Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha – book 2)

Siege and Storm, by Leigh Bardugo

Pages: 435

Published: 4th June 2013

⭐️ 3.5 / 5

This book (and the entire series actually) has been on my shelf and my TBR for a long time. I bought all 3 books in the series several years ago and they’ve been sat on my bookshelf ever since. Towards the end of 2019 I finally got around to them, after uni destroyed my love of reading almost irreparably, and I am so glad I am now on this bandwagon.

Whilst I really enjoyed book 1, Siege and Storm actually had me rolling my eyes quite a lot. Here’s what I thought.

Plot

Just when you think Mal and Alina might have it a bit easier, at least for a little while, they get caught again. Guess who? Shock horror, yes that’s right, The Darkling is back – and only a handful of pages after they shook him off. That’s a theme of this book to be honest, escaping and then being caught again almost immediately by someone or another. The Darkling initially drags Alina with him whilst looking for the sea whip, AKA yet another Grisha amplifier, which he can use to further control her. Naturally they succeed because tracker extraordinaire Mal is on the case. He and Alina kill the sea whip themselves and then escape…

I couldn’t resist 😂 – I apologise to the non-Brits who probably won’t catch this reference.

The new band of escapees drop themselves straight into more trouble in the last place that Mal and Alina want to be in. It is capture disguised as freedom as they can’t really freely leave. Alina essentially doesn’t escape for the whole novel as The Darkling keeps appearing to her and causing problems. It’s exhausting and doesn’t seem to serve a purpose except to irritate the reader. Yes it causes conflict between certain characters but I don’t think it actually adds anything of value to the novel.

There’s lots more questing, when Alina discovers there is actually a third amplifier, which allows for a fair amount of world building. I loved that we were able to learn more about Mal and Alina’s childhood which gave us some adorable fluffy moments (yes I ship it please don’t judge). However the similarities in embarking on a quest where so strong for me that it made this feel like a carbon copy of Shadow and Bone, and makes it difficult to judge this book on its own. For me, the characters really made this novel as there were some excellent additions to the series.

Characters

I love lots of the new cast of this book. One is notorious privateer, Sturmhond. What a sassy, wonderful, pain in the ass he is. I adored him, his particular brand of humour, and his cutting remarks. His interactions with the characters we already love are brilliant.

Twins Tolya and Tamar are also standout characters of this book who should be protected at all costs.

Unfortunately, Mal becomes even more whiney in this book. I mean honestly, he needs to get a grip. He starts fighting Grisha and just generally being an angsty, miserable, moaning idiot who puts other people in danger as a result of his actions.

To top it all off The Darkling gains some interesting and horrific new powers that just keep growing and developing into greater horrors…

Lots of the newer cast are from other regions in the world this series is set. As such we are able to learn more about nations such as Shu Han. This is definitely a strength of this book and I loved how this added depths to certain characters’ actions.

Final Thoughts

I did enjoy this book for the most part however I did find the repetitious plot frustrating. I also feel like the conclusion of the novel was such a horrific low that I can’t see how this is going to be resolved in the final book. It left me very despondent and seemed like a ridiculous conclusion after everything that Mal and Alina had worked for. I can understand the final fight, a common fantasy trope but there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to go from here…

I guess I’ll have to work that out in Ruin and Rising.

Blurb:

Soldier, Summoner, Saint. Alina Starkov’s power has grown, but not without a price. She is the Sun Summoner – hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Shadow Fold. But she and Mal can’t outrun their enemies for long. The Darkling is more determined than ever to claim Alina’s magic and use it to take the Ravkan throne. With nowhere else to turn, Alina enlists the help of an infamous privateer and sets out to lead the Grisha army. But as the truth of Alina’s destiny unfolds, she slips deeper into the Darkling’s deadly game of forbidden magic, and further away from her humanity. To save her country, Alina will have to choose between her power and the love she thought would always be her shelter. No victory can come without sacrifice – and only she can face the oncoming storm.

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.

January 2020 Wrap-Up

This month I’ve been trying to get back into blogging properly. The last half of 2019 was a bit of a nightmare if I’m honest. I failed an exam, and therefore my degree, so had to re-sit during the summer ahead of my delayed graduation this month. I was busy trying to find a full-time job with no degree classification. I also had my very busy summer job to contend with. With all of this going on I was barely reading, let alone keeping up with my blog or instagram. So far, 2020 has started off pretty well on the reading and blogging front so hopefully the rest of this year will follow suit.

