Title: Ruin and Rising
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: YA / Fantasy
Series: The Grisha Trilogy
Synopsis: The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for. (taken from Goodreads)
Darker than the first two books, Ruin and Rising is an amalgam of heartache, frustration, gloom, and odd sense of satisfaction. To put it simply: it was a confusing and emotional rollercoaster (in a good way, of course). Like a lot of people, I have mixed feelings. This book tore my heart, mended it, then tore it again in the most brutal way. But of course, I still had my issues.
Most of them actually had to do with pacing. Some had to do with how the book ended. Though I didn’t quite agree with the decisions made by Bardugo, admittedly, I was still pleased by how things wrapped up. On one hand, I feel like the ending was right. But on the other hand, I feel as though there could have been more to the story and to Alina’s arc. If that was what Bardugo was aiming for, then I applaud her for achieving her desired effect because I am equal parts frustrated and equal parts satisfied.
Again, none of it was bad enough to completely keep me from enjoying this series. However, I can understand why a lot of people seemed to be upset with this. So much build-up but with little reward. Best be warned: things may or may not go the way you want, and if you’re deeply invested in the book’s various ships, then you might need to have a bonfire at the ready, just in case (totally kidding, please don’t burn your books).
This portion of the review is a slightly more in-depth discussion of the book and will contain spoilers/rants/raves. Read at your own discretion.
Ruin and Rising is seriously such a good choice for the title because this book fucking ruined me. Of all the books in the series, this was the gloomiest. I thought the second book was dark, but this one was incredibly depressing to read. I lost count of how many times I cried.
I know a lot of people have complaints. Mostly, it was because they weren’t satisfied with who Alina ended up with. Then there were some who weren’t too happy about Alina losing her powers. I sort of agree with them. Like with Shadow and Bone, I bounced around from rating this either a three or a four. If I’m basing my rating solely off my emotions, it would actually be a five. But I did have a couple of problems… mainly with the pacing. The book starts off pretty slow, and though I was actually enjoying myself for the first few chapters, there were a couple of parts that kind of dragged.
Then there was also the repetitiveness in the way the novels are structured. We get brief moments of action bogged down by pages and pages of planning, reflection, and revelations on Alina’s part. In short, Alina gets captured, she escapes, discovers something, then gets captured again. I think like the problem is that there seems to be too much build up. I kept expecting something incredibly grand. Don’t get me wrong, I was perfectly fine with what we did get but yeah, I feel like Bardugo could have taken the story and the character arcs further.
The side characters were a complete delight and I’m glad they were able to take the spotlight, even for just a few brief moments. I’m gonna go talk about them first, then get into our main three.
Tamar and Nadia are gay. I repeat, Tamar and Nadia are gay. I was not expecting this but oh my god, I was so glad to see an F/F pairing in the book! Yes, they were minor. They only had about three scenes with each other but every damn time they had their little moments, I was squealing with glee. And the best thing about it is that the others didn’t even bat an eye! As far as representation goes, Bardugo has been one of the few YA authors (at least, one of the few popular authors whose books I’ve read) who makes an effort to include diversity (see: Six of Crows). I very rarely see any F/F rep in YA, so this was great! Leigh seriously needs to write a novella about them or something.
Harshaw and Oncat were fucking adorable but… what even happened to Oncat? We were never told and I need closure. Look. I own like a dozen cats and it personally bothers me that we never find out where the poor kitty ended up. I hope he’s dozing by the fire in a nice house and is all warm and is being fed properly.
Surprisingly, Zoya grew on me. She went from annoying to hilarious and completely sassy with all those sarcastic remarks. I absolutely loved how at the end of the day, she would still go out of her way to help her friends, no matter how conceited she acts in front of them. Also, she pretty much won me over with this one line:
“Maybe you’re hungry,” said Zoya. “I always get mean when I’m hungry.”
I have never related to a character so much. I’m the worst person when I’m hungry.
And let’s not forget that note she gave Alina at the end:
“You will always be one of us.”
Just thinking about it makes me tear up again. Yeah, Bardugo, go ahead and just keep squeezing at my heart until it shrivels up into a raisin. Never really needed it anyway.
