Hmmmmmmm… head full, many thoughts. I once again read through Siege and Storm with the same manic ferocity as I did with Shadow and Bone, and I can assure you I’ve already begun Ruin and Rising… though I can’t quite put my finger on what is exactly pulling me into this series. I felt like the majority of this book dragged on up until the very end, when suddenly all hell broke loose. This might be a hot take, but I also wasn’t that much of a fan of Alina in this novel… it wasn’t like I disliked her, but she certainly didn’t do much for me as the main character. I really wanted to know more about everyone else in the story instead of hearing her sad thoughts. Personally, I felt like the book passed over parts that would have been intriguing, and the passage of time in the book was really only marked by interactions between Mal and Alina. Bleh.
Ok, I need to address the Darkling. I agree, his attitude got worse during this book and he was much less charming than before. During Shadow and Bone, I had a hard time making him out to be as villainous as he was supposed to be, so Leigh Bardugo definitely fooled me with his turn in character development. With that being said, I low key wish we could learn more about him and his past other than “bad guy”. Like I mentioned last time, I have always been drawn to the villains as much (if not more in certain circumstances… *cough* Darth Vader *cough*) than the protagonists. We know the good guys are fighting the good fight, but what spurs a villain? There’s just something alluring to me about their behavior, why they do the things they do, what lead them to making these awful decisions, what their end goal is. I think the bad guys are easier to write as well; there’s just so much weight to them. In my opinion, it’s infinitely easier to operate in a grey/black boundary than it is to constantly fight to do the “right” thing. Because you have no boundaries, right? The only times I really found Alina interesting was when she felt the call of power, yet the whole book she fought that call.
The character who took the Darkling’s spot as my favorite within the Grishaverse was Prince Nikolai. My preferred characters are those who ultimately want the right things, but they aren’t afraid to do bad things to get what they want… and I felt like Nikolai checked that box. It’s all about balance (says me, the libra). Once Nikolai revealed his true self to Mal and Alina, I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the book. He is hands down the best character in the series, with his wit, his questionable decisions, and his intelligence. Nikolai wasn’t afraid to do anything if it went towards the good of Ravka. I spent much of the book waiting for him to pop up again, even though Alina didn’t quite like his attitude sometimes. I am so stoked that we get more of him in the King of Scars series, because I actually smiled and laughed out loud every time he was present in the story.
Mal was annoying as all hell, once again making me wish he was killed off during the first book. He complained about Alina using her powers, he was afraid of her, and he hated everything about the Grisha and the Little Palace. Honestly, any scene with him in it felt wrong… if that makes sense. He constantly made Alina feel terrible, and I get it, he wasn’t made for the Little Palace in the same sense that she wasn’t made for his lifestyle. But that’s all the more reason he should have been killed off earlier… and yet here we are, with him still alive after he rescued Alina at the end. By the way, what the hell was that ending? I was a little upset at him for doing that, even if Alina was about to die. What if it was her destiny to die and wipe out the Darkling? Her powers cancel his out… so it would only make sense. Now she’s equally, if not more, trapped underground with the psycho Apparat… I don’t know how I feel about that.
Now that I’m almost done with it, I think this series is a really lukewarm, really YA series, if you know what I mean. There isn’t as much depth to the narrative as I would have liked… this book was mostly Alina pining after Mal, which felt tedious. At the risk of sounding hypocritical, it didn’t have the same magical quality as the first book did, and I felt like some parts to the narrative were glazed over. However, I understand that I can sit here and talk all day about how I wanted heavier characters and a twisting plot… but it won’t change anything about this very YA book. That’s what Six of Crows is for, am I right? So I digress, and move on to Ruin and Rising.