Here’s what I’ve been getting up to in January.


What I’ve Been Reading

I have managed to read

  1. The Northern Lights, Philip Pullman
  2. The Subtle Knife, Philip Pullman
  3. The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman
  4. One Of Us Is Lying, Karen M. McManus
  5. One Of Us Is Next, Karen M. McManus
  6. The Mysterious Affair at Styles (Hercule Poirot #1), Agatha Christie
  7. The Secret Adversary (Tommy and Tuppence #1), Agatha Christie

7 books is a really good reading month for me. I’m finally starting to get back to the numbers I was reading before uni broke me! Here are some of my highlights.


Most Pleasant Surprise: The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

2 brilliant 20 somethings running around London and involving themselves in espionage in the 20s?! YES PLEASE. Tuppence is a total bad ass woman! Perfect book to bring a bit of the roaring 20s into the 2020s! Oh, and a little love story on the side! Now a firm favourite and I cannot wait to read the rest of the Tommy and Tuppence novels.

Most Anticipated: One Of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus

Holy sh*t, the reigning YA Thriller Queen did NOT disappoint with this sequel. I wondered how on earth a sequel would be written but wow, wow, wow. McManus nailed it. We checked in with the Bayview Four whilst meeting new characters and a new game. This was also a OOUIL switcheroo as this time we were playing catch up and trying to work out who was dead rather than who did it, although we were trying to figure out the mysterious puppet master of the truth or dare game… Already my favourite read of 2020 and it will take a fair amount to knock it off top spot.


Christie 100 – My crazy reading challenge

If you haven’t seen my post already, I’ve decided to read all 66 of Agatha Christie’s novels (written under her own name) this year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Agatha’s first novel The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Because apparently my life isn’t already busy enough…

This is also my own personal celebration of one of the only successful people to come out of my hometown and my reminder that I can absolutely ace my life like she did.

Click here to read all about it!


What I’ve Been Watching

The Crown, Season 3. You, Season 2. The Good Place, Season 4. Gavin & Stacey, Christmas Special 2019. Grace & Frankie, Season 6.
NB. I do not own these images. Image rights belong to Netflix, NBC, and the BBC respectively.

Season 3 of The Crown was the most disappointing so far, in my opinion. The only improvement is that Prince Philip hasn’t been painted as a villain in the same way seasons 1 and 2 did. Princess Anne is woefully under-used, which is a shame because her character has some of the best lines in the series. I also feel like there’s lots of important historical events missing that could have been included and far more interesting than the persistent personal speculation the whole series involves itself in.

Writers and producers should be careful with a historical drama like this that concerns living memory because lots of viewers seem to use this programme as a documentary and a gospel of these events. It needs to be made much clearer that this is a dramatisation based on true events where lots of artistic licence has been taken. Otherwise, it’s a slippery slope that will only get steeper as the seasons bring the show more and more up to date.


The next series of You hit Netflix shortly before the New Year and let’s just say it makes for rather uncomfortable viewing. If you’re thinking of watching this I should point out these trigger warnings:

  • Violence. Big time.
  • Child abuse.
  • Sexual assault.
  • Gaslighting.

After a hiatus from the middle of December until the middle of January, season 4 of The Good Place is finally back! I love this show, it’s so damn wholesome and I really don’t want it to end. Chidi and Eleanor 5eva 😉.


I couldn’t mention my viewing habits this month without shouting about the Gavin & Stacey Christmas Special!!! After nearly a decade we finally caught up with the Barry Island and Billericay crews! I have 2 overwhelming thoughts following Christmas Day (and the 15 or more times I’ve re-watched the episode already 😂):

  1. YOU CANNOT LEAVE IT LIKE THAT
  2. WILL WE EVER FIND OUT WHAT THE SH*TTING F*UCK HAPPENED ON THAT FISHING TRIP?!

January 2020 has seen the return of Grace & Frankie on Netflix! Hit, feel-good comedy about 2 women who are forced into friendship (and living together) after their husbands leave them for each other! I devoured this in an afternoon, as I have done with the release of most of the previous series’. I already cannot wait to watch season 7, although I’m very upset that this will be the last…

Next time…

In February I’m planning to finally read Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before series, especially with film #2 being released on Netflix on the 12th.

