YA Weekend: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Ruin and RisingRuin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Series: Book 3 of The Grisha

Publisher: Henry Holt & Co. (June 17, 2014)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ruin and Rising was good, but perhaps it was just good…enough? I sat on this review for several weeks trying to gather my thoughts about this book hoping to figure out exactly how I feel about it. And in the end, I finally realized why I was so conflicted. I liked this book – and heck, up to now this series has been one of my YA favorites – but as badly was I wanted this to be the grand finale, I just couldn’t convince myself to love it.

As you would recall, Siege and Storm had the unmistakable feel of a second installment within a trilogy, with our protagonists experiencing a momentary setback. Last we saw Alina, she was in pretty bad shape, having lost her powers as the Sun Summoner. She and Mal have retreated underground with their allies, surrendering themselves to the power of the Apparat and his band of zealots who worship Alina as a Saint. But while Alina may be weakened, she is far from broken. Her mission remains the same: to capture and secure the third amplifier, the elusive firebird that would be her key to defeating the Darkling thus freeing Ravka from his iron grasp.

In truth, I had my reservations from the very beginning. The first couple of chapters almost drove me to return the book. Looking back, these were so clearly “transition” scenes that served no other purpose than to link book two with book three. As an antagonist, the Apparat was almost a non-entity, used to accomplish what was required, and then quickly forgotten. I just wanted this obligatory intro done and over with as quickly and painlessly as possible, and fortunately and unfortunately, it seemed Leigh Bardugo had the same idea. We always knew Alina’s goal was to hunt the firebird, and this brief little romp through the tunnels and caves felt like nothing more than a throwaway distraction.

Thankfully, we soon get back on the right track. We meet up with Nikolai, the outlaw prince of lovable arrogance and smart-assery, and now we can finally ask the really important questions. How are they going to go up against the Darkling? And what would a future Ravka look like if they succeed? Alina has some difficult decisions before her. What is she going to choose? Or rather, ugh, WHO is she going to choose?

In some ways, I feel validated. I still love YA, but not long ago, I told myself I can’t read them for their romances anymore. And I’m a much happier person for it. Enjoying a novel mainly for its story and characters is how I’ve come to approach YA, because if you rely on the outcome of a relationship to satisfy you, you’re bound to be disappointed. Time after time after time, predictability and tired clichés have ruined YA romances for me, and I’ve found it much easier now to just NOT CARE. It also helps that I’ve never really felt much connection to the men in Alina’s life. I’ve failed for three books to see the Darkling’s appeal. And Mal was ruined for me in Siege and Storm (you can’t get stinking drunk and kiss another girl and expect bygones to be bygones, Mal – you only get one chance with me). Nikolai was perhaps the most interesting and had the best personality out of everyone, and that told me right there he was obviously all wrong for Alina, so I never took his role as a suitor seriously.

I’m not going to say what happens, naturally. But I will say Bardugo took the “safe” route. Which was pretty much what I expected, so I’m actually not too upset with the ending. I’ve come to accept the status quo in YA fiction, and it hadn’t even occurred to me that this series could end any other way. It’s entirely possible I would have rated this book higher if it had been a bit bolder and strayed from conventions, but I’m also satisfied if not entirely blown away. And if this had been the author’s plan from the start, I applaud her for sticking to her guns and telling the story she wanted to tell. Everyone deserves their happily-ever-after, and Alina got the one perfect for her which is all that matters.

I’d still recommend this series. It became increasing more predictable as the story progressed with each installment, to the point where there were really no surprises left for me by book three, but it’s an entertaining trilogy as a whole. I wish it had ended with less tepidness considering the incredibly strong start that was Shadow and Bone, but I have to say it’s worth experiencing from beginning to end.


14 Comments on “YA Weekend: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo”

  1. Just finished it last night. Agree with a lot of your feelings. This series never lived up to it’s first book potential. A bit confusing, and oh that damn epilog. Have we not learned from Harry Potter that no one really wants an epilog?


  2. How frustrating – I have the first two books still not picked up but to be honest if it’s a steady declined from No.1 onwards I don’t know if I want to invest the time. That’s a shame really! YA romance – bleh!
    Lynn 😀


    • Honestly, I think the first book alone is well worth the read! The rest of the trilogy never really lives up to the potential, though if you know that going in, you might have a more enjoyable experience 🙂 I admit I had higher than average expectations, and given how strong the first book was I was really hoping for a worthy finale.


  3. I never got started on this series, but I did buy the first book in anticipation of getting to it at some point. Sorry to hear it kind of fizzled out, that’s one of my ongoing frustrations with *series* books, and it’s why I’m loving standalones more and more.


    • I agree. Book 1s and stand alones often have that new and shiny wow factor on account of blowing me away with new ideas and a fresh story. Sometimes I really wish I could have stopped there and ended on a high note.


  4. Honestly, I kind of wish that Bardugo had written a stand alone rather than a trilogy. The first book was amazing but her follow-up novels just didn’t make the cut for me. I hear ya on the romance: if I want swoon-worthy romance in my fantasy, it’s probably not going to come from a YA series.


    • I’m so glad I wasn’t the only one who felt the follow ups didn’t make the cut. That’s the double edge about writing an amazing first book! I think she had a great idea, but it stumbled when she had to stretch it out into a series.


  5. I agree that the series is worth it overall, despite the various issues that crept up as it progressed. As far as “safe” goes, maybe it’s b/c you don’t read the books for the romance, but I didn’t think there was a “safe” choice after book 2. Too many different people wanted too many difference things, so no matter what happened, people were going to be unhappy. However, I do think she went with the obvious choice, and I applaud Bardugo for sticking to her guns as well. Great review, Mogsy 😉


    • I guess I thought it was safe because like you said, it was the obvious choice. I guess it’s possible she could have thrown us all for a loop, but I never really had a doubt Alina would end up with ____! But yeah, too many people wanted different things, and she was going to upset a lot of people either way. Ultimately I do believe an author owns his or her story though, and I respect her decision.


  6. I need a kick in the pants to just get on with it and read this one so I can stop avoiding reading reviews. I know we both agree that I already know what happens but I’ll be back to read this after I’m done reading the book. Which means I better hurry up and start huh?

    Did you read any of the shorts? I think they are folktales from the world at least the one I read was. It was pretty cool.


    • No I haven’t read the shorts, but you know how I feel about short stories and stuff. I should make an exception for a couple series though, this one and the Throne of Glass series has some pretty cool shorts, I hear!


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