Siege and Storm (Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone))

Siege and Storm - Leigh Bardugo 4.5 stars.
The last time Alina Starkov saw the Darkling was when she left him for dead in The Unsea. But now he's back, and it seems as if he is stronger than ever before. Ravka is in danger of falling under his hold, and only Alina can stop him. With the help of some interesting characters, Alina returns to her beloved Ravka in an attempt to combat the Darkling's plans. But is she there to help her country, or herself? Who are her friends, and who are her enemies? Drawn even deeper into the Darkling's mind games, Alina is losing her grip on things - especially Mal. Will she be able to combat the Darkling? Or will she be lost to him forever?
I began my review for Shadow and Bone with this statement: "Wow. I don't even know where to begin." I feel the exact same way finishing Siege and Storm, which is why I am quoting it.
When I picked up this book, I was so excited (because everyone was telling me it was amazing, and I adored Shadow and Bone to the nth degree), and a little scared, too (because everyone was telling me that it was SO amazing, and that I DEFINITELY would not be disappointed, NO WAY).
Well, for the most part, the people were right. This book was amazing, and I wasn't disappointed.
But, I'm going to tell the truth here. It took me a while to get into it. The first 100 pages or so just did not grip me the way Shadow and Bone had. I was having to go back and re-read whole passages because I was not concentrating. And I did not like Siege and Storm more than Shadow and Bone, I do not believe it was as good. That being said, Siege and Storm is still a fantastic novel.
Okay, on to the nitty gritty.
MAL. WHAT ARE YOU DOING? I loved this boy in Shadow and Bone. He stole my heart, and ran away into the sunset with it. There was no getting it back. But it turned out there was a way. Because Mal just annoyed me in this book. Sure, there were cute moments, and I can tell he still loves Alina, but he was just messing around, screwing things up, and being a bit of an all 'round ass. Hopefully he will get his stuff together in Ruin and Rising. Or at least I hope he will. *fingers crossed*
Alina. Girl, what is wrong with you? Your head is all over the place. I'm lumping you in with Mal; the characters I was disappointed with in this novel. I felt like Alina was almost a completely different character in this book. I know that the amplifiers are supposed to have an effect on her, but surely she's strong enough to combat such effects. Or at least I thought she was. I still adored her to bits, but I was a but disappointed in her actions in Siege and Storm.
The Darkling. Oh, the Darkling. Why were you so absent in this novel? I love you, and I definitely needed more face time with you in this book. Maybe in Ruin and Rising - who knows (well someone knows, of course. I'm looking at you, Miss Bardugo!).
Nikolai. I just love him. How can Bardugo keep introducing these swoon-worthy male characters? My heart is doing flip-flops every three pages now! I just can't handle this kind of emotional turmoil.
Once again, I was in love with Bardugo's writing in this novel. I almost underlined a few passages (which I never, ever do). But some sentences were just so underline-worthy. Beautiful, seriously beautiful.
However, one part of The Grisha books that I do not like is the animal killing. I know it makes it adventurous and all, but being an animal lover, I kind of cringe every time they mention it. Do they have to kill beautiful mythical creatures in order to possess amplifiers? I just don't like it.
The ending was marvelous. I was reading the last hundred pages so quickly, and then all of a sudden I had finished the novel. I had to sit back and try and soak all of it in like a sponge. I needed time to process this book. This wonderful book.
Overall, I loved Siege and Storm. I devoured it in mere hours, and I am on my toes waiting for Ruin and Rising.