Siege and Storm, the second Grisha book, wasn’t quite as absorbing as the first, Shadow and Bone — though that would be difficult, since I read the first half of Shadow and Bone while walking back from the library. I’m not even kidding. I think the pacing was a bit off here, and the fact that the book is almost 100 pages longer did it no actual favours. It’s still a pretty quick read, but the extra 80 pages felt like unneeded bulk.
Or perhaps that’s the added time I spent disbelieving that Mal would keep being such an idiot. He plays right into the hands of his rivals. It’s like he liked Alina when she wasn’t powerful, when she needed him to look after her, and he could feel superior because he was taking care of her, he was the only one who saw her worth, etc. Granted, Alina herself is changing (and I liked that journey, the way the power is changing her and the conflict she feels about it) and of course that concerns him, but it doesn’t seem to be about that. He just doesn’t like that she’s no longer devoted to him and that she’s no longer his to protect.
Which is, well. Kinda gross.
Nikolai, on the other hand, is pretty awesome in all his guises. I like that the way he acts is carefully examined — he’s manipulative, and he knows it and uses it, but at the same time, he’s not 100% comfortable with it. He seems to care about his mother and about Alina. He also genuinely cares about his country, rather than wanting power for the sake of power. And unlike Mal, he’s very clear about what he wants and expects of Alina.
The Darkling isn’t much in evidence here, with just a handful of scenes. That leaves the book a little lacking, I think; his opposition isn’t enough felt for a good 100-150 pages in the middle. It makes the showdown at the end very sudden. I’m not mourning the loss of his manipulation of Alina — interesting parallel to Nikolai, who is at least open about it — but he felt a little… lacking in bite.
I’m interested to read the third book, and hopefully it’ll get more of the momentum back. This seems like a lot of criticisms, but I did enjoy Siege and Storm enough not to drop it another star.