Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Title & Author: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Release Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Series Details: Trilogy (Book 3)
Description: “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.”
Girl. Orphan. Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Ruination. Girl.
It’s been three days since I finished this immersive series, and I’m still not quite sure how to translate my conflicting opinions into words.
Part of me feels that had I read this series as intended – over years, anxiously waiting for all the books to be published – I might feel differently. However, due to the fact that I was late to the Grisha party, I only spent 2 weeks in the world of Ravka; although to Bardugo’s credit, it felt like I’ve lived there for years.
Brimming with merzost and fantasy elements, Ravka, lifted from the pages and felt almost tangible. The world, its history, the characters all envelop you “so suddenly, you barely have time to react.” With that kind of attachment and with loyalties divided, it’s hard to imagine any ending that would sit right within the fandom. And despite one issue (see spoiler #3 below), I do feel Bardugo provided the most logical and necessary ending to this turbulent saga.
By far the most action-packed and emotional installment of the trilogy, Ruin and Rising opens with Alina finding herself powerless and severely weakened after her near-fatal standoff with the Darkling at the end of Siege and Storm. Forced underground and kept under constant surveillance, she finds herself a puppet – yet again – in a new master’s game. Fueled by the desire to break free and aided by her quirky band of followers, Alina is soon reunited with her summoning abilities and finally starts to show off some of that feisty Saint spirit. After issuing some threats and laying down the law, the group begins their hunt for the firebird and a means to end the wars in Ravka for good. Of course hijinks ensue, plans are foiled, secrets are revealed, and lives are lost. And whether it turned out like you’d hoped or not, you actually care.
That’s been my favorite discovery throughout this series: that depending on the chapter, I can actually understand and relate to the characters – good, bad, major or minor. Bardugo’s scenes are so convincing that you find yourself rooting for Alina and an infinite numbers of fates. You can understand how she could reign with the quick-witted and “damnably handsome” Nikolai. You can understand how she’d want to bow out (à la Buffy style) and live peacefully with her childhood pal, Mal. You can even understand how she could want to spend eternity with the manipulative and divisive Darkling. My personal fave, however, is that she’s tell them all to vacate because Ravka’s clearly in need of some #GirlBoss. Oh, well…
Personal feelings aside, this series sparked debate/discussion (something I’m personally always looking for in reading material) and created one of the most compelling characters I’ve encountered in recent memory: the Darkling. Very rarely, in reality or fiction, are we presented with a villain that can commit such atrocities and still evoke sympathy for his actions. For that, and for that alone, I feel this series is worth your investment.
P.S. My 5 leftover/ranty/and SUPER SPOILERY feelings are below:
1. Nikolai your cheeky remarks have left an impression and you “remain in my heart.”
2. Alina losing her powers and transferring them to all the regular folk out there seemed very reminiscent of the ending of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I feel the same about that as I do about this. You want this strong heroine you’ve looked up to for ages to stay that way, but you also get why she’d want to take a break and has earned the right to live a regular life.
3. I’m on record as not being on Team Mal, but that doesn’t sway my opinion on this: he should have died. Don’t get me wrong, I was sad in that moment. I didn’t think I would be, but I was. However, if the lesson is about sacrifice/the burden of using magic/etc then that should have been the outcome. Does it suck? Yes. But that was the price they paid to defeat the Darkling and close the Fold. However, I understand that had Bardugo left Alina “mate-less” all hell would have broken loose, so I get it. Kind of.
4. There’s rumors that the Darkling isn’t really dead. Despite everything I’ve said previously, I hope that’s true because after everything he deserved a better death.
5. This probably should have just been my review. Lol. Thanks for reading!<3