Title: Ruin and Rising
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
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.
Like many other people out in the blogosphere before the final book in the Grisha series came out, I was a little anxious for this conclusion. I wasn’t as excited as some people, but I’d had a pretty enjoyable experience with the first two books, so I was happy enough to read this book once I got my hands on it. Once I started seeing some less-than-positive reviews for this book, I got worried, but I think that actually helped – it lowered my expectations and made it easier for me to enjoy the story I got, even if it wasn’t a new favorite.
I wasn’t very interested at the beginning, but I think that’s partially because I was still coming in with those low expectations. I didn’t quite remember how things ended with the second book since I had read it a whole year earlier and there wasn’t any Sturmhond to entertain me, so I was kind of bored and frustrated with Alina and Mal and company. Well, not everyone – Zoya continues to be one of my favorite characters in the book, which is why it’s so frustrating that she tends to be portrayed as a mean girl who’s sort of Alina’s competition for Mal.
Of course, the whole series has been building up to a final showdown with the Darkling, so that was the main point of this book as well. Alina spends much of the book searching for the final amplifier that will give her unheard-of power and will hopefully help her take down the Darkling without corrupting her and making me become Darkling 2.0. She’s trying to learn more about the Darkling’s past and the man who created the amplifiers whose name I can’t quite remember (M-something). The whole book is essentially leading up to a final battle with the Darkling.
I can’t tell if I like Alina or not. A lot of the time I found her kind of frustrating and annoying, but that could have just been me being frustrated with the story. All in all, I don’t think she made a huge impression on me. There were some secondary characters that I didn’t care about as much as I was probably supposed to as well, but there are some supporting cast members, like the aforementioned Zoya, that I did like. So, a bit uneven – I liked some of them and didn’t like others. Sturmhond remains a favorite – which is why it was so disappointing that he didn’t always have a huge presence in this book and had a story arc that made him a little less easy-going (although I suppose it would be unrealistic for him not to be affected).
The World Building
I can’t really talk about the world building in this book much because, when I was bored and just wanted to be done with this book (so, the beginning and the middle-ish), the world-building and background details were the parts that I mostly skimmed. I would scan the paragraphs of texts and information and background and focus on the dialogue because I figured that was the most important part. As a result, I wasn’t very happy with the world building because I was still a little confused as to what this world is really like, outside of the country Alina and the others live in (like, there are colonies? was it all meant to be like a fantasy version of our world, with the Americas being colonies again and Europe/Russia being the main setting?), but that could be partially my fault for skimming.
The Adult Situation
Um, there is none? I feel like fantasy books can be a bit different. Alina is an orphan, along with Mal, and most of the characters are soldiers and thus don’t have familial backgrounds that we’re aware of. I’m not even sure how old Alina is, come to think of it. It seems like Alina and her supporting cast are all mostly late teens and twenty-somethings and it’s a fantasy world that probably has some different social norms and such, so it doesn’t seem like such a big deal that there’s very little adult presence.
Meh. That’s really the only thing I can think of to describe the romance. In the second book I started to really dislike the romance between Alina an Mal because I just didn’t care, but in this book my lack of caring simply meant that I was very meh about the whole thing. I didn’t actively dislike it, but I wasn’t rooting for them either. Whenever there was romantic drama, I was ready to move on to the next thing, but it never really bothered me like it did in the second book. Maybe Alina was growing as a character and that made me less critical of the whole thing? I really don’t know how to talk about their relationship because I just really didn’t care that much.
By the end, I was much less critical. It wasn’t nearly as slow as the beginning was for me and I was no longer quite as worried about the low expectations that I had come in with. I was nearly done after reading it for a while and I was just happy to see things end. There was a bit of a happy-ending-with-a-bow-on-it where things ended quite well without too much sadness and such for the main characters, but you know what – sometimes that’s just what I want. Sure, it’s not nearly as realistic and I tend to really respect authors who can cause their characters so much pain for the purpose of having a more realistic ending, but sometimes I just want books where things actually end quite well with most of the original cast alive and kicking. So, the ending worked for me because it was just what I wanted at the moment.
It’s weird for me to say, but I actually think I’m glad that there was so much hype and consequently negativity about this final book in the Grisha series. It lowered my expectations enough that this book ended up being better than I feared. It wasn’t perfect by any means and I think I’m going to wait to read some reviews before I check out Leigh Bardugo’s new series, but I think I’ll remember this book in a positive-ish light and enjoy following the author’s Twitter to see the interesting person behind this admittedly interesting (although not always perfectly executed) series.