Review of SIEGE AND STORM, Book 2 of the GRISHA TRILOGY, By Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You just never know how the story is going to go. Of course, when you read the first book of a series, you naturally expect the second book to be about the same. However, you can’t always rely on that, because sometimes that’s not always the case.

I can’t say that this book generally follows the same pace as the first book, because for me, it doesn’t. That isn’t to say I didn’t like it, because as you can see by my rating, I did. But it is different, and to be honest, some people may not find the pacing to their liking.

There is still a good bit of action involved, however, there’s also a lot of internal turmoil with Alina and having to deal with the ramifications of the events of the first book, even when it comes to Mal, or especially when it comes to Mal. You find her to be very untrusting of anyone, including herself, as may be expected, and you may find it frustrating. I know I did.

Mal’s position in all this is also much different than when it was in the first book, and you learn more about it. I definitely felt for him, but I found him just as much in turmoil emotionally as Alina, even after reuniting with her at the end of Shadow and Bone.

There are some supporting characters that make a return in a way you didn’t expect and there are a few new characters that are quite likeable. Keep a watch out for Sturmhond. He is by far the most exciting new character in the book.

As with some second books, they tend to be more of a set-up for the third and final book of the series. This one serves its purpose as that, I believe, and in saying so, again it feels realistic in the pacing of the procession of events. That’s not to say it’s boring, because I was actually surprised at how fast I was able to read through the book.

The book is quite descriptive, but I don’t think that you could understand anything about the action-y parts of the book without the descriptive parts of the book, so I appreciated the pacing of it.

The hard part was wanting things to be good for these people and not seeing it fully realized. This book had my heart pumping and aching and tightening, and every so often, laughing with humor… but not as often as I would like. Yes, I am not ashamed to say tears were shed, even for people that I didn’t think I would shed tears for.

The hard part about having to complete it so fast is that I have to wait that much longer for Ruin and Rising to be released. *sigh* Waiting can be so torturous in itself.

Realistically, I’d give this book a 3.5 stars, so slightly less than Shadow and Bone, but still very good.

You can read my review of Shadow and Bone here.

MTV’s Hollywood Crush Gives Their Review on the SHADOW AND BONE Sequel, SIEGE AND STORM

seige_and_storm-cover-croppedI don’t really go to MTV’s Hollywood Crush for their book reviews.  Honestly, I don’t know how often they do book reviews because they seem to tend to focus on other forms of media, such as TV shows and/or movies.  So, I found it kind of interesting to say the least that they gave a book review on the Grisha trilogy’s book two.  Not that it isn’t appropriate, because obviously, this type of book does cater to the target audience that HC focuses on.  So, here goes what was said in the review:

When we left off, Alina had come into her own as the Sun Summoner—a unique, powerful grisha whose talents are coveted by many, but none moreso than the evil, seductive, ancient Darkling. And while she and her longtime friend Mal have escaped the kingdom and gone on the run, this is a trilogy, which means that her quest isn’t even close to over…nor is the threat that the Darkling poses if she falls into his hands. Oooooooooh.

Although it’s not quite as compelling and exciting as the first book—a second visit to Ravka exposes a certain lack of depth in the world building, and the romantic drama is ever-so-slightly hackneyed this time around—”Siege and Storm” still has all of the elements that made “Shadow and Bone” such a hit: a feisty heroine, complex characters and a light fantasy flavor that’s just otherworldly enough without requiring a full set of dedicated reference materials to keep track of the who, what, and where. (We love you, George R. R. Martin, but sometimes you go a little nuts.) And with Alina coming into her own as a grisha, it’s exciting to watch her begin to grapple with the questions of identity, responsibility and destiny that accompany her incredible power—especially when there’s an epic conclusion still to look forward to in book number three.

Okay, so it’s not the most glowing review, but they didn’t hate it and in fact are looking forward to finish this series off to a great end.  I try not to take too much stock on other readers’ reviews only because each person takes in what the book gives differently.  I’m definitely looking forward to it, and once I finish I will give my own review, so we’ll see if I feel the same way.  Who knows.  I might completely fall in love with book two more than book one.

“Siege and Storm” hits bookstores June 4.

via HollywoodCrush.

Leigh Bardugo’s SIEGE AND STORM Blog Tour Stop #12

On Leigh Bardugo‘s twelfth stop in her blog tour, she goes into detail about the power of research and the whole worldbuilding thing when coming to expanding the world of Ravka.

I have a love-hate relationship with research. When it comes to folk and fairytales, a well written history, or just about anything involving food, I can spend hours getting blissfully lost. While writing Shadow and Bone, I would spend the day reading, highlighting passages and taking notes as I went. Then I’d go back and turn those notes into lists: Food and holidays, names and language, religion and mythology, flora and fauna, clothing and customs. I enjoyed just about every minute of it. This is my favorite mode of research—I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for, I’m just looking.

