Book Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Posted March 12, 2015 by Debby in Book Reviews

Book Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh BardugoRuin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #3
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on June 17th, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 417
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased

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.

4 Stars

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 »

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.

Summing Up:

In spite of a couple of minor plot holes and plenty of clichés, I felt like Ruin and Rising was a fitting end to the series. Bardugo’s writing and world building are just awesome, her secondary characters and ships are amazing, and her story is incredibly well-constructed. While this is my least favorite book of the series, I heartily recommend it to all fantasy fans – and I hope to do a full series re-read sometime in the near future.

GIF it to me straight!

Recommended To:

Honestly, if you like YA fantasy at all, you need this series in your life.

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4 responses to “Book Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

  1. I’m very with you on a lot of this. I couldn’t remember anything but the main dynamics when I went into R&R, and so I couldn’t remember any of the secondary characters except for Genya.

    My Mal feelings are complicated. He didn’t redeem himself for me exactly, but he’s less awful in this book. THIS Mal is fine, but I sort of felt like Mal was completely different in each book, which would be fine if I saw him growing and changing. I just have no sense of who he actually is as a character.

    • Totally agree, Mal’s character development didn’t really have a natural transition. I bet it would have bothered me a lot more if I remembered the specifics of how boring and awful he was in the previous books. His banter was just nonexistent and his “love” always seemed too selfish and jealous and angry. BUT OH WELL. THIS MAL I can live with. Kind of. But still, give me Sturmhond.

  2. Nikolai is my favorite and I would have loved them together, honestly… but I do think Mal redeemed himself in this one too. He’s always been kind of whiny and annoying, even though I usually love the childhood best friend trope usually *COUGH GALE*

    I’m really happy with the ending despite being pretty confused about the powers and amplifiers. I kind of just let myself glaze over that part and enjoy everything lol whoops.. the plot holes were definitely THERE but I looove her writing so I let it slide.

    Great review 🙂

  3. It seemed that the Darkling did fall to the wayside. I didn’t feel frightened of him, like I did in the previous two books.

    For the romance ending, well, was anyone shocked? Even though the guy I wanted to become the love interest for the MC in the end, I think that there is someone better for second place guy. Alina was NOT a good match for him, and that was what kept me content when I finished, That #2 is going to find someone who will appreciate him and love him, and that makes my heart heal.

    I am so glad you liked this one. To be honest, I rated it high as well, because I loved how the ending tied together. I loved how the secondary characters strengthened the storyline and the overall theme was so nicely placed.

    I highly enjoyed it.