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.

Spoilers/Discussion

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

Double Review: Shadow and Bone + Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Since I read both books pretty much back to back, I figured I’d review them both together. My review for Shadow and Bone was written before I read Siege and Storm, so there’s no influence of my opinion!

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Pages: 372
Genre: fantasy, YA, romance
Series? Yes, #1 in the Grisha Trilogy
Publisher: Square Fish (paperback version)
Publication Date: May 17, 2012

Synopsis from GoodReads: The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfill her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

Thoughts and Rambling

I’ve heard about this book pretty much non-stop for the last four months – really since I started blogging. Whether it’s about the characters, the story, or the love triangle, S&B pops up everywhere. And then Sara at What a Nerd Girl Says posted that Leigh Bardugo will be in San Diego this month… Only an hour drive for me. So of course, the stars have aligned and I just had to buy the books (because I need to read them before meeting the author – duh!). So I drove myself down to Barnes and Noble and picked up S&B, read it in two hours, then drove back the next day to grab S&S too. And now I have both books, and when Sara and I go meet Leigh, hopefully they’ll be signed!

Oh, and I regret nothing. This is, without a doubt, one of the best series I’ve ever read. Warning: Spoilers in my Writing Style section, and two parts of the Character section as well.Character Bar

Absolutely incredible. They’re all so complex and well developed – I even love the evil characters. Though I always love evil characters, on principle, so I guess that’s nothing changed. Anyway: they’re all perfect. Warning: Spoilers in Mal and The Darkling’s sections.

Alina: Even though Alina follows that trope of “girl finds out she’s immensely powerful after years of thinking she’s pathetic,” I was never bothered by it like I usually am. I think it’s for two reasons: 1) she accepts it and doesn’t start whining about how unfair her life is that she never asked for it and blah blah blah, and 2) she’s not uber-powered right at the start. She actually has to work for it, and sweat, and cry, and even then she still struggles. It’s such a beautiful change from the norm, and I grew to love her character in no time at all. And she’s not whiny about the love triangle either! She’s conflicted, but never pines or angsts – most of the time it’s straight business, and the romance takes a back side. Alina’s more focused on getting rid of the Shadow Fold, rather than make time for her man (although that does happen *squee*). I could go on, but I’ll just end this by saying that I loved Alina – no ifs or buts.

Mal: Usually I tend to go for the new man in a love triangle situation, rather than the safe best friend, but this time I was 100% Team Mal. He’s protective, understanding, funny, and a million other things that I don’t have the appropriate words for because my thoughts turn to mush when I think of him. I’m pretty sure I was an actual puddle by the time Alina got her act together and they admitted their love. That scene before the deer? *swoon* Plus, he’s a great tracker. I’ve got a thing for trackers. He’s just perfect. I have no other words.

The Darkling: Darkling reminds me of Fear from Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton, except a bit more malicious. Very mysterious, dark in appearance (as well as actions), and morally ambiguous. Oh man he really caught me in his web right from the get-go. I was tweeting Sara while I read S&B, and she was cackling every time I mentioned how much I was in love with The Darkling. “He’s just misunderstood!” was my argument. He was my Loki – or so I thought. I was so, so wrong. That man fooled me just as much as he fooled Alina. I was so convinced that he only had a bad reputation because of what everyone else said in their misunderstanding, but nope he totally deserved his rep and man oh man why am I still attracted to this fool?? Hook, line, and sinker.

Sexy bastard Sam

Concept and Plot

Concept: The concept is great! I love the idea of using Russian settings and ideas rather than the traditional Medieval European. It felt a bit like reading Crime and Punishment for a while, with all those names, but I quickly got the hang of it. And the magic separated into three classes, plus then the subdivisions? Incredible! No one was over-powered: something that often happens in fantasy books far too often. It felt like an entirely different world, not one based off of our own and mixed up a bit. I completely lost myself in it!

Plot: Flawlessly paced. I never felt left behind and trying to figure out all the different nuances, and I never felt like it was taking too long to get to something either. And like I said above: it never felt cliche at all, and even the love triangle (which I am vehemently opposed to usually) worked for me. I loved the love triangle. There – I said it. You’ll probably never hear those words from me again!Writing Style

I think it’s a testament to Leigh’s writing skill that she not only hoodwinked Alina with The Darkling’s plots, but also me as a reader too. Dramatic irony? What dramatic irony? There’s none of that here: I learned everything with Alina, and was taken along that roller coaster ride. And it was thrilling.Last ThoughtsLike I said – new favorite series. And I finished this book in two hours, so I guess that must say something. I didn’t even have time to dog-ear a page or stick a bookmark in it! Everyone says I’m going to love Siege and Storm – I can’t wait to read it! Especially this Stormhund man… Ugh, the excitement is killing me. Okay, I’m logging off right now to go read it.

My Final Rating:

Cannot Fathom a Rating

Find the book at:

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And now for Siege and Storm.

Title: Siege and Storm
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Pages: 432
Genre: YA, fantasy, romance
Series? Yes, #2 of The Grisha Trilogy
Publisher: Henry, Holt & Co
Publication Date: June 4, 2013

Synopsis from GoodReads: Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

Thoughts and Rambling

I’m going to try to remain calm in this review, but I make no promises. At all. I just got back from checking out all the comments on Goodreads for the 3rd book in this trilogy, and MY FEELS. I’m just absolutely dying this is without a doubt one of the best series I’ve read in a while (no sophomore slump – yay!) and that cliffhanger just. I can’t. I CANNOT.