But deadlines make that kind of browse-and-meander approach a luxury, and it gets even tougher when I know I need something specific for a particular scene or beat. Sometimes it’s an easy find. When Mal and Alina were hunting the stag in Tsibeya, I was looking for ways to bring the tundra to life around them and “fire lichen” practically jumped out of one of my field guides. But around the same place in the story, Mal points out a bird’s nest to Alina. It took me hours to decide which type of bird it should be. I needed to put the right bird on it: one that nested in trees and that could conceivably survive in this habitat. I also wanted the name to have beauty to it. I chose “sparrowhawk” and it was only later that a reader pointed out the connection to one of Ursula Le Guin’s characters from her Earthsea series. I still wonder if memories of him were floating around in my subconscious and guiding that small choice.

seige_and_storm-cover

When it came to Siege and Storm, I had to get into nautical research: schooners, whalers, privateering. Not surprisingly the research into privateers (essentially pirates with a license) was the most fun. I love reading about the American Revolution so I started with Patriot Pirates and George Washington’s Secret Navy.  Pirates & Patriots of the Revolution: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Colonial Seamanship was invaluable because of the clear diagrams of sails and knots, and the illustrations of everything from a ditty bag to a battle whistle.

Fiction was a great resource too—Moby Dick and particularly the Bloody Jack series. The latter was recommended during a fantastic panel at WorldCon back in 2011, and this brings me to the important point that books and articles don’t have to be your only resources when it comes to building a world. There are a lot of conventions out there that are geared towards writers. At that WorldCon alone, I attended panels on pirates and privateers, language building, and a talk by the absurdly charming and generally amazing Taylor Anderson on Victorian warfare. At a George R.R. Martin signing in Los Angeles, I met Davey Krieger, a fellow fan who happens to be a full-fledged pirate expert and who let me pick his brain when it came to logistics like moving between decks and boarding an enemy ship.

I’m also lucky in the fact that I seem to know a lot of smartypants people who know even more smartypants people. There’s a particular sea-going craft that appears in Siege and Storm that presented some engineering problems. So I took to Facebook with the request: I need to talk to someone with experience in… Well, I can’t tell you the specifics because it would amount to a spoiler. But I can say that, when it comes to world building, there seem to be two kinds of scientists:

Type 1.

Me: I have this idea—

Scientist: Impossible.

Me: But in my world—

Scientist: Impossible. (chortle) That’s just impossible. Let me tell you all the reasons why it’s impossible.

 

Type 2

Me: I have this idea—

Scientist: You mean like X?

Me: More like Y.

Scientist: Ooh, this reminds me of this and that and also this! Let me draw you some sketches!

Curiously enough, Type 1 scientists tend to bust out with things like, “Well, can’t you just magic something up?” Believe me, there are times I wish I could. But I think magic feels more real when it has limitations and the magical system I created for the Grisha Trilogy is bound by certain constraints for that very reason.

Not surprisingly, Type 2 scientists tend to be fans of gaming and speculative fiction. They seem to understand the balance of fact and fiction, and the pleasure of bending the rules without actually breaking them. I suspect they’re also more fun at parties.

With research, I use only a small fraction of everything I encounter, but I never know where another story idea might come from or what I might end up using in the future. I think the best thing you can do is keep all of the doors open, take notes, and remember that inspiration can come from anywhere. When I was around ten, I went on a class trip and we got to tour a tall ship. The guide handed around an onion and made each of us take a bite to demonstrate one of the ways sailors tried to prevent scurvy when there was no fresh citrus to be had at sea. I never forgot the taste of that onion, and many years later, that little detail wormed its way into the prologue of Siege and Storm.

(via twelfth blog tour stop: Birth of a New Witch)

Leigh Bardugo’s SIEGE AND STORM Blog Tour Stop #11

On Leigh Bardugo‘s eleventh stop in her blog tour, she gives her reasoning for and how the song “Winter Prayer” came about.  It’s a beautiful song that Leigh actually sung herself.  She did, after all, sing in a band in her pre-S&B days.

captainAutogursky

If you flip to the back of Shadow and Bone, you’ll see that my official bio claims I can sometimes be heard singing with my band, Captain Automatic. Unfortunately, it’s been a long while since we’ve rehearsed or played out at a club. This is a pic taken after one of my favorite shows we played at Safari Sam’s.

The club no longer exists, and since that photo was taken, two of the guys in it have become dads, one of them bought a house and started his own business. And the lady with the bad case of red-eye landed her dream job and wrote a fantasy trilogy.

