The second installment of Leigh Bardugo's Grisha trilogy lives up to its name. Siege and Storm is a roiling tempest of a book, with gales and tides that thrash together so well that it seems as if they were orchestrated by the mystical Squallers that summon the power of the wind and the sky in this vivid story. (WARNING: Some mild spoilers below.)
Siege and Storm finds Alina and Mal on the run once again, trying to devise a plan to use Alina's unique power to defeat the Darkling and destroy the Fold. They forge an uneasy alliance with the prince of Ravka, hoping to lead the kingdom's army of Grisha in a war against the Darkling. This stunning sequel provides a deeper look into the captivating world that was introduced in Shadow and Bone. The atmosphere is so palpable, and the setting so ornate that it feels like a completely real world. The elaborate trappings and mythology of Siege and Storm are rivaled only by the richly drawn characters -- all darkly complex, and many of which are downright swoon-worthy.
Readers rolling their eyes at another tediously predictable YA love triangle need not fear. The romantic rivalry in Siege and Storm is never about Alina choosing a boyfriend. Rather, her very different love interests each represent a facet of herself that she's struggling to come to terms with. Mal, the stalwart guardian who loved her when she was just a lowly orphan, represents her past. But with her newfound power, Alina fears she's lost the girl she was when he fell in love with her. The Darkling, on the other hand, is the embodiment of the dark power growing inside her, threatening to consume her. If Shadow and Bone was about Alina discovering her power, Siege and Storm is about her taking control of it.
Siege and Storm is somehow even better than its prequel -- a feat I did not think was possible. The dialogue is so clever and sharp that I found myself pausing to marvel at it. That's saying a lot, considering the momentum of the story, which flows like a raging river from beginning to climactic end. This is one of those books that will render you incapable of functioning like a normal human being once you finish it. After you turn the final page, you might find yourself unable to do anything but start again from the beginning.