Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Ruin and Rising (Grisha #3)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: YA, fantasy
Publisher/Publication Date: Henry Holt & Co / June 17, 2014
How Did I Get It? Bought it!
Format? Hardback

Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.

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Just a warning: this review is going to be completely unstructured and mainly random thoughts thrown together because I can’t even control myself. But let this be my guiding statement: Ruin and Rising was the best possible ending I could have imagined for this series. The fates of the characters were appropriate, the final battle was heart-stopping and breathtaking, and the epilogue left me in tears (I think they were happy, but maybe a bit sad too because I can’t believe this is the end of this trilogy). I’ll have two sections to this review: the first completely spoiler free, and the second will be spoilers because I need to get all of these thoughts out.

Spoiler Free Review:

Allow me to begin with a gif:

I think that about covers it. Not even. My experience while reading this book was very strange. I picked it up, but couldn’t read it the second I got home. I had to sleep on it, then the next day I told myself I had to finish it by the time I went to bed. The first half I read one or two chapters at a time, alternating some blogging and other work between the segments. But then I reached the 200 page mark, and I couldn’t put the book down until I read the final page. I reached that reading place where I can’t hear anything outside of the story inside my head; my mom and sister finally stopped trying to talk to me. My heart was racing, I was gasping and laughing and crying, and I may have screamed once or twice.

As far as the story: I thought Leigh balanced the need to wrap everything up without info dumping very well. I mean, there was A LOT to divulge and sort through, but I never felt as though I was sitting through a history lesson. The legend of the amplifiers was HOLY CRAP inducing, and I didn’t see the twists coming at all as far as that aspect of it. The final battle was satisfying, yet gut-wrenching. I knew what would happen, and I knew it was necessary, but it didn’t lessen the hurt. And the epilogue… it made me feel the same way the end of the Return of the King makes me feel: nostalgic, grieving, yet hopeful. How is it that I’m nostalgic for a past that isn’t even mine?? I’ll tell you how: Leigh has written such a fantastic story that it’s become a world I live in part time and feel just as strongly as the characters.

And the characters… oh my wow. All my favorites were back, plus a few new characters that I fell head over heels for within just a hundred pages. Harshaw and Stigg were the two I most loved, and then there was Adrik and Nadia, who had been in the previous books but really expanded their roles in this story. And then of course the main cast: Alina, Mal, Nikolai, the Darkling, Zoya, Genya, David, Tolya, Tamar, and so many more. They were all so well balanced, and I didn’t ever feel as though one was dropped off or focused on too much. And they all grew so much in this book; they still had their personalities, as abrasive as some of them were, but by the end they all had that battle-worn connectedness that was really touching.

I really don’t think I can say any more before I start getting into the spoilery specifics. But if you need a sign that you should read this series, this is it. Honestly, it’s the best series conclusion I could have possibly imagined – joining the ranks of Allegiant and Ignite Me.


Okay, now my summary in a gif:

I’ve got to bullet point this whole thing. And I do mean SERIOUS SPOILERS if you somehow missed that big header up there.

  • MAL IS THE FREAKING THIRD AMPLIFIER?? I screamed. I totally, completely, screamed. Out loud. Very loudly. I may have interrupted my mom’s movie. BUT WHAT THE HELL I DID NOT SEE THAT COMING AT ALL. But it all makes so much sense now! I mean, I knew there was something different about Mal, but my theories weren’t even CLOSE to the truth.
  • Oh my poor baby Nikolai. He survived – praise God – didn’t get a girl – I volunteer as tribute – and is so scarred from the Darkling’s nichevo’ya – that bastard. But at the same time he’s still that swaggering, charming, hilarious, passionate, and incredible character that I fell in love with in Siege and Storm. I wish the epilogue had addressed how he handled the throne and all the fallout from the battle, but I know he was okay in the end.
  • I don’t even know how to voice my thoughts on Alina losing her power. In a perfect world, she would have lead the Second Army and been the badass Sun Summoner with Mal at her side, but I think the two of them living as regular humans and running the orphanage was a different sort of a perfect world. But really that epilogue, when Zoya gave Alina the blue kefta and the letter – I lost it. TEARS. AND FEELS.

  • The Darkling. I know he’s so controversial, and I don’t intend to forgive/forget all of his atrocities, but I thought it was so incredible how humanized he was. It was really uncomfortable, but it was also so eye-opening to see him as a person, not just a dark figure looming in a courtroom. I also had the prequel story from the Barnes and Noble edition, but it was actually just a fully written out story of a tale told in R&R. So never fear – it’s not as though you’re missing a critical part of understanding the Darkling! And I thought his name suited him so well: Aleksander. It just fits. In the end, if we really had to classify him, I’d say he’s a sympathetic villain. Hugely, intensely sympathetic. Just a broken boy jaded by the bigotry who turned to the wrong methods to end the persecution.
  • I’d also like to make note here that Genya is a freaking warrior queen and someday I hope to achieve that level of badassery. Just slow clap it out. Seriously – every time I wear my “I am Ruination” pin I got from the Fierce Reads tour, I feel a bit more powerful, not gonna lie. I think Genya is a perfect example of how men who take advantage of women’s bodies should be handled.

