I can't believe I left it so long to read this series! Shadow and Bone had been on my reading radar for almost two years before I finally opted to go for it.
And honestly, I was so annoyed at myself for waiting. This series is phenomenal!
Ruin and Rising is the final installment to the Grisha Trilogy, and Leigh Bardugo certainly doesn't disappoint.
Throughout each book the writing has grown stronger and stronger. Something I value in a series. Descriptions, characterization, and character arcs all became stronger the longer I read.
The Grisha series has easily cemented itself as one of my favourite series.
The Russian influences were amazing and something that I really enjoyed and thought made the series prosper that little bit more.
And yet, I felt there was something missing from the final book.
I wanted something huge, something epic for ending the series on. And I guess some people could say that it did happen that way. I don't quite feel the same way.
Alina Starkov goes through a tremendous amount through the whole of the series, and we see her progression written so beautifully.
The only downfall I had with Aline herself was that I wanted her to want more.
I understand she had conflicting emotions about her lust for power and in the end I wanted her to get the powers and have the destiny she deserved as the Sun Summoner, even if it wasn't anything she had every planned for herself.
I actually kind of wanted her to struggle more with that lust. I wanted her to feel just a small semblance of what The Darkling must have felt. So that there connection could have grown. I wanted them to see that they were more alike, that they truly were the only ones who understood.
Onto every bodies favourite villain, The Darkling. After falling for the Darkling pretty hard in, Shadow and Bone, the first in the series. I was torn from then on. I loved to hate him. He was a perfect antagonist.
The further on we read, the more I felt he was beyond redemption. And yet, I wanted him and Alina together. There were bouts when he was just a lonely boy and I truly felt for him. And I love a book that can make you question yourself, because at the end of it all. All the Darkling was truly trying to do was save Ravka. And his ruthlessness and cruelty was a means that justified that end to him.
I truly believe that the years and his humanity had faded, but that he could have been brought back from that brink.
We see the boy behind the Darkling facade, and I loved the scene when he asks Alina to say his name.
And I'm going to say it.
The Darkling was in no way near enough in this book. Though the whole plot revolves around Alina defeating him, he is hardly ever present.
To think that readers would have been satisfied with only 'visions' of the Darkling is a huge mistake on Bardugo's part.
The secondary characters deserve as much praise, maybe even more. They were perfect. They had flaws, witty dialogue, a diversity that made them all a pleasure to read.
Nikolia was a particular favourite of mine. I've been honest in my disliking of Mal from the beginning, and because I know Bardugo would never let Alina be with the Darkling I had hoped that the two of them would wind up together.
He was fast talking, witty, and had a way that made me squeal in excitement every single time he was in a scene.
Nikolia goes through the ringer quite a bit in this novel and comes out a little battered, I wanted the best for him and I was pleased he was able to take the throne of Ravka.
Genya, Tamar and Tolyer, and even Zoya had me smiling. The whole group dynamic was balanced and written impeccably. Even Baghra, whose story had never truly been revealed until now.
Mal, in all honesty, I wanted dead. Not because I didn't like him as a character, but because I felt it needed to happen, for the sake of the story.
And for the record, what was that bullshit about him coming back to life because the magical ancestry part of him died, not actually Mal himself.
I wanted the series to end one of three ways.
Scenario 1: Alina comes into her power, ultimately killing Mal, and fights the Darkling in an explosive, epic, and harrowing match of light and dark. Where she ultimately wins and she and Nikolia rule over Ravka, though there is nothing romantic between them for many years while she mourns the lose of Mal. Then they fall in love gradually and live happily ever after in all her Sun Summoner glory.
Alina regrettably kills Mal. Alina fights the Darkling, again in an epic fight, where she can summon her own army of light. And reduces him to nothing, but because they are so alike and are connected so tightly, refuses to kill him. Because of her mercy, the Darkling sees he is unfit to rule Ravka.
Nikolia becomes an awesome king.
Eventually the two reconcile, though never romantically as they help the other to keep balanced. Alina can help rule Ravka or not. The Darkling didn't 'win' and yet he gets to see Ravka thrive and prosper, just as he had always hoped for. The two live long lives in which they protect Ravka.
Nikolia is killed. Alina kills Mal. The Darkling is defeated and then publicly executed, and the Sun Summoner rules Ravka with a broken soul. Mourning the men that she each shared unique and strange connections with.
To be honest, I wanted a brutal ending. I wanted something that would stick with me. Something as memorable as the Divergent trilogy ending.
Through the whole of the book we're told about the consequences of having such power. And yet, what consequences do we actually see. Everything works out perfectly for Alina.
Mal is revived after his valiant death.
The Darkling in defeated.
The Fold folds away.
Nikolia becomes an excellent King.
And Alina is relieved of a power she had never wanted in the first place.
That's my main qualm with this book.
I feel like Leigh Bardugo played it safe and gave everyone the happily-ever-after treatment that we are all sick of in YA literature.
It was a predictable ending that lessened my validation that I was going to remember the series for years to come.
This isn't a bad book. I just had more issues with it than I did the previous two books. The characters and writing just about balance the book. 4 stars