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.
My insides hurt, my head hurts, my feels hurt… I just hurt everywhere. My brain is simply not processing that The Grisha trilogy is over. Done. Finished. No more. I’m completely aware Leigh Bardugo is writing another series, called The Dregs, set in the Grishaverse too but it’s not the same. Because the journey of Alina Starkov—soldier, sun summoner, saint—has come to an end and I really don’t know what to do with my life. (This is the most obvious symptom of a book hangover, in case you didn’t know.)
Ruin and Rising did not just live up to my expectations. No, it blew my expectations to pieces and was the perfect end to an incredible trilogy. Perfect meaning lots of gore, feels, tears, action, and did I mention tears and feels?
Starting a few months after the epic face-off between the Darkling and Alina, our protagonist and her allies had been stuck living underground under the thumb of the Apparat. Weak and discouraged, saving Ravka from the Darkling seemed like quite an impossible feat. However, like always, Bardugo created non-stop action right from the start. I honestly couldn’t remember a single moment where I was not dying to find out what happened next.
Wait, I take that back. I was too busy crying at the end to care what happened next.
Moving on, recall how I had a pretty rocky start with Alina back in Shadow and Bone? Well, I personally vouch for her incredible growth as the trilogy progressed, especially in the last two books. Alina’s development is one of the best and most touching I’ve ever read. Despite her becoming harsher and a teensy bit evil, it was real. It showed that even when people mature in character, they pick up negative traits.
As for Mal… Give me a moment while I swoon and wish for a guy to love me the way he loves Alina. Similar to my feelings about Alina at first, I wasn’t a fan of Mal at the start of the trilogy. He slightly came off as a cocky and selfish jerk who didn’t have the balls to act on his feelings for Alina and instead decided to fool around with other girls to ‘forget’ her.
How much that has changed! I finally comprehend that Mal would do anything for Alina and not in the cheesy way but the most serious way possible. You’ve got no idea how many times I wanted to give them both huge bear hugs and tell them everything will be alright (though that would be a lie). What’s my current view of Mal? Freaking perfection.
But no matter who or what I was, I would have been yours.
– p. 361
That brings me to the fact that all the characters in The Grisha trilogy are so imperfectly perfect. Their change and growth is constant and realistic. Plus, their faults and quirks complement their personalities so much, reading about them felt like interacting with real people.
Mal developed (undeniably sexy) leadership skills, Genya learned to accept her disfiguration, Nikolai/Sturmhond (we all know he’s not dead) went through hardships he’d never thought he’d face, the Darkling… actually appeared human, Zoya, Baghra, Nadia, Tolya, Tamar… the list goes on and I wish I could list all that these characters have achieved but then, this review would never end. But, I will elaborate on two.
Nikolai Lantsov. Sturmhond. The too-clever fox. MINE – just thought I should make it clear. My crazy fangirling aside, Nikolai is truly one of the most colourful and vibrant characters ever. Intelligent, hilarious, efficient and good hearted (he just doesn’t show it sometimes), I really don’t think it’s fair he has to be drool-worthily attractive too.
Although he mostly comes off as a carefree character, you’ll get to witness a more serious and may I say, kingly, side of him. Not to mention a particular difficulty (understatement here) he faced. All that did not make him any less charming though. I would be his queen any day!
Continuing to the Darkling, I won’t give you false hope that he decided to turn kind-hearted, gave up world domination and instead ran a non-profit unicorn sanctuary for the rest of his life. The Darkling is pure unadulterated evil – though it’s possibly nurtured.
We will find out the Darkling’s true name in Ruin and Rising and despite being ordinary, I found it utterly suitable. It showed how the Darkling was once human like everyone else and that it was the effects of life and his own choices that led to him becoming corrupt. Like I said, nurtured.
Though I’ve always made my hate for the Darkling clear (apart from the first half of Shadow and Bone where I guiltily found him alluring) I will admit to crying for him in this last book. So be prepared to feel some sympathy.
“You might make me a better man.”
“And you might make me a monster.”
– p. 73
The direction the story took was impeccable albeit heartbreaking. However, I will admit I expected a little more damage to the organ that pumps my blood. Nonetheless, the plot twists would leave you reeling and so will Bardugo’s great ability to link them perfectly to other aspects of the story.
All in all, I just… ugh. I can’t end this. My heart can’t take anymore after all the intense feels and admitting that the trilogy has ended will… Hi, heart. Meet death and denial. I won’t say anymore apart from you need to read this trilogy and it is one I’ll definitely be re-reading someday. By the way, I almost never re-read so that’s a pretty big deal for me. Well, I’m going to go to a corner, hug my knees to my chest and rock like a cray cray person right now. Bye.