My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Alina & Mal attempt to travel east to escape the Darkling, but he soon catches up to them & drags the pair back to Ravka. However, the dread pirate Sturmhond intervenes & steals the two away. How? With his personal army of rogue Grisha, the pirate can do anything, especially since he’s also a Ravkan prince. The group makes its way to the capital to prepare the court for war with the Darkling. Alina is torn between her newfound duty to protect her land & her fledgling love for Mal.
Alina’s conflict with herself is still unimpressive. She vacillates between being too awesome for Mal & being too subservient to him in order to keep him near her. But I can see how teen readers could identify with her struggle: should I be myself or the person I think everyone wants be to be. The introduction of Sturmhond AKA Prince Nikolai brings with him some cool plot elements, like the rogue Grisha & his Steampunk contraptions. Also, the development of the cult of the Sun Summoner & the book of saints leads the story back to its magical quest roots. There are some practical considerations that come up, such as how the original sorcerer was able to craft these one-of-a-kind items previously from magical creatures that have no mate or brood. But this is quickly hand-waved with how interwoven these beasties are with Ravkan folklore.
Again, I’m still intrigued by the world Bardugo has created–so many questions remain about the magic system, the other lands around Ravka, the relationship between the Darkling & Baghra, even if there have been others like my girl Genya. I probably won’t have all of these questions answered, but the Grisha world is lovely & I don’t mind the company of our onerous protagonist in order to spend more time there.