>But I still miss music and I often find myself driving around making up songs. One of these became “Winter Prayer,” the song we released as part of the Siege and Storm pre-order campaign. Honestly, I was really scared to put it out there. But the song isn’t just something I made. It represents work from so many of my amazing friends, and I wanted to share it. So how did “Winter Prayer” go from me mumbling on my cell phone to an actual song?

1. The idea: I have a mind like a sieve. A sieve from a giant’s kitchen. So, when I get an idea—whether for a story or a song—I record it on my cell. A little over a year ago, I was trapped in traffic on the way back from dinner, playing around with a folk melody that was stuck in my head and thinking about a particular scene toward the end of Shadow and Bone. An idea for a lyric popped into my mind and I sang it into my phone. That became the first verse of the song and it never changed.

2. Though I’ve occasionally dabbled with bass, I have this problem wherein I don’t, y’know, practice. So I called up our lead guitarist (who can play something like twelve instruments) and I sang him the melody. He came over and I described the way I wanted the song to start slow, pick up speed, and wind back down all while keeping to this same repeated melody. We cobbled together a version of it on my upright piano and recorded it on my laptop.

3. The song didn’t feel like the right fit for Captain Automatic. I wanted a bigger, lusher, more orchestral feel. I reached out to my friend Aaron who is a composer and producer. (He and his wife had actually both been a part of the original Captain Automatic lineup.)  Once he was on board, I sent him the recording and a bunch of links to different musical references—everything from Florence + the Machine to Bulgarian folk songs. The first time he came back to me, the sound wasn’t quite right—too dirge-like, too dignified. I wanted something a little wilder, that felt like it could be sung around a campfire. On his next try, he got it just right. We went back and forth a few times, trying some different things with pacing and instrumentation, and had his wife Laura Recchi step in to record temporary vocals. “For me,” says Laura, “this song evokes a sense of place and imagery. I can see the snow, the light and shadows, and I feel the excitement and fear of the journey. I’m also a sucker for a good folk tune in a minor key.”

LauraAurora

Laura and her daughter Aurora rocking Tsarpunk style at the Shadow and Bone launch party. I look a little sinister. Like maybe I’m gonna steal that baby. Or her hat.

4. Once we had the basics down, Aaron brought in Richard Adkins on percussion. With the rhythm in place, it was time for me to do my part. We recorded at Aaron’s house and I have to admit it was stressful. I don’t have a lot of training and I’m keenly aware that I’m no Florence Welch. If I’m not flailing around on stage, I tend to get very self-conscious about my voice. But Laura and Aaron were endlessly patient and I got to record plenty of takes.

5. To fill out the sound, Aaron had his friend Daniel Fabiano improvise a part on violin, and Laura and her friend Belinda Wilkins became the choir. Yup, that’s just two ladies belting it out in Aaron’s living room. (They’re actually singing in Ravkan.)

Aaron emailed me the file and we went back and forth, playing with dynamics and ironing out some of the rough edges. Here’s what he had to say about the process:

“It’s always nice to work with someone who has a clear idea of what they are going for. All I had to do was fill in the ‘musical blanks,’ so to speak.

It also helped that Leigh and I used to perform together in a band, so I was familiar with her voice and her performance style. Although we tracked drums in a ‘real’ studio, we took the DIY approach of turning my living room into a mini soundstage to record marching/stomping, violins, and slavic choirs—all using the magic of multi-tracking. It was a lot of fun!”

For a while, I wasn’t sure what to do with the song so I just let it sit. Then I worked up the courage to send it to my agent and she passed it along to the publisher. A few weeks ago, my editor at Macmillan got in touch to ask if I’d be willing to have “Winter Prayer” used as part of the pre-order campaign. Like I said, it was scary to think about putting something this different out there, but I also hated the idea of just letting it molder. I spoke to Aaron and he suggested having a friend of his mix and master the track before we took it live.

7. Nik Freitas worked his magic at his studio, Poppy Peak:

“When I first got the recorded session of the song, I opened it up and scrolled down the screen and realized there were a lot more tracks than I thought! At first listen I could hear where the song wanted to go, I just needed to clear up some of the instrumentation with equalizer and put more emphasis on certain parts like the bass drum and lead vocal. Once that was sounding good sonically, the song’s emotional tone was more in focus and all the other instruments seemed to sit better and do what they needed to do in elevating all their parts. I’m really happy with how the song turned out.”

I like to think Nik is still trapped behind that piano.

We went back and forth a few times, but somehow, we all knew when the song was where we wanted it to be.

