Overall Rating: 3.5/5
Genre: Fantasy, YA Adventure
Read if you loved: Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J Maas, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, Divergent by Veronica Roth
Content warnings: None
As promised, the review for Ruin and Rising is here and wow do I have a lot to say. In the conclusion of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, we deal with the aftermath of the capital’s downfall. Trapped in the White Cathedral under the oppressive hand of the Apparat, Alina and her remaining allies are forced to reckon with the depths of their despair. Danger lurks both above and below ground and the path ahead is murky, creating the perfect storm for internal conflicts, distrust, and hopelessness. Only one thing remains clear, and that is the growing importance of killing the firebird if they are to have any chance of defeating the Darkling and restoring peace to Ravka. Ruin and Rising is a natural extension of the plot and thematic journeys explored in prior novels, but leaves critical questions and plot holes unaddressed. However, Bardugo amps up the action in this conclusion, leveling-up on the thrilling escapism that first drew me to the series.
Ruin and Rising starts off just as sad and dark as its predecessor, but is far more developed, with more concrete relations to the overarching plot. It becomes more clear how each character has been affected by their trauma, and this manifests in a very fascinating way with the group dynamics that lie at the core of this book. Writing scenes with the number of characters that are consistently present throughout Ruin and Rising is not an easy task, and Bardugo pays close attention to distinguishing between each of their voices as well as journeys in a way that is easy to follow. The second half of the book gets really good and delivers on everything that I wanted and missed in the first two books. In my Shadow and Bone review, I remarked that the plot twist felt lazy, but that couldn’t be far from the case in Ruin and Rising. The twist, and all the events that preceded and followed it were well thought-out and executed with the level of excitement that I craved. And of course, we have to talk about the ending. I’m accustomed to being let down by YA trilogy endings (Divergent is still the worst, in my opinion) so I was pleasantly surprised at how well Shadow and Bone ended. Was it a little cheesy? Sure, but I loved it anyways.
My biggest qualm with Ruin and Rising lies in some of the character growth (or lack thereof) as well as missed plot opportunities. While I loved the side characters and their arcs, it felt as though Alina remained relatively stagnant. I was hoping to see more from her, especially given the position of power she was placed in at the end of Siege and Storm. They kept harping on how she’s the only Grisha with two amplifiers but where was the tremendous display of strength, or any sort of action to really back that up? Additionally, there were also so many unanswered questions on her background and history that I really thought we were going to get answers to in this book. Her parents? The source of her power? Anything to explain what literally kicked this entire series off? Please let me know if I’m missing something here but these elements were hinted at quite heavily throughout the series and while everything does not need to be tied into a neat bow, the lack of understanding around the main character and narrator’s past felt like a gaping hole.
Look, is this one of the best trilogies of its kind? No, but I had a lot of fun reading it, and that’s what matters at the end of the day. There is so much to love in the books and I understand why it has garnered such a large fanbase. Bardugo has created an enthralling universe and I’m so excited to explore the other books that exist in its sphere. I’m going to take a short break with a non-fantasy book next but Six of Crows will follow shortly!