Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Double Review: The End of a Grisha Era

Title: Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Square Fish/Henry Holt and Co.
Release Date: June 17th, 2013

From Goodreads...
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, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But 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.


My Review!
*SPOILERS. SPOILERS ABOUND FOR BOTH BOOKS. You've been warned.

It kills me to say that I did not love this book as much as Shadow and Bone. There were just so many problems I had with it. I don't even know where to start.


My biggest issue with this book was the main character, Alina. I loved her in the first one! I thought she had flaws, but that made her more real and genuine. However, I was constantly torn between wanting to cheer her on and slapping her to wake her up. One of Alina's big flaws is insecurity and putting too much thought into appearances. And it wasn't a huge deal in the first book, and I could understand it. But when a character's constant insecurity becomes self-pitying, that's where I become tired with the overdone dramatics. I'm not saying that she's not allowed to have her moments of self-doubt, but this felt forced and just too much. And I just felt that Alina didn't do that much in this book. I felt like everyone else around her was making the decisions, and she was acting like a pawn. One that spent a good portion of the book focusing too much on the dramatics between her and Mal and not on what was happening in her home. A hero/heroine is allowed those moments, but I'd like a bit more than constant introspection concerning a guy who didn't choose to stand by her side.


Oh, Mal. You inconsiderate jerk. I loved him a lot. But in this book, he became a jealous, needy, and selfish control freak. He gave up a lot for Alina, selfless sacrifices for the sole reason that he loves her. So, I understand the resentment, the doubt, the moments of anger at not being able to control anything going on. But instead of supporting Alina and being on her side, he threw temper tantrums, ran away, and then came back acting like nothing was wrong. He was selfish and unsupportive, but you know what, so was Alina. Change in characters are inevitable, and they've both been through a lot. But instead of the jealousy ploys and the non-communication, they could have focused on strengthening their relationship. I wanted more swoony romantic scenes or even the banter that comes from years of friendship. Even though their romance was very light in the first book, I believed it. And after this one, I'm just wondering why the hell they fell in love with each other in the first place. 


The secondary characters were the saving graces in this book, though their relationships with Alina are all so very underdeveloped. Sturmhond. Oh, Sturmhond. My favorite. The dastardly privateer who is a complex individual with a quick wit and big secrets. Alina's relationship with him was the most developed out of them all, even Mal's. But I was mad because it felt like the author was forcing romance onto the two of them. Was it just me who felt their banter was more like siblings; fighting, teasing, and supporting one another without fail? The author spent so much time building up this relationship and sacrificing the real romance, the one that needed it the most.


I spent a good portion of this book wanting to throw it at the wall. The entire middle of the book was boring. A dose of dialogue with Alina and the secondary characters and a splash of drama-free scenes could have done wonders. Nothing was happening. Alina was pining away and constantly thinking about Mal and their disastrous relationship. So much of that middle portion could have been used to develop character relationships with dialogue and rich backgrounds. And it being boring also could have been because The Darkling was completely absent (the synopsis is a total lie, btw). He made everything lively and mysterious and dangerous. I was missing that exciting element.


The last quarter of the book was infinitely better than the whole middle of it. I was hooked again, riveted as the action showed up and everything led up to one hell of an ending that shocked me. And even though I was bored, I love Leigh Bardugo's writing. It's lovely and rich and this world is so incredibly detailed that I never have a problem picturing what's happening in my mind. I liked Siege and Storm good enough, but I'm the black sheep here when I say that I was so disappointed.


RATING:
3 Paw Prints!

***

Title: Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Square Fish/Henry Holt and Co.
Release Date: June 17th, 2014

From Goodreads...
The capital has fallen.

The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation's fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.


Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova's amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling's secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

My Review!
Going into Ruin and Rising, I was sure of three things:

1. It would end with Alina and Mal, like it was always meant to.
2. The Darkling would die.
3. Nikolai would reign after it was all over.

