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!”


Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh BardugoSiege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #2
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on June 4, 2013
Pages: 435
Format: Hardcover
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Darkness never dies.

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. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. 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.

If you’re looking to create a list of books that suffer from Second Book Syndrome, then you need to look elsewhere because you’ll find none of that in Siege and Storm. If anything, Siege and Storm is even better than Shadow and Bone! The first chapter started off a little bit slow, but once the action began, it never let up. This sequel is incredible and intense, with amazing characters and epic plot twists – the stakes are high and the characters have so much more to lose.

Alina has changed SO MUCH since the beginning of Shadow and Bone! Her character growth was a bit stagnant throughout the beginning and middle of Siege and Storm, but then really picked up speed again during the last 100 pages. Honestly, I have a bit of a girl crush on Alina. She’s just completely epic and she’s come so far! Her revelations and plot twists at the end were insane! I’m BEYOND excited to see what happens next for her, especially after that EVIL cliffhanger!!!!

In Shadow and Bone, I didn’t ship Mal and Alina because he was a bit of a jerk to Alina. I also felt like he was completely in the friend zone. But in Siege and Storm, I just really couldn’t stand him at all. My deepest apologies to those who love him and who ship him and Alina, but he was SUCH a whiny brat, I seriously just wanted to slap him silly! He moped and got angry with Alina for not telling him things, but then when she tried to, he stalked off like a sullen kid. He had some okay moments in the beginning of the book, but the closer it got to the end, the more annoying he became. And then he did something that put him beyond redemption for me – though I’ve been told he DOES redeem himself in Ruin and Rising, so I guess I’ll see what happens…

I still don’t understand how anyone can ship the Darkling. He’s the villain! He’s evil! He’s the bad guy Alina has to defeat. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve fallen hard for the bad guys who seem beyond redemption before (*Cough*Damon*Cough*) But… I just don’t see any redemption in the Darkling’s future. He’s done a lot of terrible, heartless things and he’s incredibly power hungry. He’s in so deep, I just can’t see him giving up all of that and changing his ways. I have to admit, though, I love the way his story ended in Siege and Storm and I’m very intrigued to see what happens next for him in Ruin and Rising!

And then there’s Sturmhond…. Major heart-eye emoji! He’s so cocky and full of himself and his big reveal was epic beyond words! He’s charming and hilarious and not only do I adore him, but I 100% ship him and Alina! But the way his story ended… My heart is breaking with worry for him and I’m desperate to see how things go for him in Ruin and Rising! (Sorry for the vagueness and shortness.. Trying to avoid spoilers here!).

At some point, roughly 150-pages from the end, I started to feel like the pace was slowing down. But then I started to wonder if I was just anxious to see how it ended and to get to Ruin and Rising. And almost as soon as I thought the pacing was slowing, things picked up speed and became so intense, my heart was in my throat! There were some character deaths that shocked and saddened me – some more than others – and some revelations and plot twists that left me reeling!

As I’ve mentioned, the cliffhanger at the end of this book was super evil and super intense! I can’t even imagine how the people who read this right when it originally released felt – They finished it and had to wait an entire year to read Ruin and Rising! I finished Siege and Storm last night and I’m starting Ruin and Rising later today and I’m like O___O – and I’m only going a few hours without reading! I can’t imagine having to wait a year to see what happens next!

Seriously, Leigh Bardugo is a goddess and officially on my auto-buy list. She took her incredible world and her beloved characters and made them even more incredible and beloved. I regret that it took me so long to read this series and I’m loving it so much! I’m super pumped for Ruin and Rising – though I’m conflicted because, while I desperately want to see how it ends, I DO NOT want it to end! I’m already anticipating a major bookish hangover after Ruin and Rising! But it will be SO WORTH IT to see how this epic series ends!

If you couldn’t tell from my all my fangirling, this book was BEYOND epic and a MUST-READ! I HIGHLY recommend this trilogy (and I’m not even finished reading it)!


Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh BardugoShadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #1
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on June 5, 2012
Pages: 358
Format: Hardcover
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Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha . . . and the secrets of her heart.

Shadow and Bone is the first installment in Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy.

Everyone I know who has read this book/trilogy, loves it! I had no interest in reading it until the third book, Ruin and Rising, released. At that point, I figured I could add them to my TBR and then binge read all three. Still, it’s taken me another year since then to get to them – And I’m SO sorry I didn’t read this brilliant, wonderful series sooner! Shadow and Bone was epic beyond words! The world/world-building was beautiful and full of depth, the characters were realistic and likable and Leigh Bardugo’s writing was rich and gorgeous.

I love Alina. She’s so real and relatable and awesome. I love how she’s not perfect and her gift doesn’t come easy to her. I love how she defends herself and speaks her mind, even to people who could kill her with a snap of their fingers – even to the Darkling. I love how she’s both brave and vulnerable. I also loved her progress throughout the book. She struggled, slowly learning how to master her gift, getting a little bit better, day by day. I loved that it didn’t come easy to her. She had to work hard and fall a few times, but she got right back up each time.

She actually reminded me of Celaena from Throne of Glass. Both are strong, fierce, badass women. Both have identities/gifts they kept hidden. Both have the potential to change the world. The big difference is that Celaena was raised to be a badass assassin and, up until now, Alina was a regular girl who didn’t know she was special. But both are two of my all-time favorite female MC’s now!

I know Mal is the major love interest in this book, but I really just got the friend vibe from him. Also, he acted like a major jerk and I wanted to smack him for the way he spoke to Alina and the way he treated her. As much as I hate to admit it, though, he really redeemed himself as the book went on. By the end, I really liked him, but he still never felt like a potential love interest. I always felt like he and Alina were great friends and that’s all they should be. Maybe that will change as I get into the second book. But for now, I’m not convinced of their ship.

In the beginning, I was wary of the Darkling. He’s the bad guy you can’t help but swoon over, the one you hope ends up on the side of good, who realizes the error of his ways. Overall, the Darkling was an epic villain. He’s a master manipulator and it’s hard to tell when he’s being deceitful in order to get his way and when he’s being sincere – something that makes it easy to fall into his trap, to believe his lies and doubt his truths. It makes him very, very scary. The revelations regarding him and his background were insanely epic and completely blew my mind. But keeping them in mind, I can’t help but wonder how anyone could ship him and Alina – no offense to anyone who does! I still have two books to convince me otherwise! But his actions at the end of Shadow and Bone left much to be desired…

I really liked Genya in the beginning. She was kind and more authentic than most of the other characters we met. But her actions near the end had me doubting her authenticity. I hope we see more of her in the second book and I hope she redeems herself. The Apparat was creepy and I don’t trust him, but I have a feeling there’s more to him than we know.

There were a LOT of secondary and tertiary characters in this book. While I couldn’t possibly talk about them all, I want to say that I did really like a lot of them, even when they were getting on my nerves! They just made this whole world feel that much more real and authentic. Really, I just loved everything about this world – the magic, the rules, the history, all of it. The whole thing was breath-taking and wonderful. Ravka is definitely in my Top Ten Favorite Fictional Worlds!

The ending was epic and intense. I’m very excited to pick up the next book and see what happens next for our beloved characters. Leigh Bardugp is a gorgeous writer who will pull you into her world and make you fall for her characters. I highly, highly recommend this book for fans of fantasy and magic. If you loved Throne of Glass (and books like it), you’ll love Shadow and Bone!