Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Series: The Grisha Trilogy
Publication Date: June 17, 2014
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co
Reading Level: Young Adult
Pages: 417 (Hardcover)
Source: Gifted
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.
~*~Lili's Reflections~*~

I am so disappointed with this book. It's not a book I hated because, in all honesty, I think it's impossible for Bardugo to deliver a novel that I would absolutely despise, but I honestly feel as if Bardugo could have done better. While her writing is still gorgeous and her characterization is always above and beyond expectation, the plot of this one was seriously out of whack and I found myself becoming more and more frustrated as the book progressed. Books one and two are among my favorite novels ever, but it almost seems as if this book was written by someone else.
With all plot problems aside, Bardugo's writing style is so lyrical that it'll always drag me in. I am a reading slave to this woman. I will read anything she writes, though I may go in with more reservations now than I would have prior to reading this novel. One thing is for certain and that is the fact that Bardugo knows how to paint beautiful pictures and enrapture you with her prose.

Her characterization is also some of the best I have ever seen and this book gets major points for all the hilarious banter. All of our main characters grow in some way or another. Alina is still the reluctant saint that is simply fighting to battle evil and save Ravka. The Darkling is perhaps one of the most fascinating and amazing young adult villains of all time. His havoc and characterization are still unparalleled, though our last few scenes with him were not worthy of his legacy and power. For such a strong character, our last encounters with him were not only disappointing, but also lackluster. All other main characters and even some of the new secondary characters were strong and unique. It's certainly impossible to forget anyone in this series because every character stands apart from one another in their own way.

This book has a love square, I suppose. After reading the rest of the series, it's obvious that there are three contender's for Alina's heart and for quite a while, it's hard to figure out who she will end up with. While I had my specific ship, I could respect all three potential suitors because they were as different as three men could be. If there was even a small similarity between these men, this love whatever-you-want-to-call-it would not have been so successful, but in the end the only thing that these three men had in common were their admiration and love for Alina. With that in mind, I have to say that the person she ended up being with and the reasoning behind it was perhaps one of the biggest literary cop-out's ever. She had so many options and I can respect her for choosing one without stringing others along, but the reasoning behind her choice makes me shake with anger because of how I can use prior books to discount certain things. I was so heavily invested in her and her romance regardless of whether my ship was chosen or not, but the romantic resolution was extremely lacking.

Furthermore, I feel as if this book was predictable. Typically, this is a word I would not associate with Bardugo because when is Bardugo ever predictable? Books one and two constantly surprised me, but book three almost felt as if it mirrored its predecessors in general plot structure, but lacked in the detail they had. Things fell too conveniently into their laps. Many bad things happened, yes, but what's the point of having bad things happen when literally almost all bad things get resolved easily with a flick of a wrist? If characters die, they should stay dead. If they lose someone or something, some weird little form of redemption comes out of the wood-works. Events came out of nowhere and, at times, the explanations for potentially monumental moments were throwaways that didn't make much sense or didn't fully answer our questions. I kept reading out of curiosity, but my desire to be wowed slowly diminished every time I encountered an instance such as this...which actually happened often.

And, of course, there is the final battle. It wasn't what I wanted it to be. It didn't seem grand or powerful. Again, a lack of detail. There was way too many miracles and too many wrongs being undone out of nowhere. While lives were lost, the carnage wasn't what I expected of the Darkling. Really, I just wasn't wowed. This lack of true interest was continued in the epilogue of the book. While somewhat adorable and almost fairytale-like in the way it is written, I can't say it made me any happier with Alina's final decisions. While I can see why Bardugo chose this specific ending for Alina and her love interest, it doesn't change the fact that it was a lukewarm ending to a simply satisfying read.

While many people will hail this as an amazing novel, I can only say it wasn't for me. My expectations for this one were high, and perhaps that contributed to my utter disappointment after completing the novel. The bigger they are in your mind, the harder their fall is, right?

In the end, this book is definitely worth reading. It wraps things up. Whether you like how the book wraps things up is an entirely different situation. I know people who both hated and loved this one. Truly polarizing, it is worth the reading though I caution readers to check themselves and go in with realistic expectations. Perhaps your reading experience can be more enjoyable than mine was then. Either way, I will read anything Bardugo writes, but I will be a bit more cautious when beginning future reads.

3.5 stars


This book was read as part of my summer of series.


  1. I liked this better than you did, but I do agree that the resolution was much less dramatic than I expected. But still enjoyed this series so much and look forward to reading her future books. Jen @ YA Romantics

  2. I just wanted a more dramatic ending. I've already told you this before, BUT COME ON. You're right. It was a lukewarm ending for the series.

    BUT. I'm so excited for her next series.

    Great review.