Spoiler warning! This is the second book in a trilogy. I will be unable to review the book without possibly giving away spoilers for the first book in the series, Shadow and Bone. Which is obviously the one you should start with if you’re interested in this series.
After the rather dramatic show-down with the Darkling at the end of the last book, Alina and Mal are on the run, trying to get as far away from Ravka as possible. Having to hide her Grisha powers and suppressing her abilities is making Alina frail and she feels constantly jealous of the attention Mal is getting from the women in the villages where they’re hiding. Unfortunately, the Darkling escaped their last show-down relatively unhurt, and when he catches up to them, he reveals that he has new and even more terrifying powers. He uses Alina and Mal’s affection towards one another to control both, threatening to hurt Alina if Mal doesn’t find the legendary sea serpent legends say is required for a second amplifier for Alina, while he promises to kill Mal instantly unless Alina agrees to cooperate with him.
Lucky for the continued welfare of both of them, Mal manages to track the sea serpent in the allotted week, and as Alina is both elated at the thought of how her powers will be further strengthened with a new amplifier and terrified at what the Darkling might make her do, she and Mal are rescued by unexpected and unlikely new allies, who want to take them back to Ravka. Now that they are aware of what new and horrible things the Darkling is able to unleash in his quest for world domination, their privateer saviour hopes to persuade Alina to take control of the what remains of the Second Army and the Grisha still loyal to the Crown. With her two amplifiers, she’s more powerful than ever, but she’s also not sure she’s up for the task she’s facing. She doubts her sanity, as the Darkling appears to her, though no one else appears to see him. She needs to prove her strength to the remaining Grisha, nobles and the royal family. Most of the populace revere her as a living saint and believe she can save them from anything. All the while, she seems to be losing Mal, just when she needs him the most.
My biggest complaint about Shadow and Bone was that I really didn’t like Alina very much. I frankly didn’t connect much with any of the three most central characters. This changed a bit in this book. Full review here.