Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo – Review

June 25, 2014

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo is the third and final book in the Grisha trilogy.  It completes the story of Sun Summoner Alina Starkov and her fight against the Darkling.  In it Alina and her group of trusted friends must escape from the Apparat and his ragtag army of religious zealots, and track down the third amplifier, the firebird, before confronting the Darkling.  Along the way, Alina learns more of Morozova’s background and his secrets.

I enjoyed Ruin and Rising far more than Siege and Storm, which suffered from middle book syndrome and patchy pacing.

What I liked

The Russian style setting.  As in the previous two books, Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm, I loved the world that Bardugo has created for her characters.  The writing and descriptions really give a feel for Russia with a twist.

The characters.  We’ve been with these characters for three books now, and I appreciated the way they’ve grown and developed throughout the series.  Their changing relationships were also very well drawn.  Who would have guessed meeting Zoya in book one just how much Alina would grow to rely on her?  I liked that their experiences have left their marks on our characters and that they were not the same people we met in book one.  I was particularly sorry not to be able to follow the continuation of Nikolai’s story – I think his ongoing challenges – both personal and political – would make an interesting sequel.

Theme of friendship.  Alina and The Darkling are contrasted in that the Darkling having lived a long time and lost everyone close to him is very much alone.  Alina on the other hand has a group of friends whom she trusts and who have her back.  This theme of strength in community is prominent in this book.

The ending.  I really liked the way the ending blended the predictable – the truth about the third amplifier was pretty apparent throughout the whole series – with the unexpected.  Yet even the unexpected was plausible, and well within the internal logic of the story, no deus ex machinas here.  It also fits nicely the theme of loyalty and friendship overcoming tyranny.  

The narration.  Once again I loved Lauren Fortgang’s narration.  She gave individual voices to each of the characters and brought them to life.

What I didn’t like

Alina’s kickassedness.  At one point in the story, when Alina’s situation is pretty bleak, she put on her big girl pants and decides that she’s if she’s going to die, she’s going to go down fighting, dammit, in the manner of other YA heroines such as Hunger Games’ Katniss or Divergent’s Tris.  I really liked this.  However, that kickassedness isn’t maintained throughout the rest of the book.  The rest of the book is more about a group of misfits joined together by friendship to bring down a tyrant.  That is also good, too, but I was a little disappointed that Alina didn’t kick butt.

I did enjoy the conclusion to The Grisha Trilogy and gave Ruin and Rising four stars out of five.

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