Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh BardugoRuin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #3
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on June 17, 2014
Pages: 422
Format: Hardcover
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The capital has fallen.

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.

Warning: This is a hard book to review without spoilers, because it’s the last book in a trilogy and so much happened. I tried not to out-right spoil anything, but I definitely alluded to certain spoilers. So if you haven’t read all three books, I suggest waiting to read this review!


Ruin and Rising was one giant rollercoaster of emotions! There were so many revelations and plot twists, I actually feel exhausted from reading this book. After the cliffhanger in Siege and Storm, I was anxious to see what happened next. Though I’m still not sure how I feel about the ending, this book was definitely INSANE and this trilogy is still one of my absolute favorites of all time!

It was very frustrating to see Alina so weak in the beginning of Ruin and Rising, whether it be real or exaggerated, for the eyes of the Apparat. I’m so used to her being strong, bad-ass and take-charge – it was SO hard to see her with her tail between her legs, putting on sweet smiles and motherly tones to appease him and make him think she was his good little lap dog saint. It made me want to throw up a little, actually. The weakness act didn’t last long, thank goodness, and Alina really put the Apparat in his place!

Alina was her usual bad-ass self for the remainder of the book. She didn’t have much character growth in Ruin and Rising, but she’s grown so much throughout the entire trilogy, I don’t mind that the level of growth dropped a bit in the final book. Looking back to where she started in Shadow and Bone and where she ended in Ruin and Rising, Alina has kind of gone full circle. I’m not sure how I feel about the way her story ended, though. I don’t like what she lost and I was hoping she would end up with someone else. But I’m satisfied with her overall journey from beginning to end.

I still think Mal is completely in the friend zone. I still only mildly like him. I grudgingly admit he was slightly better in this book than he was in the last two. I also think he was completely robbed of an epic ending. He sacrificed SO MUCH and then it felt like his sacrifice was.. For nothing. Taken away. I think his sacrifice should have been permanent and honored. I’m not saying I didn’t want him in Alina’s life, but what he did was noble and then it was, essentially, dismissed. And it made his willingness to sacrifice so much feel.. cheap (for lack of a better word).

I still can’t wrap my head around the idea of shipping Alina and the Darkling. The Darkling was the villain, the bad guy. He did HORRIBLE things. But at the same time, I saw a different side of him in this book. He genuinely believes what he’s doing is for the greater good. He truly wants to bring peace. In his own way, he really does love Alina and truly wants to rule beside her. His desires might be borne of evil and power hungry-ness, but he does want these things and wholeheartedly believes he’s doing what’s best to achieve his goals. That made him an incredibly frightening villain and an epically intriguing character. I was BEYOND SHOCKED by the way his story ended. Also, shockingly, I was very saddened by the way his story ended. I didn’t expect it and it felt like such a… human way for his story to end, when he was much greater than a simple human. He was an ancient, immortal man who deserved to go out like a firework, not a firecracker.

Nikolai definitely got the short end of the stick in this book. He was my absolute favorite of the guys and my heart broke for him. I wanted so much more for him and his story and it just didn’t happen. Plus there wasn’t nearly enough of him in the second half of the book for my satisfaction! I can’t say much without spoilers, though, so… Moving on!

There were so many epic, wonderful characters in this book – and throughout the entire trilogy. It’s impossible to discuss them all, but major hearts and feels go out to Genya, Tamar, Tolya, Zoya, Nadia, David, Baghra, Ruby, Fedyor, Botkin and anyone else I’m forgetting. These characters are so real and beloved, they’re like family at this point. I’m happy when they’re happy and I’m sad when they’re hurting. I rooted for all of them, even the ones I didn’t like or the ones who didn’t deserve to be rooted for.

There were also many, many shocking deaths in this book and many of them broke my heart. I can’t discuss them without spoilers, obviously, so I’ll just silently mourn them all.

As far as pacing goes, the first 119 pages were a bit cumbersome and filler-ish. There were some important revelations and things that had to be taken care of/dealt with, so I get it. The rest of the book flew by fairly quickly with a more even pacing. There were a few points when the pacing lulled a bit, but it always picked up again fairly quickly. The middle of the book (from roughly 237-338, depending on what edition of the book you have) was epic, intense and insane. The number of revelations, plot twists and feels in this section made my heart hurt! I actually had to put the book down and stop reading for the night, to give myself a chance to recover.

But then those last 79 pages? JUST AS FEELS-INDUCING! Seriously, I don’t think I can discuss anything that happened in those last 79 pages AT ALL because SO MANY SPOILERS. And honestly, I don’t even know if I could find the words to describe the epic and awesome and heartbreak and feels. So I’m just not even going to try. Just read this book! Read this trilogy! See for yourself how crazy it is! Then you’ll get why I can’t put it into words.

I’ve never been more conflicted over a book’s ending – or a trilogy’s ending – than I am with Ruin and Rising. I’m a little disappointed, but at the same time, it feels…. Right. Like it couldn’t have ended any other way, though I certainly have ideas/thoughts of how I wish it had ended. For better or worse, though, this is definitely an ending I’ll remember for a long time and ponder over for a long time.

Overall, this trilogy was amazing and one of my absolute favorites of all time! Leigh Bardugo is an epic writer and storyteller. Her world, her characters – they’re all so real and so beloved. I felt like I went on this incredible journey right along with them. Now, when people ask what my favorite fictional world is, I’ll have to say “Hogwarts… And Ravka!”


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