Alina faces two major struggles in the novel: preparing for battle against the Darkling, and paradoxically wielding a power that derives from him without becoming like him. Both conflicts shape the plot and eventually come to a head in the novel’s inconclusive ending. The Darkling poses a physical danger to Alina as he pursues and attacks her, yet the two remain magically bound throughout the novel because of the nichevo’ya bite on Alina’s shoulder, which aches, burns, and itches as the Darkling solidifies his hold over her. His presence simmers underneath the narrative action, propelling Alina forward in her political and strategic maneuvers with Nikolai and others. The lingering threat that the Darkling might invade Ravka at any time is the impetus for Alina and Nikolai’s strategic decisions, the army’s training sessions, and Alina’s hallucinations. These hallucinations further connect Alina’s conflict with the Darkling to the growing conflict within herself.  


As a subset of these two conflicts, Alina struggles to either shed or embrace her outcast status. The threat posed by the Darkling forces her to embrace her power and responsibility as the Sun Summoner, but embracing that power leads her to want more of it because she enjoys the way it feels, even when its results are cruel. This struggle begins upon Alina’s first use of the second amplifier, at which point she becomes an object of awe to Mal, Nikolai, and the crew of the Volkvolny. She realizes then that not only is she different, but that difference is a destiny she might learn to embrace. Unfortunately, that realization arouses a desire in her for more, in part so she can more fully self-actualize, but also so she can feel the thrill of a greater power.  

Helping her through this transitional stage is Nikolai. When the two reach Ravka, Alina sees Sturmhond transform into Nikolai Lantsov as rapidly as she transformed into the Sun Summoner, giving her some sense of the shock her transformation must have impressed on others. He allows her to negotiate with him as an equal while teaching her how to act with greater authority. In Kribirsk, Alina accepts responsibility for her past actions, and along the Vy, she is humbled by the pilgrims and their devotion to her “sainthood.” Still, she stumbles. She is tyrannical with the Grisha and allows herself to be sidetracked by Baghra and by her quest for the firebird. She is easily frustrated by Vasily and his diplomatic negotiations. But most importantly, she first allows Mal to distract her from her responsibilities before lying to him and ultimately rejecting him altogether in favor of her own power and destiny. 

This conflict and its attendant struggles proceed through a narrative pattern that Alina repeats many times. Alina, feeling like an outcast, seeks acceptance and power, but then uses these to destructive ends. Siege and Storm begins as Alina is on the run from the Darkling. She enters Novyi Zem as a nobody, covering up her physical body in an attempt to shrink into invisibility. The effort is doomed to failure, and she is quickly recaptured, brutalized, and imprisoned by the Darkling. She finds an ally in Nikolai, who threatens the Darkling and his lackeys when they try to harm her. Through his help, she binds herself to the second amplifier and realizes its power, which gives her confidence and a new understanding of who she might become. She is seduced by the idea of being the Sun Summoner with three amplifiers who destroys the Darkling and his power over her and Ravka forever. Thus, she seeks out more power in the form of the firebird.  


This pattern plays out again when Alina lands in Ravka. She must gain acceptance from the people along the Vy, when she arrives at the Little Palace and must take command of the Second Army. When she and Mal become distant, she must prioritize her destiny over their happiness. When she lacks confidence or feels alone, Alina relies on another more powerful person to give her confidence—often Nikolai, but sometimes Baghra, the Apparat, or Tamar. She continues to grow in political power and self-confidence, and each new step leaves her hungry for more and increasingly alienated from Mal. If Alina cannot find a way to break this cycle, she must learn to use it to her advantage, by more carefully selecting either her mentors or her power source. 


The Darkling brings these twin conflicts together in the final battle in Os Alta, forcing Alina into a direct confrontation with herself and him. From the moment the attack begins in the Grand Hall, Alina’s safeguards are quickly stripped from her—Nikolai’s first responsibility is to his parents, the mirrors survive for merely one attack, and when the Grisha regroup under the Golden Dome, their ranks are much diminished with only one grenatki as their remaining ammunition. They are bolstered by the pilgrim army while they attempt to flee, but they are no match for the Darkling and his nichevo’ya. Once they arrive in the chapel, Alina can only fight or escape. Goaded by the Darkling’s seductive power, but more importantly by compassion for Genya and the others he will inevitably destroy, she joins her power with the Darkling’s, hoping to destroy them both. Her self-destructive choice offers no resolution but sets the stage for the third book.