Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Published by: Henry Holt and Company on June 17th, 2014
Find It: Goodreads
Rating: 4 Stars
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.
Revelations I didn’t see coming. Attacks I didn’t anticipate, setting Alina back in ways I would never have imagined. The ache of forbidden romances. Ruin and Rising was everything I could have hoped for in a series finale, and then some…almost.
I forgot how much I loved Alina! Spunky and arrogant, yet hesitant and self-conscious, Alina is exactly the kind of protagonist I love to read about. Not afraid to make the tough decisions, Alina was constantly at war with her heart, her head, and the power that threatened to consume her. I never questioned her motives, and while her path didn’t always lead her where you might expect, it always lead her to what made sense.
And Mal! FINALLY! Gone was the distant and moody boy from Siege and Storm, replaced with someone with purpose. Someone so sure of their destiny, that they stop taking everything so personal. That they consider that they might be playing a small part in something much bigger than themselves, or their wasted heart. And Mal was finally able to joke with Alina again, which reminded me why I loved him so much in Shadow and Bone.
Oh, and thank goodness for Nikolai. His wit, his charm, his ruggedly handsome good looks – a breath of fresh air during all the doom and gloom.
Be still my heart. How can someone so driven by their purpose, a purpose that has caused the deaths of countless individuals, be someone I am so drawn to? Learning about The Darkling’s past, figuring out how he had come to be the person he is today, only made me empathize with him more. And the moments he shared with Alina? My skin is on fire just thinking about their stolen time together.
Why waste my anger on you when the fault is mine? I should have anticipated another betrayal from you, one more mad grasp at some kind of childish ideal. But I seem to be a victim of my own wishes where you are concerned.” His expression hardened. “What have you come here for, Alina?”
I answered him honestly. “I wanted to see you.”
I caught the briefest glimpse of surprise before his face shuttered again. “There are two thrones on that dais. You could see me any time you liked.”
His ending is one of the reasons Ruin and Rising lost points for me. I don’t want to get into spoilers, so I’ll just say that I thought he deserved better. Something more poignant or memorable than the fate bestowed upon him.
I’m not going to speak to the over-arching plot of Ruin and Rising – it was fast-paced, emotional, and informative. If you enjoyed Shadow and Bone or Siege and Storm, you will enjoy Ruin and Rising for all the same reasons. I have questions about some of the mythology, specifically, how merzost could work in the ways described, but I digress.
Instead, I want to speak to the ending. The build-up to the final fight between Sun Summoner and Darkling was fantastic. The energy was palpable, as was the mix of anticipation and nervousness of those who chose to join her in the final fight. The loss of important secondary characters added another level to the atmosphere, one of personal vengeance for their wasted potential.
But the final fight? The moment the entire series had been leading up to? I found it to be a bit…lacklustre. It was over before I fully figured out what was going on; anti-climatic to the point of frustration. Coupled with the truth about the firebird and what felt like a cop-out to get an overly happy ending, to say I wasn’t impressed is an understatement.
My gripes with the ending aside, Ruin and Rising was a strong conclusion to a fantastic trilogy.