***Warning: SPOILERS for Shadow and Bone!***
After failing to kill the Darkling, Alina and her beloved Mal are on the run. They hope that by staying far away from Ravka, they can escape the Darkling’s wrath; unfortunately, however, he catches up with them almost immediately. Despite the Darkling’s growing power, he wants to bind Alina and her magic more closely to him by searching for a second amplifier, a legendary sea serpent. For this purpose, he hires the notorious pirate Sturmhond to sail them through the northern seas. Alina nearly despairs when the sea serpent is found and the second amplifier placed on her wrist, but she finds unexpected allies in Sturmhond and his crew. After escaping the Darkling’s clutches once again, Alina finds herself at the head of a fragmented Grisha army, whose job is to defend Ravka from a possible invasion. But will her tiny force be enough to withstand the Darkling’s might?
I think I enjoyed this book even more than Shadow and Bone, mostly because Alina is more sure of herself and more determined to take charge of her own destiny. I also absolutely loved Sturmhond! What can I say — I can’t resist a swashbuckling pirate with secrets! The plot twist involving his character was somewhat predictable for me, but I still enjoyed it, and I liked watching Alina react to a new set of problems and expectations. The addition of siblings Tolya and Tamar was also a lot of fun…I liked having more characters to care about than just Alina and Mal. Many second books in a trilogy suffer from “middle book syndrome,” but I think this one is a great read on its own, and it also sets up book three very nicely. Speaking of which, my review of Ruin and Rising is coming soon, after a brief detour or two!