Book Reviews

[review] Ruin and Rising – Leigh Bardugo

ruin and rising coverRelease Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (Macmillan)
Age Group: Young Adult
Pages: 432
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased copy

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.

SPOILERS BELOW: Read at your own risk!

Tell Me More: Satisfying conclusions to a series seem to come few and far between, and as a story’s world expands, the more there is to wrap up. Happily, Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy sails past satisfying right into amazing, with Ruin and Rising answering to the stakes that Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm have created.

The astonishing terror of Ravka has not been diminished in this novel, despite the weakness that plagues Alina Starkov. While she is physically incapable of fighting back against the Apparat, it hasn’t stopped her from speaking her mind and trying to find ways to escape. And that’s the sum of Alina: she is strong not just as a Sun Summoner, but as Alina too. She might hate being called a saint by the people who worship her, but she also doesn’t see the powerful sense of self that she carries. Whether or not she deserves the title doesn’t matter so much as the fact that her desire to do good and save the people she loves is obvious to the people around her. Each book has found her questioning her abilities, but never that drive to protect, and Ruin and Rising affords her the chance to do that, but possibly at a very steep price.

Sacrifice is not a new theme to the series, and almost every character is faced with harsh choices that take a piece of their souls. Nikolai sacrifices the presence of his parents to provide Ravka with a fair and just king, and that choice only proves to be the beginning of his pain. The Darkling sacrifices every other possibility of a fulfilling life in his pursuit of power, and while many readers (including myself for a good long while) may still want him to be with Alina, this book proved that their paths still lead in opposite directions, as similar as they might have been. Mal sacrifices any other possibility of a purpose to fight–“I am become a blade,” his back declares unswervingly, and as I read it, I couldn’t help but mourn him. More than ever, the reality of war and destruction and loss of self is present in this novel.

Does Bardugo succeed in translating that reality into a story that completes this trilogy well? Some readers may feel a twinge of deja vu for Mockingjay, as both stories end with similar choices from their protagonists. My review of Shadow and Bone brought up the way both Katniss and Alina are capable of carrying their stories from start to finish without a love interest, and that holds true for Ruin and Rising. I don’t know that I wanted her with Mal or the Darkling at the end of it all, I don’t know that that aspect of it was earned. I was more satisfied by Alina’s choice to disappear into normalcy than the knowledge of who she ends up with, and I felt that if nothing else, Alina had earned a life that would never ask more of her than what she could give. Whether or not she choose to give more anyway is up to her, and if that translates to a great love and marriage, then more power to her.

The Final Say:  Ruin and Rising is the perfect title for this phoenix of a novel, a true expression of the chaos and strength that lives in each of its characters.

About Leigh

Leigh Bardugo was born in Jerusalem, raised in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University. She lives in Hollywood and indulges her fondness for glamour, ghouls, and costuming in her other life as makeup artist L.B. Benson.

Add Ruin and Rising on Goodreads | Follow Leigh on Twitter @lbardugo | Visit Leigh’s website and leave a comment on her blog

Order Ruin and Rising from Book Depository | Chapters

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