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, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But 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. Quoted from Goodreads
First, let's talk about the action. The book starts off with a bang, and keeps going. The Darkling is more threatening, and Alina's power, as it stands now, won't come close to stopping him. That is only the beginning of the problems Alina faces. This leads us into all those twists I talked about. No one is what they seem, and everyone has expectations for her, whether saint or queen, the pressure on her keeps building as different factions, from the Darkling to the royals to religious zealots. It keeps you turning pages and crying for more at the end.
Oh, the ending. Not what I expected at all. Now I can't wait for the next book to see what happens. Parts of it broke me heart, but it also left me excited for the next book.
Then there's all the lovely boys that strive for Alina's heart, or at least her power. Of course I love Mal. He's sweet, loyal, and devoted. In contrast, the Darkling is just that: dark. He's creepy, seductive, and power-hungry with oddly perceptive insights to Alina's thoughts. Finally, we have a third rival for her attention, and he's rapidly becoming my favorite character. Honestly, while I still want Alina to end up with Mal (he's the only one who loves her just for her, not her power), I think Sturmhond might be my favorite character of the series so far.
What I also love about this novel is how Alina (and in may ways, her problems) have evolved. In the first book she was insecure. She was constantly reacting to things instead of taking control. She grows up a lot in this book. She becomes more comfortable with power of all kinds and starts to take control of her own life. The same goes for Mal. He was mostly Alina's childhood friend in the first book. His character really comes to life in this second one, which leads to their conflict. It's not the stupid, second book stand-by that forbids two lovers from being together just to extend the relationship to the third book, but real life issues, conflicting goals and desires, that they have to deal with.
Basically, I just thoroughly enjoyed this book. It has so many different conflicts and sources of tension, I could hardly put it down. Honestly, it's probably a phenomenal 4.5 stars for me. I've always loved fantasy, and this has been a very good year for it. So if you're looking for another fantastic series, you need to check this out. Now I just have to wait one more year for Ruins and Rising. It's going to be tough.