by Leigh Bardugo
Plot Summary: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. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. 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.
Review:I read Shadow and Bone a few months ago, so I thankfully didn't have to wait too long for the awesome sequel to that awesome book. With the great characters introduced in the first book - well-rounded, idiosyncratic, and believable - there are even more stand out characters in this book! Sturmhond, Tolya and Tamar are especially near and dear to my heart and introducing such unique personalities gave so much dimension to the story. And even more dimension was added through the expanded world-building. More was revealed of Ravka, through the land, the people, the religion, and their politics. The political jockeying especially plays an important role in the decisions of the main characters making the story much more complex. Because everyone has hard decisions to make and good and bad is never clear-cut or easy to judge.
Alina and Mal's story was just as touching and romantic as in Shadow and Bone but of course not easy, and the way the author develops their relationship - with such realistic reactions to the issues and problems they are facing - I thought the author's take on their evolving relationship was so astute and believable. And there was certainly a lot of fodder for the Darkling fans (raises hand) - he is just as mysterious and ambiguous in his motivations. And he's more dangerous, more seductive, and yet understanding, capable and intelligent. Is he really so bad? (I hope not!) It definitely seems much more complex than that.
What I think is the best part of this second book is that it is so unpredictable. There are so many unexpected twists and turns and more importantly the author is not afraid to give her characters some very difficult experiences. No one is safe or completely trustworthy and it makes this novel that much more meaningful and engaging and just a rapturous delight of storytelling.