also drives a wedge in between them since there is this whole side of Alina’s life that he cannot relate to. It definitely complicates things which makes the story more intriguing and complex as well. So while I love The Darkling as a villain, I really cannot get behind the Alina/Darkling pairing, and I really don’t want to.

Speaking of pairings, Alina has many potential suitors in this book. I can become pretty cynical when it comes to relationships in young adult literature, especially if those relationships take the form of a love triangle. But with this book each character was really distinct and well developed so that they were all more than just a pretty face who had all the right things to say when Alina needed to hear them. Bardugo continued to make really convincing realistic side characters throughout the Grisha series, which I really appreciated. Each one had their own tone, their own sense of humor, and their own goals, which really made them stand out, whether they were potential love interests of Alina’s or not. And each love interest was more than that as well – it was a direction that Alina’s life could go down – Sun Summoner, commoner, queen. This added a lot more complexity to the story than just a pretty face would, and I really appreciated that.

While I found that the story wasn’t as tightly plotted as Shadow and Bone (which also makes sense for the middle book in a trilogy) the action and characters really kept the story going. Writing these reviews really makes me want to reread these again.

Has anyone else read Siege and Storm or any of the other books in the Grisha trilogy? What did you think?

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 9.46.01 PM

In Which I Obsess Over a New Series (Nothing New…)

Helloo everyone! I hope you have all had a wonderful July 4th weekend filled with relaxation. I am currently in the middle of a two-week mini vacation, which means I have spent a lot of time reading in the sun, watching movies, a bit of the World Cup and Wimbledon, and watching a fair amount of Parks and Rec. (I know I’m late to the party but I am completely obsessed with it at the moment!)

Speaking of obsessions…I am excited to talk about Shadow and Bone today. Usually I like to wait a while (maybe about a year) before re-reading a book, but I am pretty sure I am going to be revisiting the Grisha series by Leigh Bardugo (which Shadow and Bone is the first of) well before then. Like I might read it again after the book I’m reading now, and I only first read it a few months ago (still playing catch up here). shaodw_200

I first heard about the Grisha series while having lunch with a college friend, who insisted that I had to read it, and I took out Shadow and Bone from the library not too long after that. And after reading it I can say that my friend was right. I am also debating buying it so I can revisit again in the future.

Shadow and Bone tells the story of Alina, a girl who grew up as an orphan with her friend Mal in Ravka, a Russian-based fantasy land where Grishas, or people with specific talents (either for the elements, healing, etc.) serve The Darkling. Ravka is also divided by the Shadow Fold, a dark abyss that splits the country in two, and takes away its sea ports and trade routes. Alina leans that she might have the power needed to help restore Ravka and destroy the Fold, but things in the capital aren’t all what they seem, and Alina finds herself swept up in the middle of it.

There are many things that I really enjoyed about Shadow and Bone. The first thing I noticed as I read the first page was Bardugo’s writing style. It is sparse and to the point, but it also seemed very poetic to me, which I really enjoyed. The world itself also was very unique in terms of fantasy stories. The court life story is well known in fantasy books, but while many of the other court stories are based on European or British culture, Ravka is a Russian based world, which set it apart from the start. Many of the names of lands or people had Slavic roots, the world itself felt vast, and the winters sounded brutal.

At first I thought that Shadow and Bone would be similar to the Graceling series, which I read a few years ago and have recently revisited, in that certain people have special powers and are set apart from society etc. But I wasn’t too far into Shadow and Bone before it was clear that Leigh Bardugo was doing her own thing and was doing it really well.

Another thing I really loved about this book was Alina and her storytelling since the story is in first person. My creative writing teacher in college always said that you had to have a really strong unique narrator to pull off the first person narration well, and Alina┬áStarkov fits that mold without a question. She is a quiet character who doesn’t always have a lot to say, but she is also hugely sarcastic and can hold her own against the other characters, which I really enjoyed. There was something about a quiet snarky girl that I really appreciated. That kind of personality could also be challenging to pull off in writing too, but Bardugo holds the balance well to make Alina a believable and likable character.

Another thing that was interesting about Shadow and Bone, was that as a narrator Alina (and Bardugo) never really stepped back to give the reader any backstory. Instead, things are pieced together as the story moves along, which makes the action more fast paced and immediate. I found that it took me a couple of chapters to figure out the world Alina lived in at first with the different Grisha powers and all, but the fact that I didn’t know everything, or certain things, pulled me in more. I also thought it was an interesting technique as a writer which I appreciated. ┬áThere were flashbacks to when Alina and Mal were younger, but the camera never really zoomed out to say here’s what you need to know about such and such. This also emphasized the plot and speed of events in the story, which was plotted and laid out very meticulously. I feel like that would be an interesting exercise – write a piece without zooming the camera out.

I also appreciated the reality of Alina’s relationships, particularly with her instructors, The Darkling, and Mal. The relationships were made very complex as Alina found out more about herself, her power, and the world that she lives in. This also flushed out the other characters in the story as well, and made The Darkling and Mal more than just the men (and sometimes love interests) in her life, which I appreciated. It made all the characters in the series more three dimensional.

Those were the main things that stuck out to me with Shadow and Boen, which I devoured over a few days, along with the other two books in the Grisha series, which I will be talking about next. I could go on but I don’t want to give things away. But you all should read Shadow and Bone, and if you have I would love to hear what you think about it. Also the movie rights for the book have been sold to the same people who did Harry Potter, so hopefully a movie for Shadow and Bone will be coming soon! With such a fast moving, action driven plot, I imagine it would make a great movie if they do it right. What are your thoughts on that? I want to know!

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 9.46.01 PM