My reviews... 5 stars and 4.5 stars for the first two in the series...
Siege and Storm
by Leigh Bardugo
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published June 4th 2013 by Henry Holt and Co.
Darkness never dies.
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. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. 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
*sigh* This is one of those books... that I loved, LOVED and wrestled with in sweet frustration that I... naively... thought was special and unique to ME.
When a book makes me feel like I'm the only reader in the universe? As if I have a special "thing" with the author and characters that no one else could understand? BRILLIANT. I'm writing a review although I firmly suggest that this series be read without reading any reviews.
One of the things that isolated me and made me feel special, if conflicted, was how attractive all three guys are. That Alina is so desirable to each of them on multiple levels is precious. In life as in stories, sometimes there's someone amazing... sometimes there's a choice to be made between two someones, but Alina's life is unique.
For one, she always chooses Mal, her childhood friend/crush. She chooses him, but he does not always choose her. Mal has an epic struggle going on inside him between believing in Alina and facing the facts under his nose... and not liking them. His struggle adds this tension and separation from Alina that is painful and so full of tension making these other two guys very present and practical:
The Darkling is sooooooo mysterious and dark and downright enticing. Add the FACT that he understands and connects to Alina with a depth that no one else ever will or could and BAM!! When they connect, sparks FLY. I can't help loving him even as I run the other way in Alina's shoes. When Alina finds comfort in their mutual connection... I'm so completely there. *shudder*
But that's not all... oh, no... Enter the Too Clever Fox. Stormbrund has to win a very tall, brilliant award for awesomeness. He steps into the story bringing Presence with him. If anyone has an aura of power and authority, it's this sea captain. Not to mention a bucket-load of mystery. I can't even talk about him in a review without dumping tons of spoilers, 'cause this guy's story just keeps everyone on their toes.
And oh, yeah... he has more in common with Alina than either Mal or the Darkling, unbelievably. He has a similarity of purpose and the potential of real action.
Never... ever, ever... have there been three choices that were so contrary to each other, so conflicted with Alina WHILE maintaining this air of impossibility. The balance is pure, sweet torture.
I still love Alina. I love the way she tries to run, turns to fight when cornered... hopes and believes and TRIES. I love her heart, too... down to her concern of being corrupted, even while I'm as unsure as she is if she is already being corrupted. The layers of struggle add so much to the story.
I can't wait to read Ruin and Rising. I have no idea how it will turn out. If I was to predict... I'd say Alina won't be happy unless A) she gets Mal, but she won't be happy if she gets him either, 'cause he's changing and so is she. B) She needs to confront the Darkling and it's going to be BIG!!!! Yay!! I can't wait! Yikes!!!! C) Stormbrund is not done with surprises. I expect him to unveil yet another layer that provides what Alina needs and maybe, hopefully, the entire country. No pressure.
I enjoyed this second installment even more than the first.
Looking through my reviews... I am not finding my review of book one. Are you kidding me?! It's hard to keep up with all the wonderful reading... so here goes....
Shadow and Bone
by Leigh Bardugo
Hardcover, 358 pages
Published June 5th 2012 by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR)
The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?
The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.
But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?
Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance.
What do I remember from a year ago?
I remember that this was SUCH a fast read, insanely fast. Like, I couldn't put it down and zipped on with my reading without realizing that I never paused to say "I couldn't put it down." That's fast.
The world-building is startling, beautiful, intricate, believable. I researched quite a bit about the world prior to reading the story. So I knew - and have always remembered - how close the terminology and location and culture follow Russia while being completely unique. The words sound Russian, but they're not. Not at all. But it's fun to add a Russian accent as I read. :-) Oh, yes, I do!
The magic is strong... strong enough that I think my relatives that are sensitive to magic, especially negative magic, might not feel comfy with it. The world of the Grisha is GREAT. Some people are born with these magical abilities and the government scoops them up and enlists them in their service. The feeling of no choice, of raw, rough life... it sucks the wonder out of magic and turns it into a real negativity, like finding out you're so tall, you'll have to play basketball just to survive and you just want to play video games. Oh, wait, that's my son. Lol. And every other human being!!! Who likes to be told what they can do? What they must do?
Especially at the beginning, Alina has no choices beyond survival. She has a tricky time figuring out what's going on around her only to discover there's another layer. Her introduction to the Darkling is eerie and a little heady, as well. I mean, wow! Alina's training experience is so vibrant. There's enough detail to learn that everything is not what it seems. And then Alina has choices to make. Her character (yay!) demands that she make choices that are difficult and they don't get easier when she realizes that she still doesn't know everything.
This first book in the series set the tone beautifully and introduces so many important characters and current society at various levels. The biggest revelations are centered around the Darkling, unlocking a rich history that is essential to present day and Alina... she's in the middle of everything whether she likes it or not!!
Delightful. And, as I said, FAST!!
Her debut novel, Shadow & Bone (Holt Children's/Macmillan) is now a New York Times Best Seller.
She would be delighted if you followed her on Twitter, elated if you visited her web site, and downright giddy if you liked Shadow & Bone on Facebook.