Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
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.
While definitely an improvement on the second book in the series, Ruin and Rising didn’t really have anything unique to offer. However, it was fun.
This might be the most stock YA-trilogy-finale of all time. In fact, let’s count all of the ways this book was exactly like Mockingjay.
- Sun Summoner, Girl on Fire, too close.
- Starts underground, in a location the protagonist didn’t even know existed before the beginning of this book (White Cathedral, District 13).
- This underground location has very strict rules and is run by a ruthless reader our protagonist doesn’t trust. (The Apparat, President Coin).
- Our protagonist is weakened from the events at the climax of the previous novel, leaving her unable to perform even simple tasks.
- The leader will not allow her to leave secret underground location to help with THE CAUSE.
- Our protagonist has found herself a reluctant symbol of hope for THE CAUSE (Mockingjay, Sun Saint).
And that’s just in the first chapter, folks.
In all seriousness, I did enjoy this book, but it felt so blah. I’m at a loss for why people are so in love with this series and Bardugo. Maybe Six of Crows is better?
I still find Mal and Alina’s relationship to be lackluster, unconvincing, and full of drama. I figured that by this book either that ship would go to Katniss/Gale direction, or they’d stop whining about stupid petty things. But no. I just got so tired of them both trying to convince the other that they weren’t “meant to be”, and then getting all put out when the other listened. *eye roll*
And I was still frustrated with the repetitive nature of the plot. Every time something starts to look up the Darkling SHOCKINGLY shows up and kills everyone. Yeah, it stopped being a plot twist about three chapters in to the second book…
I just wanted something else to happen. Either for things to start looking up for our rebels, or for something different to go wrong. And at some point their victory (yeah, that’s probably a spoiler, but do you REALLY expect anything other than a victory in this kind of book??) their victory seemed cheap and unrealistic in light of all the times they were absolutely decimated. It made the whole thing feel … anti-climactic. I mean, the Darkling and his people foiled them over and over and OVER again, I expected him to put up a little bit more of a fight.
Okay, actual spoiler ahead.
And what the heck with Mal being brought to life?????? Bardugo has created this kind of dark YA book that explores death and darkness in a way nobody really wrote for YA before her. But instead of Alina having to deal with something ACTUALLY difficult, you know, killing the man she loved, she just miraculously brought him back to life with a cheap, half-hearted explanation for how. He should have stayed dead.
However, this was a definite improvement on the second book. The plot moved, characters grew, and even though everyone is still obsessed with being pretty, there was a whole lot less of it.
I also very much approved of the way Bardugo handled the LGBTQ relationship. Everyone just accepted it without a thought beyond, “Huh, those people seem very different from each other.” Great for normalization.
I strongly recommend this series if you can go back in time to 2012 and start it then. Otherwise, do yourself a favor and read something else.