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.

Amazon | Barnes and NobleBook DepositoryGoodreads

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

My Most Owned Authors on My Auto-Buy List

Most owned authors

Last week I was tagged by Veronica in her post that she adapted from a booktuber, and I couldn’t wait to do it! I had so much fun checking out my bookshelves and really seeing what I had – some of the results surprised me!

Basically, the idea is to gather your top ten auto-buy authors – but then arrange them by how many books you own that they wrote. This doesn’t necessarily mean that these are my only auto-buy authors, but in my case it’s actually pretty close! I originally thought I wouldn’t make it to ten, but I found that there are actually more authors I’d buy from without hesitation. Unsurprisingly enough, most of these are sci-fi or fantasy authors, but a few contemporary authors snuck in there too!

Top Ten AutoBuy 1

This one was the biggest “whoa, really?” moment for me. I wouldn’t consider Clare an author that I run out on the release date and buy her next book, but I’m inexplicably drawn to her series and the Shadowhunters, so I’m sure I’d hop out and buy the newest ones eventually. Although anything that hasn’t much to do with Shadowhunters I probably won’t be so keen on buying, but we’ll see. I own the full series of both The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices, as well as the Shadowhunter’s Codex.

Top Ten AutoBuy 2

Percy Jackson!!! This will be tied for first place with Clare when the last book of the Heroes of Olympus is completed and I can buy the boxed set and binge on them all in one week. But for now, I just have the five of the Percy Jackson series. I just love the snark and development of all the characters over the five books, and I can’t even let myself think about HoO otherwise I start salivating and lose my willpower of not buying them all yet. Just a few more months…

Top Ten AutoBuy 3

If I had guilty pleasures, McGarry’s Pushing the Limits series would be it. But since I don’t believe in guilt over pleasure, these remain a solid favorite of mine. The romance, the angst, the pain, the triumph – all the feels. And yeah the covers are a wee bit embarrassing to read in public (I dragged by best guy friend to BN with me and he pointed at Dare You To laughing before I told him it was a favorite series of mine *he laughed harder*) but who really cares because I love them all ❤

Top Ten AutoBuy 4

I count four because Unite Me is in paperback all in one and matches perfectly with the rest of the Shatter Me trilogy sitting so pretty on my shelf. I’m a bit more reserved about going crazy for her next book, because I’m not sure how her writing style will transfer over when it’s not Juliette’s kind-of-crazysauce mind. But I’m definitely interested in seeing what she does next, so I’ll be awaiting her next book impatiently.

Top Ten AutoBuy 5

The only reason she isn’t higher on the list is because this woman hasn’t published any more books. I’m counting the Assassin’s Blade as a book because although it’s novellas, put all together they’re basically a prequel novel. I can’t believe there’s only two other books in the Throne of Glass series – it feels like there’s so much more. But really, whatever she writes, I’ll pick up, no questions asked. (Like her next series, A Court of Thorns and Roses!)

Top Ten AutoBuy 6

Just like Sarah – I’d buy her entire library if it existed. But the Grisha trilogy is a magical series, and completely sold me to whatever Leigh writes. And we get THE DREGS next year!!! I am beyond ecstatic 😀 I’m just hoping and praying for at least a cameo from Tolya and Tamar. Please, book gods, smile upon me this day.

Top Ten AutoBuy 7

This is a recently christened auto-buy author, but oh the pedestal she sits on. Dreams of Gods and Monsters completely blew me away, despite the rocky start with Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Her writing style is perhaps one of my favorites, and I love the way she creates characters. Another author that I’d read anything from – even grocery lists.

Top Ten AutoBuy 8

The Legend series is still one of my favorites, and Champion made me weep like a child. But I haven’t read such a heart-pounding and adrenaline rush inducing series since my adventures with Stephen King when I was fourteen. I’ll admit I’m a bit hesitant about The Young Elites, but I think it has more to do with the fact that I hate the cover than anything else.

Top Ten AutoBuy 9

I know the only books she’s published are The Lunar Chronicles, but I love them enough that I’m 99% sure I’d follow her to her next book, or at least take a very close look at it. If it’s anything like Cress or Scarlet, I’m all in! If it’s like Cinder… ehhh that would make me a bit more ambivalent. *please don’t lynch me – Cinder was great, but it’s my least favorite for sure*

Top Ten AutoBuy 10

This is another that I’d have more – if they existed!!! I just love all of her novels, but Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour is my favorite for sure. It holds such a special place in my heart ❤ I’ll read anything she writes, and I’m already anxiously awaiting her next book.