Keep up to date with what I get up to on a daily basis on my Instagram stories @beauteaful.reads

I think I’m a Kindle convert

I know. I said it would never happen…

On Black Friday 2019 the Amazon sales broke me and I bought the new Kindle Paperwhite (not sponsored, it’s just the e-reader I purchased).

Back in 2016, during the huge rise in e-books, I wrote this blog post -> 3 Reasons Why I Will Always Be Loyal To Print Over e-Books. Yet it’s 2020 and I’ve eventually bought a Kindle. Dare I say, I’m actually pleasantly surprised and all of the factors that left me vehemently against these evil electronic book murdering machines, have been less of an issue than I expected.

It won’t feel like a ‘real’ book…!

Let me tell you, 900 pages of paperback feels every bit as long on a Kindle. For me, I think what helps with this is that my Kindle Paperwhite has a matte screen. It doesn’t look like a screen therefore it doesn’t feel like a screen when I’m reading. Yes I have the backlight option available for lowlight conditions but I very rarely use it which means there’s no glare on my eyes, aka like reading paper (thumbs up emoji).

I do miss turning the pages and feeling the physical book, however if I can read fanfiction on a screen (don’t judge) I can read a published book on a screen. I’m coming to realise that the ‘real book’ is the words and not necessarily the paper.

NO BOOK SMELL

Again, missing one of my favourite parts of a book but it’s not like I’ve donated my book shelves and removed them all from my life. My Kindle will always play second fiddle to a physical book but I don’t detest the e-book the way I expected to.

Convenience

The biggest realisation for me has been how convenient a Kindle is. I don’t mean that there is an entire library in my pocket, more that I have 24 hour access to new titles and the next book in a series. The new Paperwhite also has the option to add audible narration for a relatively small extra cost (this may not be a new feature but before purchase, I didn’t know this was a option and it was pretty much the deciding factor). This is proving very useful to me as I can now use this to assist with my language learning. I have the foreign text in front of me, with the audible narration in that language in my ears, and then I can highlight words to search for definitions and to add to a vocabulary page. Honestly I think language teachers should be recommending this as I have certainly found it very useful.

An e-book is also definitely a space-saver. I bought The Priory of the Orange Tree in the Kindle sale and I’m definitely glad I won’t have to lug around a nearly 1000 page hardback should I wish to re-read.

E-readers also make reading accessible as there are options on my Paperwhite to increase the text size, change the font, even invert the colour which I know would help my brother who is dyslexic. AKA: e-books = books for everyone 😁.

Cost

Quite simply, ignoring the initial expense of the device, e-books are usually cheaper. It’s much cheaper to buy a £3.99 e-book that I may only read once than purchase a physical copy for £7.99 and let it gather dust on my shelves.

Before anyone comes at me to say ‘libraries are free’, I’m aware. However some of us aren’t lucky enough to live in a place where we have a local library. My hometown library has lost so much funding that it is only open 6 days a week from 9.30am – 1pm on 2 days, closing at 4pm on 2 days, and closing at 6pm on 2 days, which means I would not have time to get there after work to use the facilities.

New Approach

Most of all, buying my Kindle has already changed my approach to my book-buying habits despite only owning it for around 6 weeks or so.

I’ve pretty much decided that unless I can see myself reading a book more than once, I’m going to buy the e-book rather than the physical copy. Most books I do re-read so this won’t make a massive impact but I think it’s a good question for me to ask myself when I consider how much I can afford to spend.

For instance, I already know that I’ll be buying every one of Samantha Shannon’s books, but after not enjoying Lauren James’s books to the same level I’m unlikely to purchase physical copies unless I really enjoy them. I’ll definitely buy all of the books in series I’m already committed to reading – because if I’ve decided to continue a series chances are that will be a re-read. However, in the future I’m probably going to read the first of a new series on my Kindle before making that decision.

I can already feel myself being more selective with my book-buying which is great when I currently share a flat so all of my belongings remain in the one room.

