Curse of the Middle Child – or – Why the Second Book Never Quite Works
Trilogies are tricky. Not only do you have to deal with a reader who loved your first book enough to buy your second – probably with a whole bunch of ridiculously high expectations. You also have to set the stage for third book, the grand finale. So essentially second books have to struggle through this limbo where they are never as exciting as the first book and never as suspense as the third.
Considering this trilogy trap barely any series can fully escape, Siege and Storm did a really good job. The new characters are good for the story. I found myself thinking more than once that I would love to hear the story about the twins and Stormhond finally gave me the hero figure I’ve been waiting for in book one. Which kind of prooved to me once again that everything gets better with pirates. Sorry, privateers. With the Hummingbird, the Grisha Trilogy took a step into the steampunk direction which I personally loved and all in all the cast of the book was a lot more balanced than in the first book. But the weakness of the narration piled up with the weakness of almost every second book of the trilogy and to be completely honest, I’m happy I finished Siege and Storm and I can move on to the third book.
When You Just Can’t Love the Hero
My biggest concern with the story is Mal. And once again I have the feeling that this has less to do with the character itself than with the pacing of the book. Because the tracker has character traits I love and admire in other books and in the beginning of Siege and Storm it looked like I finally found my way to him when the big falling out happened and he slipped between my fingers again. This wouldn’t be too bad. For once the hero of the story is really just a sidekick because Alina plays a far bigger role and I’m grateful I was able to bond with her. I don’t think I could have made it through the story otherwise.
But when your main character is torn between her thirst for power and her love and you simply can’t connect to the latter, then you drift towards a point of view that twists the story into a different direction.
And Once Again – The Darkling
To be fair, it is possible that the love for Mal isn’t too relatable for a reason. After all, the reader is supposed to follow Alina and understand her in her journey. That includes the feelings she has for Darkling. If we were as deeply in love with Mal as Alina is, we wouldn’t understand the constant pull to the Darkling. But the way the story is set, we do.
And sadly, once again, the Darkness is the best part of the trilogy. He has the kind of vibe that’s sadly been missing from vampire novels lately. The tempting evil. I’ve always had the opinion that you’re either a werewolf person or a vampire person depending on what shade of fear you paint your nightmares with. I just really love villains who are obviously evil but still unable to resist. The Darkling fits that trope perfectly and maybe better than any other character I’ve ever encountered.
On top of that, he’s deeply twisted, very scary and his creatures gave me nightmares. Literally. It’s that kind of style that still makes me enjoy these books a lot. There’s a darkness and a mystery behind it all that I want to uncover. It keeps the whole story afloat and it makes me look forward to book three. The Darkling is part of that mystery, the amplifiers of course and weirdly enough the question whether or not Mal has special abilities as well. That part keeps me a little on my toes to be honest and I really hope that Alina’s favorite tracker gets a tiny bit more stage time in book three. I really want to fall in love with him if only the story will let me.
Siege and Storm has similar strengths and weaknesses than the first book. The story isn’t as strong, but that’s almost a given in a trilogy. A more fleshed out and more balanced cast makes up for it. All in all it’s the heroine that makes me enjoy the Grisha Trilogy this much even when I can’t help but think that there’s just this tiny step missing to turn these books from a solid fantasy story into the perfect fantasy adventure I’m still waiting for.