Okay, I think I’ve typed myself out. Leigh: if you somehow manage to read this (FYI – still holding out for that Tolya and Tamar novella/prequel story/whole trilogy), THANK YOU for writing the flawless end to one of my all time favorite series. And you are now an auto-buy author for me.

My Final Rating:

Six stars

11 thoughts on “Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

  1. Okay, you already know how much I want to read this but can’t because of reasons you also already know and someone JUST KILL ME NOW BECAUSE YOUR REVIEW ALMOST DAMN WELL DID SO.

    But anyway… YAY for finally a good ending to an amazing trilogy. Seriously, I think the only YA series after HP who had a good ending was Percy Jackson, but that doesn’t count because that series is like way up there. (I think you’re one of the few people who liked Allegiant! A lot of people hated it :S) I pretty much have a heart of steel so I’m looking forward to all the gasping and crying and screaming I’m going to do. 😀

    I knew what would happen, and I knew it was necessary, but it didn’t lessen the hurt.” — NOOOO, PLEASE DON’T TELL ME SOMEBODY DIES.

    Somebody dies. I’m right, aren’t I?! And to see that it was necessary, too? I’m already hyperventilating here because I know it’s going to be super emotional and my hearrttt. It’s still raw from SnK, okay? And I don’t want any of my babies to dieeee.

    Gonna go speed-read these ARCs so I can get to re-reading this series!

    • *stabs you in the heart* Was that less painful?

      SERIOUSLY! I was so concerned that it would be an easy ending, but it wasn’t at all! Oh my god don’t remind me of the PJ ending. I cried so much *wails* BECKENDORFFFFFFF

      I know I’m an odd one out with Allegiant… I just loved how the themes came full circle and really just like *stabs heart* it was painful but perfect.


  2. Yayayyy!!! Lovely review Kayla, and you expressed everything I feel about this book so well! Just how everything came together in the end and felt right for everyone. I am glad that I’m not missing out on too much with the Darkling prequel (I didn’t get get the B&N special edition!) But I still want to read it someday!

    • Thank you!! I was worried it was too rambly or that I missed points, but I think I got everything out 😀 Yeah, it was nice to read, but not like you need to rush out and get it. And it’s pretty short too… maybe sneak in to BN and just read the ten pages and move on 😉 I’ll guard!

  3. When I realized Alina was losing her power, I was like BOOM, that’s it. That was exactly what needed to happen, because otherwise she was going to become like the Darkling. She wasn’t immune to the power. And the fact that she had to sacrifice the guy she loved in order to achieve victory but still managed to get him in the end… really, it all just drove home.

  4. I totally agree, this was such a great ending to this series. It’s all dark and heartbreaking and eye opening and so complete. I, too, thought the epilogue was sad but also kind of perfect. Because I thought she really established well that there was no happy ending any other way. It just wouldn’t have worked out. And I loved, loved Mal in this book – his sacrifice for her long before the final battle – becoming what she needed him to be. It was so powerful and beautiful. And it made the grief amidst the happy ending so real. And, yes! I wanted more of Nikolai in the epilogue. I get why it didn’t fit but I’d like to know how he ruled and more if what became of him.

    • I think an HEA in this series would have completely destroyed it; one of the main themes was sacrifice and how far someone was willing to go to obtain the greater prize.

      Oh my god Mal </3 He was so whiny in S&S but he really shaped up in R&R.

      So glad someone else wanted more Nikolai!


    Oh my god I just experienced everything about this book all over again. It was sooooo good and your review just brought everything back. IS IT RE-READING TIME YET?!

    I love the part in your review when you talk about nostalgia. That’s totally totally how it felt in the epilogue. God, Leigh is a freaking GENIUS. I love her writing so much.

    Ahhh I’m having so many feelings about this series right now. Your review is just so perfect. Thank you ❤

    • THANK YOU!!! Ughhhh I think we need a six month cooling off period. Too many times within a short period will cause major feels and way too many heartbreaks!

      I’m just happy someone else felt that 😛 I get nostalgia over so many things that aren’t my life… like The Return of the King gives me an existential crisis every time I watch it O_O

  6. Pingback: Weekly Recap 37 (July 27) – In Which I Have Zero Self Control | The Thousand Lives

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