You guys. I was so, so happy with the parts where the girls were all together. When they were in Alina’s room and picking out clothes? Then that little scene where they were leaning on each other for comfort? Those were exactly the kinds of scenes that I wanted. Girls sticking together and having each other’s backs. It was honestly so heartwarming, and I couldn’t stop grinning at their interactions. Friendships are just as important as romantic relationships. I was really, really glad to see all these badass ladies helping each other out and supporting each other.
Speaking of badass ladies, Genya’s arc was amazing! I had mixed feelings about Genya after Siege and Storm (I don’t take betrayals too well) but holy crap. The girl is cunning and talented and so fucking empowering!
“I am not ruined. I am ruination.”
I’m so fucking proud of how far she’s come. And at the end of the book, when Alina assigns her to lead the First Army? YES. My girl Genya kicking ass. Oh, and David is the absolute sweetest. I’m so glad that Genya has him for support (I miiiight be shipping them more than the actual main couple).
Nikolai, my precious child. I pretty much freaked out when he turned into one of the Darkling’s creatures. I knew he wasn’t going to die or anything but damn it, I was so worried. I think the main reason I was flipping through the second half at an inhuman speed was because I needed to know that Nikolai was safe and back to his normal, charming self. His scenes had me sobbing (the whole book, in general, got me insanely emotional). I said this in my review for Siege and Storm but I would seriously kill for a spin-off with nothing but Nikolai, Nikolai, and more Nikolai.
So let’s get to our main three!
Alina’s arc comes around full circle. I’m a bit conflicted, since on one hand I do understand her decisions and I respect them, but I also kind of wanted her to own her powers and be the badass Grisha she was or at least stay with the others in Os Alta. I feel like she could have done more if she stayed. Still, I get that’s where her story was meant to end. It’s clear that Bardugo had this planned from the beginning, and though how she wrapped things up was rather frustrating, it was actually sort of satisfying and refreshing as well. Usually, YA Fantasy tends to feature this chosen one who has this magical grand destiny and becomes a queen or whatever so it’s nice to find that one of them was merely destined to serve her purpose for a certain time, rather than be the ultimate savior.
Mal has grown so much. He’s still not my favorite character and I know a lot of people hate him, but his development was great and realistic. He came off as selfish and childish to me during the first two books but in this one, he’s finally matured. There were a couple of parts where I actually felt bad for him, like when he was excitedly rushing down the stairs to fetch Alina for the meteor shower, only to see that Nikolai was already with her. Poor boy.
Anyway, I really like how he changes his ways and finally accepts that things aren’t how they used to be. Yes, he was an ass, especially during the second book, but people make mistakes. And it was pretty clear that he simply needed time to come to terms with everything that was happening. It all happened so suddenly and I really couldn’t blame him. But he’s managed to come a really long way since the first book and I’m actually incredibly happy with how things turned out.
Oh boy. Yeah, I am not ready to talk about the Darkling, and I don’t think I’ll ever be. Nope. Just. Ugh.
So much pain.
His story was just so haunting and tragic. But you know what? I love that Bardugo didn’t redeem him. His arc ended perfectly. That said, I did feel like we didn’t get enough of the Darkling in this book, either. I would have loved to see more of what went on in his head and how his mind worked. Oh, and I definitely would have loved it if Bardugo delved a little deeper into his relationship with Baghra.
“Know that I loved you,” she said to the Darkling. “Know that it wasn’t enough.”
I did not sign up for all this heartache. I’m not kidding, real tears were leaking from my eyes. This scene. Goddamn it, this scene was so painful. Proof that the Darkling could still feel something, despite being portrayed as a cruel and heartless monster. His arc completely wrecked me, and I was bawling at that ending.
“For all his crimes, the Darkling had loved Ravka, and he’d wanted its love in return.”
Everything was wrapped up pretty nicely! All those little hints made sense and though that twist with Mal being the third amplifier was sort of predictable (I mean come on, the electrical shock was kind of a giveaway), I loved how everything was connected. It made the story feel more solid and well thought out. Suffice to say, the series managed to make it onto my favorites shelf!