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.
The Insecure Sun Summoner, Her Jealous Boyfriend, and the Not-So-Mysterious Stranger
I feel like Alina’s character took three steps forward and one step back. She was incredibly insecure about herself for a majority of the book. As a heroine that’s expected to save the world, it’s understandable that she’s having some self-doubts about her actions. It’s a big task and you need to be careful about who you trust (especially in a place like Ravka) Plus, as her powers grows, she struggles to hold onto herself and there’s a conflict with her moral compass.. I waited for her to grow a pair during a majority of the book and make some decisions for herself, but that never really happened. Everyone around Alina urged her to make decisions and be a leader, but she refused to do anything about it because she ‘didn’t know who to trust’ or Mal was making her doubt every decision she made. It got old and I wanted to shake some sense into her and tell her to wake up. Instead, she broke down repeatedly and retreated inside herself as the world around her spiraled into chaos. Whenever she looked for support of comfort from someone else, she either didn’t listen to them, or they sat and pouted like a child (ahem Mal, I’m looking at you).
As for Mal, well….I wasn’t a big fan of him in the first book, as I completely shipped her with the Darkling, but he started to grow on me a little bit. At least until he started acting like a complete jackass in the second half of the book. He complained about Sturmhond and his flirting with Alina all the time and resent for his sacrifices seemed to come out of nowhere. If Alina made a decision that he didn’t agree with, or a situation just got to be too much, he’d throw a temper tantrum and distance himself from Alina. Did this help the situation? Nope, not at all. Instead, it’d make Alina doubt herself even more than she already did and focus more on her problems with Mal than the impending war. There was ZERO communication between them and I couldn’t help but to question why they’re in a relationship in the first place. The romance felt too forced.
We met a handful of new characters, all of whom I enjoyed immensely and hope we see more of in the next book. My favorite character that we meet in the book is Sturmhond. I think he’s clever and his wit is very much welcome to keep things light. It’s clear from the start that he’s on Alina’s side and truly wants to fight for his country. I liked the little flirtations between him and Alina and the relationship he has with her (i.e.: she isn’t afraid to punch, kick, or yell at him). It felt more like two good friends or a pair of siblings more than it did romantic (which was also kind of forced on them). We also meet Tamar and Tolya who are loyal to Alina through and through. I found that I could count on them and Sturmhond to be there for Alina more than I could count on Mal. Sturmhond and the twins (Tolya and Tamar) at least tried to somewhat understand the immense pressure that Alina is under.
Siege & Storm What Exactly?
The plotline to this book is a little slow moving and a bit sporadic. We’d have nothing happening and then there’s an attack from the Darkling that came out of nowhere. In the first book, the line between good and bad was blurred a bit as Alina slowly fell under the Darkling’s spell. We got the sense that despite all of this “dark” power he has in him, he’s still human and maybe there’s more to him than we realize. However, between the end of the first book and the start of this one, a line had been drawn in the sand; things are either inherently evil or they’re good, at least in Alina’s world. It was frustrating because she saw evil in everyone and couldn’t see when someone was obviously fighting for the greater good with her.
The middle of the book was dry due to all of the politics and continued lack of communication between characters (no one ever allowed Alina to explain herself). It was a lot of…I don’t even know. Nothing happened. They made plans to stop the Darkling, built stuff, trained a bit, and that’s it. There weren’t any huge scenes where we uncover a truth, or have a mind blowing fight scene (not counting the times when Mal fought with Alina). As an avid Darkling fan, I enjoyed the scenes that he was in and wanted more of him in this book. He had a couple of big scenes and was there a little bit throughout, but his presence had definitely diminished greatly in comparison to the first book.
The last few chapters of the book picked up and I found myself staying up way later than I should to finish the book. The scene where the sh*t hit the fan just reiterated my love for Sturmhond and how savvy he is in war. I loved reading the moment of realization just before the action started and then furiously read through to the end of the book.
Despite my ranting, I enjoyed this book. I just felt like Mal’s character inhibited the story from reaching its full potential because Alina spent so much time trying to fix things with him. There was a major breakdown in communication between characters which caused rifts to form between them or stunted any type of relationship development. I do wish that we would’ve see more of the Darkling, as his scenes helped drive Alina to do something rather than sit back and watch. This is a decent follow-up to Shadow & Bone and I’m definitely curious to see where things are heading in the next book.