It can be easy to say we don’t have time for art or to do the things we love, that we’re simply too busy. But I believe my writing benefits when I take the time to be creative in other ways. Music has an immediacy to it that writing doesn’t. It’s there and then it’s gone and no two performances are ever alike. When I’m singing or playing, I’m not thinking about all the things I have to do or what is or isn’t working in a draft, I’m just in the moment. It’s less a distraction than a shift in focus, and sometimes it’s just where inspiration is hiding.
When I wrote “Winter Prayer” and recorded it, I really had no idea what I would use it for, if anything. But putting it together gave me a chance to make music and work with some of my wonderfully creative friends. No matter how crazy life gets, I never want to lose that.

(via ninth blog tour stop: Two Chicks on Books.  Enter to win a paperback copy of Shadow and Bone and a Hardcover copy of the upcoming Siege and Storm!)

Leigh Bardugo’s SIEGE AND STORM Blog Tour Stop #10

On Leigh Bardugo‘s tenth stop in her blog tour, there’s actually two book reviews involved in this, and from somewhat very different perspectives, but still, neither can deny that the story still attracts them to find out more about the story and what challenges face Alina as well as the supporting characters.

Here’s what Kate from The Book Monsters had to say on her final verdict:

Siege and Storm is a battle read, plain and simple. The line has been drawn in the sand. Alina and the Darkling fighting for what each believes in. And there may only be one winner at the end of the day. Who will it be? I don’t know. But I do know that Siege and Storm is one of the best sequels I have ever read. It is dark, crushing, gut renching, and so, so much more. I loved every moment of this read, and hate that I now have to wait so long for the next installment.

And here’s what Kristen had to say on her final verdict:

Slow at times, Siege and Storm felt a little too chunky and weighted down with a lot of down time and lack of action. I put this one down a lot when it got slow, but found myself drawn back into the story and not forgetting any moments even when taking a month to read it on and off. Definitely a series I will finish off.

Don’t forget to check out their site to enter the book giveaway!

(via ninth blog tour stop: The Book Monsters.  Enter to win a paperback copy of Shadow and Bone and a Hardcover copy of the upcoming Siege and Storm!)

REVIEW: Shadow and Bone (novel) by Leigh Bardugo

shadow-and-bone_lowresShadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading this. I knew it had Russian elements, but not much else. The funny thing is that I didn’t expect the style of writing to sound somewhat modern in how they spoke. I’m not sure if that was to make it easier for the readers to understand Alina Starkov or what, but it only took me a few pages to get used to.

As far as the story goes, I slowly became enveloped in this new and unique world of people with powers and unfamiliar words (I still don’t know the meanings of some of the foreign terms because I was too involved in the book to stop and find out what they meant – hopefully I’ll try and look them up soon enough, but I realize it’s a lot harder to “flip” through the pages of a ebook since I didn’t book mark them).

Alina is the protagonist and she’s an interesting character, because you see how shy she is how low her self-esteem is. Although you see the changes in her throughout the book and see her confidence grow, she still is vulnerable, which I think is something I can understand. It’s not easy to just change completely within a short amount of time, and what I mean by short is the several months this book goes through. I like this character, even if I was frustrated with her at times, wanting her to hurry up and be brave. But realistically, courage can sometimes take time to build.

The Darkling is a very interesting character indeed. You think you know the guy, and for the longest time I had a hard time picturing him looking like a normal handsome man. The title made him sound more than human, like some kind of magical creature in human form, but not really human. Yet, there are things you read and you have to assume that he’s human. It’s interesting how my thoughts about him changed from one thing to another and I wished that some things about him weren’t so, but it does make for really great storytelling and really original characters.

Mal, Alina’s best friend, is somewhat of an enigma for probably the first half of the book, but when he comes in, you realize how much he brings to the story, and you just want to hug him and protect him, and him to protect and take care of you and never, ever leave.

There are some really cool elements in here. There’s the Grisha (those with powers) with their awesomely sounding garments. Although they are different from regular people because of their powers, their characteristics most of the time run on very human emotions, so you’ll find you like some Grisha better than others.

The other supporting characters don’t bore me, either. They all interact with Alina in different ways that doesn’t read as repetitive and you get to see Alina learn from each of them in more ways than one at some point.

In the end, your mind will try and wonder who exactly to trust or who to like. You may even want to like someone even though that person may be bad, or vice versa.

The pace of the book isn’t exactly fast, as there’s only bits of action here and there, but it doesn’t dwell too much in descriptive details, only in the importants things. So, it didn’t feel too long for me at all. I was drawn into this place without knowing hardly anything about Russian folklore or terms. I guess that’s what made it feel original to me.

I’ll definitely continue with book 2 when it comes out later this year. And hopefully I’ll be wearing a kefta when I do! Just kidding…kind of.

View all my reviews here or just my book reviews at Goodreads.