Title: Ruin and Rising (Grisha Trilogy #3)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy
Synopsis: 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.
Final Rating: ★★★★☆
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I’m going to be honest here. I loved the first book, and I was disappointed with the second book. The only reason I gave it a high rating was because the Darkling makes up for just about everything. I mean, I love the Darkling. I just do. But this one blew my mind. Bardugo took a risk with ending it the way I did, because I’m sure she knew where the hearts of her readers lay. Even though I didn’t particularly want the series to end the way it did, I can’t complain, because everything was so well-done. I found myself bawling through most of the last pages- bawling for things I never thought I’d weep so hard for. Bardugo has a gift with words. She has a gift with building worlds and constructing a realistic yet gripping story. She has fast become one of my favorite writers, and this trilogy has fast become one of my favorites, full stop.
Okay, so the last book left off at a very delicate point. Some things too place that I had never expected to take place. Certain relationships developed and prospered, others fell and crumbled away. A rebellion is in its full spirits, and the Darkling is now the ruler of Ravka with a powerful army of Grisha and literal darkness. Not to mention that our main character and our antagonist have a strange “connection” going on, meaning they can spirit travel to each other.
I was gripped with the plot. I was turning the pages like I would die if I didn’t finish it. This is a 412 book that I finished in one day. One day. That’s a huge accomplishment for me- it was just that intriguing and fast-paced. A lot happens in this book. We lose a lot of people, some solid characters, others that were just there. But Bardugo did manage to portray the realities of war- you lose people along the way. That’s just how it is, and I was happy that she had the ability to kill off certain characters.
There’s a plot twist in this. Oh yes, it’s a big plot twist, and it’s one that I did not see coming. It changes the dynamics of everything- literally turns them 180 degrees.
I really enjoyed certain parts, especially the ones involving the Darkling (yeah, no surprise there.) I think he’s one of the best antagonists ever constructed, but more on that later. I especially enjoyed how we have three people interested in Alina: Mal, Nikolai and the Darkling. Nikolai wants her because of her power, and her status symbol. He genuinely likes her, but isn’t necessarily in love with her (that’s what I thought.) The Darkling wants her for her power, and because she’s the only person in the world like him in the slightest. And Mal wants her… well, he just wants her because he’s in love with her for who she is. Usually, love triangles (quadrilaterals?) annoy me, but in this one, it really facilitated the plot.
Okay, so let’s talk about that ending. I know a lot of people gave this book one or two stars solely because it didn’t end the way they wanted it to end. But I thought that the ending was perfect. It was emotional and realistic.
(SPOILER HERE DON’T READ THIS I REPEAT DON’T READ THIS. UNLESS YOU’VE READ THE BOOK OF COURSE, THEN MARCH ON.) So, Alina never wanted her glory. More than several times, she has admitted to herself and others around her that she wants to go back to being someone ordinary, someone who blends in. She is in love with Mal, and they make each other happy. If Alina didn’t get the all-powerful end, and got a humble ending with comfort and happiness, I think that’s the best thing that could have happened. And with people talking about how the Darkling didn’t deserve what he got- well, what did you expect? He was the “villain” and he did some terrible things. Karma gets you. Although, I do think that he was never fully evil, if he was even a little evil. Like I said, I loved him, and I think he’s one of the greatest characters ever constructed. (OKAY, THE SPOILERS END HERE.)
I didn’t know how I felt about Alina in this one. Towards the beginning, I didn’t like her much because I thought she was slightly obnoxious, that the power and status was getting to her head. But as the book progressed, I started to think that that was done on purpose. Her growth as a character, and her ability to do what was right, even if it was the most difficult thing she had to do, really inspired me.
I was very meh about Mal in the first two books. I thought he was more of a prop than anything else, but I was completely taken aback by how much I loved him in this book. His tendency to protect the woman he loves by doing anything and everything he had to. His loyalty, his pure love, his humble nature, everything was perfectly done. I really admired watching him grow from a jealous boy to a mature man who saw things from multiple angles. I know a lot of people disagree with me, but he was perhaps my second favorite character in the entire series, just because of this last installment.
Nikolai Lantsov was snarky and fun. He made me laugh multiple times, and I really loved his character, but I’ve seen a lot of characters like him in a lot of novels, so it wasn’t especially inspiring.
Okay, now let’s talk about the Darkling.
The Darkling. By far one of the most complex, intriguing, fascinating, bad-ass characters ever written. I think I read somewhere that if you read this trilogy from the Darkling’s POV, he wouldn’t be the villain, and I completely agree. Several moments in the previous books – and this book – point at redemption for the Darkling. We see fleeting hints of humanity under his hard exterior- his genuine love for his mother, his loneliness, his sorrow, his grief. And I don’t want to run away from this dangerous, dangerous man- I just want to hold him and tell him a good fairytale. He is, by far, one of my favorite characters ever written.
Bardugo writes with finesse. Her writing’s not cliché, and her use of language and imagery is perfection. I love the world she’s built. I love the depth to her characters. Moreover, I really love how there are a lot of characters in the novel, but she gives all the secondary characters balanced slots. She doesn’t bog you down with dialogue upon dialogue. She knows how to balance it all out, so it feels like a book, not a screenplay. I think Bardugo’s a fantastic writer. I’ll find myself reading anything else she puts out, because I was very, very impressed.
Would I recommend? Definitely. This is an awesome series.
Would I re-read? Yes, because the Darkling is my bby.