Ruin and Rising (2014) – Leigh Bardugo

Title:Ruin and Rising
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Date published: 2014
Publishers: Orion/Hodder & Stoughton/Indigo
Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Disclaimer: This is the third book in a trilogy, and therefore will contain spoilers for Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm. I have included a link to my previous reviews of both books at the bottom of this one.

“The problem with wanting is that it makes us weak”

And so ends an epic series written by the brilliant Leigh Bardugo whose Grishaverse novels have since expanded into the standalone duology Six of Crows (2015) and Crooked Kingdom (2016), the short story collection The Language of Thorns (2017) and the newly released King of Scars (2019). In this world magic and science cling to each other and manifest in the form of the ever powerful Grisha. In Bardugo’s world the Grisha are revered and feared, and our protagonist Alina Starkov is the most powerful one of all – she is the Sun Summoner and can literally manipulate light.

This third and final book in the series finds our group of renegade Grisha, Alina and childhood friend Mal attempting to locate the third and final amplifier, the Firebird, which they hope to use against the evil and malevolent Darkling. The Darkling has threatened the Grisha for hundreds of years, and after the great battle in book two, Siege and Storm (2013) in which a tragedy befell many of the Grisha that had joined forces with Alina, those remaining went in hiding in an underground location known as the White Cathedral. In Ruin and Rising they return to the surface and travel the stark and unforgiving landscape of Ravka in order to locate the firebird as well as find Nikolai Lantsov, the prince of Ravka who aided them in locating the second amplifier, the sea whip and has since gone missing.

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What is inevitable is a final battle between the Sun Summoner and the Darkling. What is unexpected is the warmth and loyalty that arises between those risking their lives to help Alina. Bardugo’s signature sense of humor and classic banter is far more prominent in the final book, and it is because of this that the reader becomes even more invested in the lives of notable characters such as Genya, who once served the Darkling but is also one of Alina’s closest friends, the twins Tolya and Tamar who are both eternally loyal, Harshaw and his cat Oncat who provide comic relief in tense situations and Genya who remains as stubborn and hard-headed as ever. With the creation of this raggedy little group of unlikely companions and Alina’s discovery that her abilities to manipulate light are a lot more advanced than she ever imagined, it almost seems a shame that the series is to end. In the third book Bardugo seems to have hit her stride, and I guess in a way its a huge relief that she continues to create more stories around the Grisha.

As the journey continues we learn more of the Darkling’s lineage, more about Mal and the connection that remains between himself and Alina, and the true story behind Morozova and the all powerful and illusive amplifiers. It also becomes very clear that all along Alina is still just a girl figuring out her place in the world, and despite her role as Sun Summoner and as a saint worshiped by the Grisha, she is also just a girl in love with a boy.

The ending of the series is sad yet satisfying. With its mythical creatures, the constant and looming threat that is the Fold and the Darkling, the intricate maps of the Russian like landscape of Ravka this is world building at its finest. For fantasy enthusiasts this series of love, adventure, loyalty and power will impress you not only with its fantastic battle scenes and epic journeys, but also with its human relationships and the overall found warmth among its characters.

Shadow and Bone (2012) – Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm (2013) – Leigh Bardugo

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