Review of Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

What a fantastic closure to the Shadow and Bone trilogy. I enjoyed every minute I spent in this series; and I can definitely see myself revisiting parts of it. Actually, when I was about halfway through the first book in the series, I took a detour through Six of Crows to read some of the chapters that focussed on Grisha elements. All I can say is what I thought I knew about Alina, isn’t what I really knew!

Okay, I’ll start by saying that Six of Crows is still my favourite between the two. But, only by the barest margin. Leigh Bardugo has most certainly created an incredible world from which I wasn’t in any rush to leave. Of course, I was safe and comfy on my recliner as opposed to caught up in civil war battles.

The characters created for the Grishverse are amazing. They are so complex. In each one there are parts to love and parts to scorn, just as with real flesh and blood people. Alina is no saint. She may be hailed as one but she is just a girl. She has dreams like every other one. She’s fallen in love and wants to see where that will take her, but she knows her duty comes first. Her country needs her more than she desires a chance at a real life.

Despise your heart. I wanted to. I didn’t want o grieve anymore, to feel loss or guilt, or worry. I wanted to be hard, calculating. I wanted to be fearless.

Despite that, she knows she has to do. Despite what she knows she must become, she still battles with fears and doubts and insecurities. In this last part of the story, it is true love for country and dedication to justice that pushes her to the end. She learns to fight with the fear. She learns to give up what she most wants. The last part of the book where we uncover just what sacrifice is necessary… wow. Talk about plot twist… sucker punch plot twist.

Actually those types of surprises are what makes reading this trilogy so extremely gripping. Many times I was following along with a particular plan, unsure of how it would all play out… only to have an unexpected series of events totally derail my expectations and leave me almost shellshocked. Awesome!

Back to a few of the amazing characters in this story. Genya. Her backstory, journey and ultimate destiny is quite a ride. From possibly the most beautiful Grisha woman who ever lived to being called “the ruined one;” from being little more than a servant to exerting influence over the royal family; from the Darkling’s clutches to Alina’s most loyal friend… her evolution is quite a tale.

“Beauty was your amor. Fragile stuff, all show. But what’s inside you? That’s steel. It’s brave and unbreakable. And it doesn’t need fixing.”

She most certainly does not need fixing. She just needed to realise what she was really made of.

Nikolai was once again a star of the novel. The otkazat’sya prince who loves Ravka more than anyone else and more than anything else is pushed to his limits in this one. His relationship with Alina is an interesting one. He loves her as a friend but he wants to love her as something more and wants her to love him too… but for the greater good of their country.

As you can see, love of country is a strong theme throughout this series and certainly one that comes out intensely in this particular book. That love of country is shared by even the Darkling. He is possibly one of the best villains I have ever read. The type of villain that you could almost feel sorry for, almost believe in; and certainly the type of villain you wish would redeem himself. Perhaps his redemption lies in Alina’s realisation that for all his faults, the Darkling also wanted a better world for Ravka, especially for the Grisha of the country.

Then we come to Zoya, with her great beauty, sharp words and fierce warrior spirit. She is someone we could almost hate for her perfection and well-deserved superiority complex. Yet, no one can deny her commitment to the cause and her desire to see justice done. Despite her differences with Alina, they both recognise in each other a spirit seeking to do the best they can for the greater good.

After all is said and done, the main group of soldiers: Alina, Mal, Zoya, Gneya, David, Nikolai, Tolya, Tamar even Nadia, Adrik and Harshaw, display a delightful sense of loyalty to one anther and to their cause. Maybe in the beginning they found trust hard to come by, but in the end, each would give their life to save one of the others.

None of them were soft or simple. They were like me, nursing hurts and hidden wounds, all broken in different ways. We didn’t quite fit together. We had edges so jagged we cut each other sometimes, but as I curled up on my side, the warmth of fire at my back, I felt a rush of gratitude so sweet it made my throat ache.

Overal…. fantastic! I loved every page of the series, even the ones that were hard to read.

C’mon Netflix, hurry up already and get the series out to us eager fans asap! I’m fully caught up and can’t wait to see how it all plays out on a screen. Although I’m already a bit miffed that Nikolai won’t appear in Season 1. That just means I am also looking forward to Season 2.

I give Ruin and Rising 5/5 fantastical espresso shots!

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