Honorary Mention:

Top Ten AutoBuy 11Emery didn’t make it into the top ten, but merely for the reason that Open Road Summer is her first and as-of-yet only novel. But oh what a novel it is ❤ If her debut looks like THAT, I can’t wait to see what her sophomore book will look like!

Who am I tagging?

MUAHAHA! There’s no way y’all are escaping this one – it’s time to look at your bookshelves. So I’m tagging Miranda @ Tempest Books, Cait @ Notebook Sisters, Chiara @ Books for a Delicate Eternity, and Meg @ Adrift on Vulcan. I expect your posts STAT! Just kidding – take your time.

Fierce Reads San Diego Stop: Leigh Bardugo, Ava Dellaira, Emmy Laybourne, and Jennifer Mathieu

Fierce Reads Tour

I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to make it to this event on the 17th, what with my car being out of commission, but my mom lent me her car and I’m BEYOND glad I was able to make it to the San Diego Library for the amazing night. My sister tagged along, which made the long drive much easier, and she was a great picture taker and book holder. Thank you Brooke!

Before I get to the actual event recap, I need to say one thing: I don’t think I hate libraries anymore. OH MY GOD this place was HUGE. I’ve said this before – I don’t live in a small town. We have stoplights, 5pm traffic, and nearly 80,000 people. But our one library isn’t even in my city, it’s the next one over, and it’s tiny. But this library was at least twice as big as mine, and three stories higher. Plus, they had bathroom sinks shaped like open books. How amazing is that?? So I think I’ve just been to the wrong libraries, not that I hate them.

So moving forward… we all were locked out until about 20 minutes before the event started, but finally the auditorium opened up and we all took our seats. “All” being a relative term – this was the smallest event I’ve been to. So few people showed up! But I did see a few familiar faces from the October event, even the couple that cosplayed Alina and Morozova’s Stag! So that was pretty cool. Soon enough all the authors filed in. *queue cheering*

photo 3

Leigh, Ava, our moderator (sweet girl!), Jennifer, and Emmy (left to right)

After a few opening announcements and whatnot, the moderator got right into some questions for the authors. I took copious notes, so hopefully this brings the event to you! It’s going to get long – not sorry. Quick note: Leigh wrote the Grisha trilogy, Ava wrote Love Letters to the Dead, Jennifer wrote The Truth About Alice, and Emmy wrote the Monument 14 trilogy.

Which of your characters do you most relate to?

Leigh – It changes depending on the scene and book, but in Ruin and Rising it was Zoya mostly.
Ava – Laurel, in personality and personal experiences
Jennifer – Kelsey and Kurt
Emmy – Dean and Josie

What are you currently reading?

L – Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire, and Red Fortress by Catherine Merridale
A – Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne!
J – Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
E – The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Describe your main character in five words or less.

L – Insecure, stubborn, prickly, power hungry [Alina]
A – Sensitive, funny, courageous, kind [Laurel]
J – Survivor, real, slut?, killer? [Alice]
E – Caught, honest, teenager, outsider, hot (she was kidding, but for every character after we all shouted HOT at the end) [Dean]

photo 4

If you could be one character from any book from the four authors, who would you be?

L – Kurt, or Brandon before he died [both from Truth About Alice]
A – Alina (sun summoner!) [from the Grisha trilogy]
J – Genya (the tailor, to get rid of all those under eye circles) [from the Grisha trilogy]
E – Kurt [from The Truth About Alice]

What advice would you give to aspiring YA authors?

L – Your first book doesn’t have to be THE book. Write the crappy book first; just get something done. You may think you have that one good idea, but you have so many more, and you won’t get to them if you try to write a perfect first book.
A – Stephen Chbosky once told her, “You’re a writer if you write. If you write, you aren’t an ‘aspiring’ writer, you are a writer.”
J – Three things: 1) Read whatever you want for pleasure, and don’t feel guilty about what you read. 2) Put away your phone and spy on people. 3) Just write, even if it’s a tiny little thing. Just get it out.
E – Don’t judge your book while you’re writing it. It’s like pushing the gas and break pedals at the same time. Create first, and then go back to edit.

What makes you fierce?

L – Putting your work out in the world; people are mean!
E – Obviously the hair 😉 But really, the stories that they tell – they take you for a crazy ride.
J – Agreed with Emmy.

photo 1

What was one of your favorite scenes to write? The hardest?

