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 Aline the very future she’s fighting for.
Ruin and Rising probably would have left a better impression on me if I had been able to stop thinking about all the things I wanted the book to do that it didn’t. But there were too many times when I thought, “Aha! This is going to happen! Cool!” and then that didn’t happen, and what did happen just didn’t seem as satisfying.
Yet, the book is still a good finish to a trilogy with which I am overall impressed. I love the world and its scope in the book, even when the characters don’t actually go anywhere, and I enjoyed the fact that I didn’t like Mal in the first book and ended up liking him in the last because of his development. I still think he’s a bit too “obvious love interest,” but the trilogy works well even with the obvious.
I also loved the way Bardugo dealt with the Darkling. There were so many times I thought I knew exactly what would happen between Alina and the Darkling, and I was wrong nearly every time. I think the very strong “Beauty and the Beast” feel of the first three-quarters of Shadow and Bone sort of affected my perception, and I’m glad that Bardugo didn’t do what I thought she would do with the Darkling. I was pleased with his end. Bardugo manages not only to instill sympathy in the reader with the Darkling, but also keeps him a villain deserving of a villain’s end. Alina felt and did all the right things about the Darkling in this book. It was great to have a book that realizes, “Yes, this villain has a bit of a sad background, and yes, that makes him a bit more sympathetic, but he’s also made terrible decisions and in the end Alina did the right thing.”
I did think, though, that the ending could have been explained a little better. The truth behind the three amplifiers and what they do together is full of poetic justice and great irony, but in the end I was confused about what, exactly, had happened, and if it was permanent. I also didn’t understand why even with two amplifiers Alina couldn’t best the Darkling, and I thought what Baghra taught her should have been utilized much more than it was.
Also, despite the fact that Mal grew on me, I thought the ending was sappy to the point of cheesiness, and not as satisfying as Bardugo probably wanted it to be.
Recommended Age Range: 16+
Warnings: One or two sensual scenes, implied (actually, more like skating just past the edge of out-right description) sex, violence, death.
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
I felt it, miles above me—so tentative, barely a whisper. Panic gripped me. The distance was too great. I’d been foolish to hope.
Then it was as if something within me rose and stretched, like a creature that had lain idle for too long. Its muscles had gone soft from disuse, but it was still there, waiting. I called and the light answered with the strength of the antlers at my throat, the scales at my wrist. It came to me in a rush, triumphant and eager.
Ruin and Rising is a strong finish to an overall strong trilogy, with a great world and great development over the three books. Yet even though in some cases, Bardugo not meeting my expectations was a good thing—such as the Darkling and the amplifiers—in some cases it just caused confusion and disappointment. And I’m still not fond of Mal and Alina, even though I’m much more approving of Mal as a character in this book than in the first.