Oh, and this will not be a spoiler free review. Sorry guys! I’ll put up warning signs so you’ll know what to skip and just read the non-spoilery bits. Character Bar

*high pitched whining* It is not fair how many well developed, multi-faceted, amazing characters there are. I don’t even think there’s one character I dislike, even the Darkling. I’ll just focus on four here, but I might need to throw in an extra paragraph for my two favorite secondary characters! Yeah, I totally will. WARNING: this will be the most spoiler-filled section so I suggest skipping this entire part if you haven’t read the book and read the rest (which I’ll try to keep free).

Alina: She’s so much stronger than the Alina I met in S&B, but at the same time, she’s weaker. She’s haunted by the Darkling, by what happened in the Shadow Fold, and the amplifier around her neck is a constant weight on her shoulders – literally. And when she finds out that there’s two more amplifiers, she struggles with the need for power and the greed that comes along with it. It’s an interesting character development, and while it was hard for me to see Alina act so stupid sometimes, in the end she realizes what she’s doing and pulls out of it. It made her human, and all the more reason for me to root for her.

Mal: Okay, I’ll say it up front: Mal was really hard to deal with in this book. He doesn’t have the charm of Nikolai, or the sexy arrogance and power-exuding attitude of the Darkling. He’s Mal: tracker, dishonorably discharged from the military, and going stir crazy with cabin fever while Alina tries to rally the Grisha. Most of the time, I was pissed at him because he wasn’t there for Alina, and he kept having these spurts of jealousy, but then, like Alina, I realized what was really going on. And then I felt so bad for him. It doesn’t excuse his actions, but it makes sense now, and like Alina’s greed, it made Mal so human and well-rounded. I really hope he and Alina can keep working on their problems, because they are seriously the head OTP in my armada of ships.

The Darkling: He kind of took a back seat in this book, but his presence was constant in Alina’s mind. I still think he’s a huge prick, to be honest. But I have hope for his redemption in the next book, however improbable that seems. There wasn’t too much character development for him in S&S, but he still provided that looming sensation of evil.

Stormhund/Nikolai: Okay, guys, I finally get it. You all gave me winky faces and sentences with ellipses on the end to lead me on about this guy, and holy crap you all are 1000% right. From the first time Nikolai spoke (as Sturmhund), I was reeled in. And WOW his personality can it be any more complex and layered?? I love layered characters. That’s why I usually go for the anti-hero. While I don’t think I’d categorize Nikolai as that, he still has that aspect about him. I think of him as a rainbow, and as he shifts I see different sides of him. I don’t know. That’s what goes on in my head. But he swings from calculating and perfect prince to vulnerable and sensitive bastard second son trying to do what’s right for his kingdom, all the while with a snark and wit that just makes me melt. I honestly don’t even think I have the right words to express how incredible Nikolai is, and how well written he is too.

Tolya and Tamar: I don’t know what it is, but I love twins in books. And these two are no exception. Their bond as brother and sister is remarkable, and they are freaking bad ass. I do not want to piss either of them off. And – what is this – Tamar is still feminine while kicking ass? Be still my heart! Not feminine as in dresses and giggling behind fans, but she isn’t that archetype of butch chick who’s built like Goliath and only serves her purpose in the army. She’s graceful and lithe, and uses that to her advantage. Plus, she’s a great friend for Alina.
Concept and Plot

Concept: Like I said in my review for Shadow and Bone – flawless. It’s just perfectly done, and I love the Russian settings. It’s so unique, and even though I strongly disliked the Russian Lit I read in school (except for The Metamorphosis), I’m head over heels for this entire series and its setting. And it’s developed really well from S&B too: the idea of the Grisha and the amplifiers is taken into a higher level, and it’s very believable at the same time. Nothing seemed like it was forced or pulling at strings.

Plot: I don’t know if it’s possible to love this book even more. The plot was perfectly paced – I never felt like “Okay, come on, let’s get going.” Even the non-action parts were great because there was still the political and psychological aspect of all these different factions with their tension and trying to work it out. Plus, all the different subplots wound perfectly together with the main plot. I can see the arc of Alina trying to defeat the Darkling and the Shadow Fold, but there are also problems mainly isolated in S&S. It made S&S stand out in its own right, but still work well together with S&B.
Writing Style

Not much else to say here, lest I repeat myself and fall into extreme fangirling. Leigh’s writing is engaging, well thought out, and captivating. I was sucked in from page one, and those last few chapters… HOLY CRAP BATMAN that’s the best cliffhanger I’ve read since Catching Fire.Last ThoughtsI already need to know what happens in the next book. Ask Sara – I was freaking out. And probably annoying her just a bit. BUT SHE DID THIS TO ME IN THE FIRST PLACE AND NOW SHE PAYS THE PRICE. But I am absolutely dying and June 3 seems so far away to wait for the last book… which, apparently, is called Ruin and Rising, not Rise and Ruin (as I somehow flipped it around in my head). I’m a horrible person – leave me alone to drown in my shame. But you know… I comes before U so if we’re to follow the alphabet it should naturally be Rise and Ruin.

Yes, that is my pitiful case for my misdemeanor in book title dyslexia.

But if we’re to follow Leigh’s example, we’re all to take to calling it “Ruin and Racy.” Please please please Mal + Alina they are my forever ship *praying for eternity*

My Final Rating:

Cannot Fathom a Rating

Find the book at:

Amazon |  Barnes and NobleBook DepositoryGoodreads