L – Funnest: the party scenes in Siege and Storm. Hardest: The mechanics of the beginning of Ruin and Rising, when so many people were talking at once.
A – Favorite: Laurel writes to Amelia Earhart on Halloween, and then later gets her first kiss. Hardest: the emotion of when Laurel’s secret is finally revealed.
J – Favorite: Kurt and Alice at Christmas. Hardest: the scene with Josh and Brandon in the car.
E – Funnest: the first scene of the first book, because she could just let go and run wild, since she didn’t even know she would be publishing it. (Fun fact: chapter one went through hardly any changes through the entire editing process) Hardest: the epilogue of book 3, just letting it all go.

Favorite books growing up?

L – Many Moons, Cat Witch, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Shawshank Redemption in high school
A – Little House on the Prairie and The Babysitter’s Club
J – Little House on the Prairie and The Outsiders
E – Little House on the Prairie

After that, we moved on to the audience questions.

To Jennifer – How do you manage time between teaching and writing? She doesn’t sleep (slightly teasing – she’s got kids!), and she’s really organized about her time. She focuses on one thing at a time, and carves out time to make sure she can focus on each thing. 

To Leigh – Can you tell us about the “despise your heart” quote? She was studying the Congo in college, and there was a similar phrase used. It means, do what you need to do, despite what your heart is telling you. (Note: I didn’t catch the whole answer, so I may be missing a detail or two).

photo 2

To all the authors – Did you keep a journal when you were younger or even now? Leigh: from the time she was ten years old through college, but stopped afterwards. Only now when something is really emotional and she needs to work through it does she write it down. Ava: has a large collection from her childhood, where she copied down song lyrics and put bits of her own poetry in them. Jennifer: from 5th grade through high school; what she wrote about is a lot funnier than it was at that point in her life. Emmy: has a full shelf of old journals, and has a clause in her will where a close friend will be paid to edit and abridge them all to one day be passed on to her children. 

To Leigh and Emmy – what are some tips for finishing a third book? Leigh: cut yourself some slack. It doesn’t get any easier, and third books are about closing doors rather than opening all of them. Laini Taylor once said that at some point you may fall out of love with your story and chase some shiny new idea. Find what is so appealing from that new idea, and write it into your book. Emmy: keep adding twists and turns. Your trilogy shouldn’t be like crossing one long bridge – there needs to be change and craziness. Look back at what you’ve written, and use that to spur your imagination. 

To all the authors – how have personal experiences affected your writing? Leigh: she doesn’t realize it till after, but sometimes things sneak in that her friends point out. Ava: she lost her mom a few years before writing Love Letters, and the writing process helped her work through that. She also stole a lot of stories from her and her best friend’s memories. Jennifer: high school was difficult for her, and she always sat back observing the “Darwinian cafeteria” scene, and now writes about HS! Emmy: she’s never experienced something where she has to survive like her characters, but she hopes her humanity shines through. 

To Leigh – The Dregs (omg so excited) is set in the Grishaverse, in Kerch; are there any chances of characters returning? She just sent in the first draft, and there are some references to characters from the first trilogy. We may potentially see them in the future. 

photo 3-2

To all the authors – what was the most drastic thing you’ve done to meet a deadline? Leigh: she goes into a weird place where she will eat the same meal every morning, eats weird foods, and doesn’t leave the house for weeks. Ava: dreams about her characters (Leigh joined in and said that she once dreamed about being on an episode of Chopped in the Shadow Fold). Jennifer: is hyper-compliant about deadlines, and rewards herself every 10K words with frozen yogurt (smart woman!). Emmy: worked so hard on her computer that she had eye strain, so she started writing long hand, and ended up outsourcing the typing to a woman in the Philippines after scanning them all and sending them over (but she paid her $10 instead of $7 an hour!). 

To all the authors – plotter or pantser? Leigh: she outlines extensively, using a screenplay structure; avoids word count tools; started using Scrivener for her new book because there are 5 POVs and plenty of flashbacks (eeee!!!). Ava: Her process was messy; she had the concepts and basics, but she spent a lot of time getting to know her characters. Jennifer: has a general plot, but then fills in the details as she goes. Emmy: outlines carefully, and actually wrote 150 pages of M14 before submitting it with a proposal for the rest of the book. Fun fact: 9 out of 10 said no! So don’t give up, because you only need that one yes. 

To all the authors – what was your first piece of published material or something that inspired more? Leigh: she worked on a middle grade magazine with poetry. Ava: her first poem was published, then Love Letters. Jennifer: made her own newspapers and then in Cricket Magazine she had a story about a dancing gorilla in a library. Emmy: type out at 7 or 8 a story about an alien named Grog, who came to Earth with his wife. In their species, the female kills the male after mating, and the last sentence was “please help me before she eats m…”

So that was it for the panel! Quite a bunch of fun, wasn’t it?

