Saturday, June 13, 2015

Dark, Stormy, and Delightful - A Review of SIEGE AND STORM

Let's start with the drink.

Really, there's only one cocktail that looks nice next to Leigh Bardugo's Siege and Storm--and that's the dark and stormy.  Or if you're feeling particularly punny, you might call it a "Darkling and Sturmhond."

I'm hilarious.

If you've read the book, then you know that the Darkling and Sturmhond are the key players here.  Alina and Mal?  Who cares?  They're gin and tonic, rum and coke.  Tasty, but tired.

Let's backtrack.

Make yourself that dark and stormy.  Sit back.  Dive into the second installment of the Grisha trilogy, which is Avatar: the Last Airbender meets Graceling meets tsarist Russia.  And there's monsters and shit.

When we left off in Shadow and Bone, our heroine, Alina, and her boy-toy Mal were fleeing the country (called Ravka) in case the evil Darkling wasn't as dunzo as they hoped.  Of course, he wasn't, because that would be boring, and that's where Siege and Storm picks up -- with the Darkling capturing Alina and Mal with the help of the pirate Sturmhond.

Dark and stormy, people.  Dark and stormy.

Anyway, the Darkling hunts Alina because she's the only person who can control light, just as he is the only one who can control darkness.  With her help, he could expand the Fold, a shadowy desert filled with flesh-eating bat creatures called volcra.  Obviously, she's not thrilled about that, which leads to a war between darkness and light.  Literally.

Except what's so great about this book is that the Darkling and Alina -- darkness and light -- are not always fighting.  Sometimes, they make out.

Okay, so Alina makes out with a lot of guys.  The Darkling.  Mal.  The Darkling.  Sturmhond.  The Darkling.  The Darkling.  The Darkling.

My biggest complaint about this book is that there isn't enough Darkling.  Mostly, he comes in weird visions, during which he creeps hardcore, and the rest of the time he's saints-know-where.  He's cunning.  Ruthless.  And yet, there's something about him that's undeniably appealing.

It's rare that a villain is my favorite character.  Rarer still that I ship the protagonist and antagonist.  But the Darkling gets Alina.  And, you know, he has saved her life in the past.  The glassy-eyed schoolgirl in me doesn't think he would actually hurt her.  All her loved ones, yes, but not her:

He was watching me in that cold, assessing way that always made me feel as if he were reading me like words on a page, his fingers moving over the text, gleaning some secret knowledge that I could only guess at.  I tried not to fidget, but the irons at my wrists chafed.

“I’d like to free you,” he said quietly.

“Free me, flay me.  So many options.”  I could still feel the press of his knife at my cheek.

He sighed.  “It was a threat, Alina.  It accomplished what it needed to.”

“So you wouldn’t have cut me?”

“I didn’t say that.”  His voice was pleasant and matter-of-fact, as always.  He might have been threatening to carve me up ordering his dinner.

Yeah, yeah, I know.  Not the nicest guy on the block, but I'm optimistic.

Darkling.  Now let's get to the Sturmhond part.

Sturmhond is a new addition to this series -- and he's wonderful.  He's a pirate, an inventor, and so much more, as we find out in one of the story's early twists.  Like the Darkling, he's intelligent and charming, but in a different way.  Mainly, he has a sense of humor (which, unfortunately, the Darkling lacks).  And, of course, he believes in everything:

"When people say impossible, they usually mean improbable."

That brings us to our last two stars:  Alina and Mal.  Considering they're the main characters, they should probably be first, but they don't shine quite as bright as the Darkling or Sturmhond.  I like them.  I do.  I think Alina's transformation from self-conscious runaway to leader is well done.  She makes mistakes.  She needs help.  And a part of her recognizes that she and the Darkling are the very definition of frenemies.

I like Mal, too, except that he's a bit mopey in this book.  I like the fun Mal, the popular Mal, who thrives in every environment.  In this book, he's jealous and grumpy, so even though he's "the love interest," I'm not shouting "Pick Number 3, my lord."

I'm shouting pick the Darkling.  He may be a raging sociopath, but I have hope that he'll make like Prince Zuko, join Team Avatar, and save the world.

We'll find out in the next book.

In the meantime, drink up me hearties yo ho.

Dark and Stormy

Use one part dark rum.  Fill the glass with ginger beer.  Top with lime juice.

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