Series: The Grisha #3
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on June 17th, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Young Adult
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.
I finally did it! I’ve had Ruin and Rising on my bookshelf for ages – since its publication day, actually – but I kept putting off reading it for some reason. I think I was scared that I would be let down. But no. Though there are some things that I would maybe have liked differently, Ruin and Rising is a solid ending to what I believe is a truly excellent YA fantasy series.
Right away, what struck me upon reading Ruin and Rising was how gorgeous Leigh Bardugo’s writing is. I’ve been reading a lot of fantasy lately – in a row, even – but this was just miles better than the rest. Her world building is so beautiful, her descriptions are excellent, and I was sucked into Alina’s story again in no time.
Now, I will say that it’s been ages since I read Siege and Storm, and I feel like this both helped and hindered me. It helped in the sense that I could let go of some prejudices – primarily against Mal. If you read my review of Siege and Storm, you may notice that I kind of started a petition to have him killed off *cough* I feel like Mal was so much better in this one. Previously he’d been distant and jealous and moody, and that to me is never a turn on. Now he was actually loyal and self-sacrificing, and he even had some bantery moments with Alina. Had this happened earlier, I wouldn’t have been so dismissive of Mal. I still feel like Sturmhond/Nikolai is way better, but Mal did redeem himself for me.
Now, that romance.. Yeah. I can’t spoil it. But it was pretty much the predictable, expected ending. But it ties in well with the plot. Things come to a head in Ruin and Rising, and obviously Alina finishes her quest for the amplifiers and has to face the Darkling. Now, if you think about who Alina is as a person, and what her “Sainthood” would mean for the rest of her life, the ending is perfect for her. It makes complete sense, and it is truly well-constructed. And enough people die in this book that I wouldn’t call it a cookie cutter happy ending, but there’s still one cliché as fuck thing that bothers me. View Spoiler »Mal coming back to life. That was just so cliché. AND I TOTALLY CALLED IT ON HIM BEING THE FIREBIRD. I had told this theory to a couple people, and I’m delighted to know that I was completely right. But that did imply that he had to die. And now I feel like it creates a mini plot hole – why did he get to live while the other creatures died to become amplifiers? Yeah, he had “another life wrapped around his” or whatever, but it just sounds like a weak excuse to not leave Alina alone. And I don’t completely get how Morozova made him into the Firebird (or, well, amplifier) and also the creatures. How does merzost tie into making amplifiers? I’m just a bit confused. « Hide Spoiler
The secondary characters in Ruin and Rising were also really strong. This is where I think not having re-read the first two books hindered me though – because I couldn’t remember them at all beforehand. I can’t remember if they played a big part at all earlier in the story, which means that maybe it’s a bit weird how close all these characters are now. But there are some really strong side ships, and I really liked the team feeling – the loyalty, bravery, and devotion to the cause. I want to do a series re-read at some point, because the secondary character feels might just kill me then. (Yes, I like being butchered by feels – don’t you?)
The only thing that let me down a little bit though is the Darkling. Previously, I loved him, and maybe my time away from him has kind of warped my memory, but I felt like in this book he just reverted to being a one-dimensional villain. I completely lost all understanding for him, so even when they tried to paint slightly redeemable or understandable sides to him I just cringed. In the first book, he was probably the most interesting character, but I feel like somewhere down the road, he was left in the dust. Also, how Alina’s light magic can make people invisible? Yeah, I’m not completely buying that.