Afterwards, we all filed outside to get our books signed and pictures taken. I nearly went to buy Monument 14, but restrained myself (barely – only thanks to Brooke or I would have bought a copy of Alice too). So I just went up and talked to Leigh, got my book signed, and then had the courage to actually ask for a picture! I was in a daze after that, and had totally meant to say hi to Jennifer, but completely walked off without another thought like an idiot. I guess I’m still working on that “level-headed” thing for author events. I’ll get there, someday.

photo 4-2So there you have it! That was my evening with my second Fierce Reads tour. I hope the new schedules come out soon for the summer and fall – I’ll definitely be attending more of these events!

Weekly Recap 31 (June 15)

Well hello Sunday my old friend. I can’t believe another week has passed again! I had a mostly quiet week, after my five-day vacation from all work entirely (when the doctor is out, the whole office is out!). Wednesday was super slow, since I’d slept very little and was fighting a nasty sinus headache. But then something very, very exciting showed up on my doorstep…

Stacking the Shelves

photo-2I won a giveaway about a week ago, and I thought, noooo it’s not here yet, and the box is too small. But then I saw the return address, and it turns out it was from Miranda! She had mentioned a surprise a few weeks ago, but with my crap memory it totally slipped my mind. And then it was there and… I just… I cried. No exaggeration here. I ripped open the box, saw the tote, and just started weeping. Out of all the BEA haul posts I’ve read, the one thing I couldn’t contain my jealousy about was that Throne of Glass tote. I could forgive the Heir of Fire ARCs and the Talon ARCs, but the tote? Oh man, bad blogger envy over here. BUT THEN IT’S THERE ON MY COUNTER IN MY HANDS and I just about died ❤ Honestly, my day would have been made just by that.

After reading Miranda’s letter (cue more happy tears), I opened up the bag at her prompting and saw the books inside. Imagine more crying and squealing. First was Faking Normal, which I’d just mentioned in my Top Ten Tuesday wishlist a few weeks ago, and second was Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (in hardback: I felt so special!). Both were ones I’d been dying to read, but never got around to buying/borrowing. And then I saw Since You’ve Been Gone, and I’ll admit I was confused. Miranda knew I had run out to buy my copy the first day it was released, but then I read the letter again (see – tears make you skip lines!) and saw a post it in the inner cover, opened it, and *hallelujah chorus*

photo-3Signed and personalized 😀 Insert more fangirling and squealing here. So while I may have two copies now, I DON’T CARE BECAUSE THIS ONE IS SPECIAL.

Thankyouthankyouthankyou a million times over to Miranda for this amazing birthday gift. I wish I could express it better or give you a hug or something but I guess this will have to do!

Seriously, you guys are making this a birthday month rather than just one day – I just feel so special!

And then yesterday I shamelessly capitalized on Barnes and Noble’s habit of putting books on shelves early and… *drumroll please*

photo-2At first I walked in and couldn’t find it, and was a wee bit devastated (never mind the fact that I was expecting a book four days before it’s technically released). But then I saw the paperback of Siege and Storm, and a bunch of other books that I know aren’t released till the 17th as well. So I may have almost pulled a belligerent customer moment and nearly asked someone to go in the back because I knew they’d be there and YOU CANNOT HIDE THIS BOOK FROM ME. Almost. I mean, I contemplated it.

Luckily, I didn’t have to experience what it was like to be escorted out of a bookstore, because I rounded the corner and it was like the heavens parted and angels started singing. And there it was! So now I’m able to read it before I go to the Fierce Reads tour on Tuesday!

In other news…

  • My car broke down. Again. I should now what’s wrong with it tomorrow, but until then my mom and I are stuck with trading her car back and forth. Now… I drive a VW Bug. She drives a Kia Sedona. Her car is like three times as long as mine, and it’s a V6 engine. Sooooo it’s taking me a while to get used to its size and power. I suck at parking in the first place, but now it’s three times as hard. As for turning? Well… I’m so sorry mom I may have run over a curb or two. So hopefully I’ll have my car back by Tuesday morning so I can drive my little Fiona to the Fierce Reads tour!

In case you missed it, last week I…

What’s coming up this week?

  • Monday – Review of Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
  • Tuesday – Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Summer TBR (we’ll see if I actually stick with it this time)
  • Wednesday – Saturated Reads: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
  • Thursday – Discussion of… something!
  • Friday – Review of Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens

Hope you all have a good week!