Review: Siege & Storm

Siege & Storm (The Grisha #2) by Leigh Bardugo
Release Date ~ June 4, 2013
Henry Holt and Co. ~ Macmillan
ISBN13: 9780805094602
ARC received from Raincoast Books for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
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.

A sequel is always tricky, especially when it follows after a book you loved. As excited as I was for Siege & Storm, I was a bit anxious as well, after how much I loved Shadow & Bone I wasn't sure how this sequel would compare.

And I think the simplest way to explain my feelings about Siege & Storm was that I couldn't love it as much as Shadow & Bone. I think it's the kind of book I would have loved so much more on its own, had there not been this incredible first book setting the stage. While Siege & Storm is a good book with some great additions to The Grisha trilogy, you can tell that this is the "growing pains" book where the characters have to adjust to a situation none expected nor wanted.

  1. Fantastic new character additions:

    This was the absolute best part of Siege & Storm for me: I know, I know. Everyone and their mother loves Sturmhond. But it's for good reason! Leigh's writing gives him a voice that stands out so much from other characters, with his clever comebacks and dry wit. He definitely helps balance out some of the more depressing issues at hand in the story, because when things get REALLY bad? Sometimes you just need to laugh. Or, if you're Stumhond, smirk.
  2. Emphasis on Alina's internal struggle:

    For a book that has had so much attention on developing the setting and world of the story, I'm amazed by how much detail is given to Alina's internal struggle as she tries to adapt to her new powers and position. It seems to me that this is truly the most important conflict in the book - moreso than anything with any other character, even the Darkling. Alina's battle isn't with some external force, it's with herself. It's such an introspective story, one where it is truly a privilege to be so in tune with Alina's thoughts and feelings because she doesn't share them with anyone else.
  3. An expanded setting:

    When Siege & Storm starts off, we have Alina and Mal on the run in an entirely different country. They end up meeting a number of other characters from other places as well, and we finally get a bit more of a glimpse at the rest of the world. To me, this is what makes a setting believable and come to life - hints that the world is still turning outside of the main characters' location. I really like that, and I think it helps build the plot and help the reader understand exactly what is at stake here.
The biggest problem for me? So very little happens, and what does happen occurs very quickly. The action feels rushed, and the waiting seems to go on forever. It's a slow book, and I mentioned how introspective and sensitive to Alina's conflict with herself the book is. While that is a good thing, it also means other parts of the story suffer as a result of so much time and focus spent on Alina. Much of the time is spent waiting for something to happen, and I understand that part of this is simply because Alina (and company) are acting defensively. After Shadow & Bone featured SO MUCH (so much action, so much romance, so much creepiness) I was hoping for more, and I think my expectations are mostly to blame here.

But we still have an excellent book here. Leigh Bardugo's writing is as exceptional as ever, and I think really showcases her knack for juggling a multitude of character voices and emotions. She is truly a master at tugging at her readers' heartstrings, and never leaves us with predictable characters or story lines. Although the romance is left on the back burner for most of this book, the tension is incredible and I appreciate that it didn't overshadow the rest of the story.


Review: Altered

Altered (Altered #1) by Jennifer Rush
Release Date ~ January 1, 2013
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers ~ Hachette Book Group
ISBN13: 9780316197083
ARC received from HBG Canada for review

Goodreads Synopsis:
When you can’t trust yourself, who can you believe?
Everything about Anna’s life is a secret. Her father works for the Branch at the helm of its latest project: monitoring and administering treatments to the four genetically altered boys in the lab below their farmhouse. There’s Nick, Cas, Trev . . . and Sam, who’s stolen Anna’s heart. When the Branch decides it’s time to take the boys, Sam stages an escape, killing the agents sent to retrieve them. 
Anna is torn between following Sam or staying behind in the safety of her everyday life. But her father pushes her to flee, making Sam promise to keep her away from the Branch, at all costs. There’s just one problem. Sam and the boys don’t remember anything before living in the lab—not even their true identities.
Now on the run, Anna soon discovers that she and Sam are connected in more ways than either of them expected. And if they’re both going to survive, they must piece together the clues of their past before the Branch catches up to them and steals it all away.

Altered clearly fits into the science fiction & thriller category of books, and features plenty of action to keep its readers on their toes. And seeing as it features four guys among its cast of main characters, it's unsurprising that Altered also features some romance mixed in there as well!

  1. Fast-paced action:

    This is ALWAYS a good reason for me to read a book. I love excitement, and while I'm a reader who can appreciate a thoughtful, slow-paced book I also love them amped up and heart-pounding! It picks up early on in the book and never really stops. Plenty of chase & fight scenes, plot twists, and thrilling moments.
  2. Level-headed heroine:

    Anna is, surprisingly, level-headed and reasonable for a girl thrust into an unlikely (and honestly, pretty implausible) situation. Her entire world (as she's known it) is thrown into chaos and she's left unsure about who she can trust and how to uncover the secrets she's just beginning to uncover. People react to situations differently, but I appreciated the fact that Anna was willing and able to take a step back and tried to think things through objectively. Yet she still comes across as young and scared at times, too. That's a really tricky balance to make, but it makes Anna into a very interesting character. 
Altered was a fast-paced, quick read for me and although I enjoyed it, it also left me desiring more from it. I think that has more to do with me as a reader though, because I just feel like I've read similar books that won me over more. In one way or another they stood out, and I was hoping for Altered to bring something totally fresh and exciting to the table and it just felt lacking in that area.

I did like that Altered was just pulsing with adrenaline (for a book) and that the whole story didn't entirely revolve around romance. There are some incredibly strong friendships in here too, and they're so important to Anna and to the story line. But I definitely wanted more from Altered, which I'm hoping will come through in the next books.

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