So far, so good…

Long story short, my first impressions of my Kindle Paperwhite are really positive – despite all of my initial reservations, and at times outright hatred, towards them for most of the last decade or so of e-reader existence.

At the moment I currently own about 20 e-books, most of which I only paid £0.99 for, and own over 400 physical books which I have no plans to get rid of or cut down on. My Kindle has certainly confirmed my suspicion that I will NEVER completely switch to e-books because paper books have my heart and are clearly far superior.

However, I think I may just be a Kindle convert…

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha – book 1)

Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo

Pages: 352

Published: 5 June 2012

⭐️ 4 / 5

This book (and the entire series actually) has been on my shelf and my TBR for a long time. I bought all 3 books in the series several years ago and they’ve been sat on my bookshelf ever since. Towards the end of 2019 I finally got around to them, after uni destroyed my love of reading almost irreparably, and I am so glad I am now on this bandwagon.

Warning: technically there is a small plot spoiler below in the form of a relationship but honestly if you don’t see it coming from the first page, I don’t know what to tell you…

Plot

This is a novel about discovering yourself and carving your own path. When Alina discovers a magic (and by extension, a strength) she didn’t know she had, she’s whisked away with people she doesn’t know to a place she doesn’t know where she doesn’t fit in and is not accepted. She is forced to leave behind the only person she knows, her best friend Mal, and it’s like she’s orphaned all over again. The fact that Alina has to learn about herself as one of the Grisha is really effective in terms of worldbuilding. The reader is able to learn as Alina is forced to learn. This is the first book I’ve read in a while that has a magic system, which I really enjoyed. It’s been very well constructed considering in theory the Grisha can only control one of 3 different things but their own grasp of their power dictates just how much they can do. Another thing I really enjoyed about the worldbuilding is that there was mention of other countries meaning the world extends beyond Alina’s immediate environment. It feels like we are going to explore some of this later in the series, which I really hope is the case.

The description of the Fold is really striking and I love that the metaphorical darkness seen in most fantasies is a literal threat in this series. It’s interesting to explore this concept and the reason the Fold exists. I think it gives the opportunity to remind ourselves of the child-like vulnerability that comes with being afraid of the dark, only this time there really are monsters lurking beyond your vision.

We do get to see a fair amount of Ravka in Shadow and Bone as Alina (and eventually Mal) head out on a nation-wide quest. One strength of this being done is that the reader was able to see ‘normal’ life in this world as opposed to the military or magic lives we’d experienced before. This also meant the reader was able to get to know these characters fairly well as, for the most part, they were alone. I did feel that some of the difficulties they faced on this journey were unnecessary though. Each of them should have been for a specific character-building or story arc purpose however a couple of instances felt like they were just included to give them something to do and to distract them from the slow-burn realisation of their feelings towards each other.

Characters

I found Alina, our protagonist, to be very relatable. She really struggles with wanting to fit in despite being literally born to stand out. She desperately wants to cling on to anything familiar and can’t handle how much her life is changing. She feels crushed by the pressure of failure and letting others down, which is mostly her own exacerbated impression of what her role in Ravka’s future could be. Mal flits between irritating me and being the character I enjoy most on the page. He’s a moody sod and an utter gem. Part of me thinks he is unfair to Alina, part of me understands because she is not exactly the model character in her behaviour either. I love that they’re both so messy and both trying so hard. Bardugo writes them both beautifully and I love that she has created two characters that I can absolutely root for.

I really enjoyed The Darkling as a character. He is so complex and layered. I loved to love him and I loved to hate him too. He has far more potential than we saw in this book so I am really excited to see where he goes in the rest of the series.

I also have to give a special mention to Baghra. What a babe. She has so much more depth to her that just the grumpy old woman she is on the surface. Her wisdom runs deep and I have to say she really surprised me. I hope we see more of her as the series progresses.

Final Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book and thought it was a great start to a series. The ending left me desperate to read the sequel straight away which leaves me thankful that I waited so long to start this series. There’s nothing better than a book binge if you have the patience to wait years for a series to end before you start.

Let me know what you thought of this book/series below! Keep an eye out for my review of Siege and Storm soon.

Blurb:

Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold – a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed. Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite – and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation. Welcome to Ravka . . . a world of science and superstition where nothing is what it seems.

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.