[Review] Ruin and Rising — Leigh Bardugo

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Book Title                  Ruin and Rising (The Grisha #03)
Author:                        Leigh Bardugo
Number of pages:  422

Synopsis:

Ruin and Rising - Leigh Bardugo - Book Cover - GrishaThe 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.

(re: Goodreads @ Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo)

Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr review:

– The opening fizzles the excitement, action and cliffhanger of Siege and Storm; pacing is askew
– The historical portion of world-building (as it relates to the twists) is a bit info-dumpy; some revelations are glossed over
– The closure in revelations is wrapped up too neatly and a bit safe; polygonal romance reaches finality
– Supporting characters continue to shine brighter than the main cast; often being told of a characters nuanced arcing instead of being shown it.
– Nikolai remains wonderful

Initial Thoughts

I am mad. There are probably spoilers. And incoherency.  


Afterthoughts:

Premise

A lost battle forces Alina and Mal into hiding. With few Grisha by her side, Alina becomes drawn to finding Morozova’s last amplifier—a necessary power in defeating the Darkling’s shadowy army. As the search for the Firebird takes Alina across the nation, she’ll discover its rich history is closer to her than she could ever imagine.

Setting

The Grishaverse in Shadow and Bone compared to Ruin and Rising is infinitely bigger. It goes without saying that the setting remains a highlight for me going forward; it’s wonderfully penned to evoke an environment that is very much its own character (it probably has more personality than Mal tbh). What more can I ask for?

The history is pretty info-dumpy but I’m not sure I can imagine it any other way. It introduces the past (as in historically relevant past—not Alina’s indecisiveness a week prior) and intertwines it with the magic systems and Small Sciences, promoting a conclusion that does give reason to the amplifier as they relate to Alina, sort of. What didn’t work for me was the glossing over of certain narrative threads in lieu of the “celebratory” nature of events. Ignorance is bliss I guess.

Narration

My enjoyment derped on two aspects: the opening first-third of Ruin and Rising and the objective need to achieve a happily-ever-after.

It was disengaging to leave the showstopping action in Siege and Storm to enter nothingness; as if I was hit with inertia. I get that downtime is necessary and that the cave bit enhances the world but it does not mean that everything conveniently waits for you. This why I was so bored with the tomfoolery that was the Apparat portion of the story; it lacked value and reinforces the get-out-of-jail-free-card concept whereby the pacing of events works for plots sake.

The bigger problem is the actualization of Alina and Mal. Why? Because if Alina was never her special [Grisha] self, her relationship isn’t one you can definitively say would step beyond a brother/sister dynamic. Uncertainty (otherwise: loss and death) drives this relationship but that wouldn’t necessary exist outside of the plot. I’d agree that their boringness keeps them together and though I don’t really blame Alina for much of the unreciprocated romance throughout this trilogy, I feel cheated that they frolicked around petty miscommunication just so the end wasn’t simple; that it took some effort.

It was clichéd and too neatly wrapped up; I was even handed a proverbial bowtie because magic. The path toward closure is perhaps idealistic and makes sense—I just couldn’t buy into it with everything that happened.


Characters

Problems continue to persist for the main ensemble while the supporting characters continue shining.

The elusive Darkling began this series with a high ceiling to be a fully realized, terrifying and humanistic villain. But conflict high-fived his face with an open palm and he’s never been the same. The progression of his character is one that baffles me. It’s not enough that I’m told of his unfortunate past. I needed to be shown tender moments by action and dialogue; to feel anger and resentment toward the decisions while also believing the skeletons in his closet. This conversation came far too late in plotting, if at all, and doesn’t prove that he’s anything but a one-dimension villain for the sake of antagonism.

Then there is Mal. Fucking Mal. He grew up but I still wish he had died. That is all.

It would have been so much—infinitely—more satisfying had Alina said fuck you to all these boys went solo. Or be like “I [think] I love you Harshaw” because at least I’d have a good laugh at the nonsensicalness of it all. Yes—we see Alina grow out of her shell throughout the trilogy but the problem is that when I think back on her actions, they’re all tied to some variable not her making. She rarely gets to seize the choices and it makes me question whether I’m led on by some immaterial growth.

Nikolai’s arc was so precious. That scene with the emerald ring—I just can’t. Keep doing you, man.


Overall

At the end of the day, The Grisha trilogy is still a story I’d recommend for the impeccable Russian-inspired world and magic system presented. Bardugo’s writing is vividly imagined and simply comes alive off the page. The polygonal romance is a bit daunting but a few of the characters that make up these relationships will surely be characters that live on in your favourites list. The ending is bittersweet with loose ends that could have been written with further clarity; however, it definitely feels proper.


Cheers,
Joey

connect: afterthoughtAn // twitter  |  anotherafterthought // goodreads

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17 thoughts on “[Review] Ruin and Rising — Leigh Bardugo”

  1. Nice review! I’m almost done with this book right now. I loved every character in book one, but by the time Nikolai got introduced he was suddenly the only character I cared about. He is just so freaking awesome! I wish there was a book just about him.

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  2. I’ve been torn about whether or not I should get my hands on this series. I loved Six of Crows and after I finished I did want to know more about the world Leigh had created. However, I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews about this series and the polygonal romance has me quite worried. I think I might end up reading the series sometime in the future but for the time I might just set it aside. Great review.

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    1. Having read both the Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows, I have to say Six of Crows is the better of the two (at least for me). They are very different books and I feel like Six of Crows continually built while the Grisha Trilogy went up and down in terms of excitement and characters. Six of Crows has a darker, slightly more mature vibe to it whereas The Grisha Trilogy is more happy, typical YA.

      BUT, if you really want to get a better grasp on the world and its history, Shadow and Bone might be a good one for you to pick up…but I would say no rush 😉

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    2. I agree with Lauren, Six of Crows is superior if you put them side by side; however, I did quite enjoy how the world–contextually–felt more alive and made so much more sense to me because I read The Grisha trilogy.

      But yeah the romance in Grisha is pretty tedious but as an overall, it can make for a fast read. I’d still say the like/hate ratio is a 75/25 though so it’s not all that bad haha!

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      1. I’m definitely intrigued by the world and I think that’s what appeals to me the most. I’m also told this Nikolai character steals the show haha. I’ll be sure to give the series a chance, especially since it seems to be a quick read. Thank you both for your insights. 😀

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  3. STOP HATING ON MAL. Okay I admit, he’s definitely the least interesting out of all the males… but Nikolai was pretty much excluded from this book, and development of the Darkling pretty much stopped after S&B and he just became a standard villain. You’re kind of stuck with Mal. But, I didn’t think he was that bad. And I’m okay with the ending (because that epilogue was amazing), but it was definitely too neatly tied up.

    Pretty much the most interesting thing in this series was David and Genya XD

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    1. Yes and because the options were Mal or Alina being alone, it would have been infinitely better for me and for her to be like “LOL I WANT TO KEEP BEING THE SUN GODDESS, BYEEEE” (though i understand why that romance happened). I actually didn’t read the epilogue. What was it even about?

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  4. I agree with you on all of this. I cannot stand Mal and I love Nikolai. And where I am glad the Darkling had an unfortunate past (that was weird wording there…), I wanted to see it from actions that affected him rather than just being told what happened. IDK I love this series, it is one of my faves but I think that’s because of Nikolai.

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    1. I keep thinking I gotta stop hating on Mal because he’s actually not that bad of a guy. He’s respectable, and I might enjoy him given any other context. But it’s because he was the interest by default because there was no context for anyone else to really be included that it makes me dislike the end-game romance in this novel haha.

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