No, I didn't look up spoilers or read reviews. I just was very certain of these three things before starting this book. I knew that the love triangle was never truly a love triangle. I knew that it would always be Alina and Mal. C'mon, I mean, the before and after chapters that started each of the books were always about them. That was the easiest certainty to believe, that the two of them would live through this and finally have their happily-ever-after. I also, even in the first book, knew that The Darkling was going to die. There was just absolutely no way that Alina would have been able to free Ravka and the country would find peace unless The Darkling was dead. As much as it saddened me to believe that, it was going to happen. I prepared myself for it. And lastly, I knew that Nikolai would rule, as he always should have, after everything was over. I just wasn't totally sure if he would rule by himself. But knowing all of this didn't take away my enjoyment from the story or even ruin things.

As you can tell above, I was very disappointed in the second book. That made me a bit wary going into this one, because I wanted to love it so badly but was afraid it would end up disappointing me just as much, if not more, than Siege and Storm. And I'm so happy to say that it was, quite possibly, my favorite of the series! It was definitely the perfect ending to a wonderful trilogy.

What disappointed me the most in the middle book was the romance, and ironically, it was one of my favorite parts of Ruin and Rising. To me, it was always Mal and Alina. Always. They had to go through hell and back to be together, to find their happily-ever-after, and they did it. I just wish they'd spent a *bit* more time communicating than keeping secrets and sharing longing glances full of regret and love. But it did make everything all the more sweeter when they were finally free to be together. To be happy. Without scandalous princes, complicated villains, and a country desperate to find peace in the way.


Speaking of scandalous princes, NIKOLAI! <3 My favorite character of the series, and one that I wouldn't mind spending a day with. Or a forever with. Wait, he's not real and this turned hella weird quickly. *cough* Let's just say, I wouldn't mind a whole book about just Nikolai and his adventures out at sea and life in the palace after helping free Ravka from a murderous villain.


I can't believe people actually thought Alina would choose The Darkling. He was seriously never a contender in her heart or in this story. His character arc was always leading up to that ending. And oh my, what an ending it was. It was heartbreaking and hopeful and sad and freeing. What Alina did for him, what The Darkling asked of her, made that scene so intense and probably one of my favorites in the whole series. It showed so much, in both characters. Forgiveness, mercy, love, sacrifice. It was a poignant moment, one that proved how much character growth Alina went through and how The Darkling was such a wonderfully complex villain.


Strengthened relationships and secondary characters all played a big role this story. I remember wanting more dialogue in Siege and Storm, more backstory and more bonds. There were many fun moments between the secondary characters, ones that I was missing in the second book. Though, considering the way this one went with both this and the romance, it does *admits grudgingly* make sense. I really adored how they all became a tightknit group of friends who had each other's backs.


Plot? Oh, there was plot. Action upon action, quiet scenes of contemplation in-between the intensity. And that ending! That ending was so perfect, I can't even. I was honestly worried how all of this was going to end, but I shouldn't have been. One of my favorite series enders, for sure. Ruin and Rising basically had everything I love in a fantasy book. It was a pure joy to read and such a satisfactory ending.



RATING:
5 Paw Prints!


So I read these back in January, but I didn't have the reviews written or time in my schedule until now to post them. But I am curious about one thing: how did YOU feel about the ending? I've heard very mixed things, and I want to hear your thoughts on it!

2 comments:

  1. I loved both books. And I LOVED the ending, because I would not have wanted it any other way. And I agree with you- anyone who thought she'd end up with The Darkling was seriously not excelling at reading comprehension ;) I mean, he wasn't a good fit for her at all! He was a fantastic villain though. I know some people didn't like the um.. convenient part of the ending but I didn't even care. I was just happy with how it all turned out!
    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Meh, I didn't find the ending convenient, because I felt it was leading up to that this whole time. And also, I just loved how everything came together and ended so there was nothing else she could have done that I would have liked more. I thought Ruin and Rising was just so PERFECT. :D

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