We all die. Not everyone dies for a reason.
My opinion of this series has changed a lot over the past couple of days. I spent the better part of a day reading through Ruin and Rising in its entirety, even staying up far too late. I was exhausted the next day, but I couldn’t stop reading it when each chapter was filled with action and emotion. Ruin and Rising picks up after the capital has fallen. Alina feels pretty broken, and it’s hard to heal when you’re trapped underground and worried that the Darkling’s forces will find you.
Beauty was your armor. Fragile stuff, all show. But what’s inside you? That’s steel. It’s brave and unbreakable. And it doesn’t need fixing.
I want to talk about the characters first. I know that this series–and the companion series–has been read and reviewed a lot, so there’s hardly anything new to say. But I’m going to throw my voice in there regardless. I sometimes feel like I’m one of the only readers who likes Mal. I think that his character growth is one of the better things about the series. I’ve heard that readers find him whiny, but I found him very real. He seemed like a real and true person in this fantasy world. He’s presented with so many impossible choices throughout the series and he decides to stay and help Alina, even though he doesn’t know if it will work out for them. He is steadfast and brave even when things are chipping at his resolve and his own emotions. I loved it. Yes, there are better love interests and better characters in other series, but for the Grisha trilogy, I found him to be one of the most changed characters by the end.
You move forward, and when you falter, you get up. And when you can’t, you let us carry you. You let me carry you.
Maybe love was superstition, a prayer we said to keep the truth of loneliness at bay. In the end, maybe love just meant longing for something impossibly bright and forever out of reach.
Alina was another changed character. I do think that her character arc is sped up a bit at times, but it ends up being a good thing in the end. As the main character, we follow the plot through her. Using her as a way to illustrate the world and the problems in it was done really well. Alina is a character you can easily feel sympathy for as she struggles through the changes that are sweeping across Ravka. More so than Mal, Alina has to change how she views the world very quickly. I loved that she struggled with how she had to change her morals in a war situation. That really affected her and I was glad that Bardugo included it.
I really, really want to talk about Nikolai, but it kind of verges on spoiler territory if I go into specifics, so I’ll talk general. I really loved that he took on a larger role in this final book. I had really liked him in the second and it was great to see him take on a more important role in Alina’s life and the Ravkan war. Nikolai allowed for some true humor to occur in the novel, which I really appreciated. When Nikolai was first introduced in Siege and Storm, I wasn’t sure where his character would go. I’m glad that he was one that stayed in the series as a permanent member. And recently Bardugo announced that she’s going to give him his own series!
The last character that I want to talk about is the Darkling. Oh, the Darkling. I really, really, really don’t like him. And the more reviewers talk about him, the more I don’t like him. I am in a sea of people who love the Darkling and I just don’t see it. He’s set up as a love interest, but I don’t see him as such. I see him as a kind of creepy guy who tries to take care of Alina and her budding powers. The scenes that he and Alina have always give me an icky vibe. There are times when a reader is supposed to be sympathetic toward him, but I just don’t agree. In Ruin and Rising, we’re given more of his backstory–more of why he is the way he is. But for me, it came too little too late. Perhaps if I had been given more in the first books I would have cared about him more. Something like that needs to occur before the third novel. If more of that was in the first novel I think that I would have been more appreciate of his character arc.
Hope was tricky like water. Somehow it always found a way in.
On to happier things! The plot and the setting was done really well. All young adult novels that are fantasy and feature a rebellion tend to have very similar plotlines, which was also true of Ruin and Rising, but I was engaged the entire time. I definitely remember there being moments that were a bit slow in the first two novels, but I couldn’t stop reading the third. All of the little things that had been building up to the conclusion of the series finally came together. I didn’t really have many expectations when it came to the end of the series, so I think that’s why I enjoyed it so much. There were extremely emotional moments that surprised me because I hadn’t realized I was so heavily invested in the characters and their stories.
The quest that Alina and her companions go on in order to find the third amplifier was wrought with danger. Every time they thought that they had moved beyond the Darkling’s gaze, he was there. I felt his presence as a villain and a threat throughout the entire novel. Pairing him as a villain with the dark setting of the Fold and the forests of Ravka really worked for me. I thought that this novel truly upped the stakes for the characters. There were times when I wasn’t sure where Bardugo was going with the plot, but then she turned around and suddenly it was all clear.
‘You are all I’ve ever wanted,’ he said. ‘You are the whole of my heart.’
In the end, Ruin and Rising and the Grisha trilogy was a very good fantasy novel that deserves the hype it receives. I’ll be rereading this in the future and I’ll definitely be checking out Leigh Bardugo’s other novels. I’m eager to read the Nikolai novel! I’m glad the story is continuing and not going the Nikolai-prequel route.
There were so many quotes that I loved while reading Ruin and Rising that I wanted to call attention to a few more:
Photos are mine, quotes belong to Leigh Bardugo!