Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh BardugoRuin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #3
Published by Henry Holt BFYR on June 17, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Pages: 417
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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two-half-stars

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.

Expectations are little bitches, aren’t they? Having completely loved Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm, I thought there was no way I could leave Ruin and Rising disappointed. I preordered. I searched bookstores in the week before release, ready to buy a second copy to read it a couple of days early, but no dice. Then, fear set in. What if, of all the endings in the world, Ruin and Rising is the only one that I was determinedly against? What if I hated it? I considered not reading this book at all. Finally, I decided to do it, prepared for the worst. With that in mind, Ruin and Rising was obviously better, but also much worse than I feared.

Leigh Bardugo’s prose remains a thing of beauty. Even in the scenes that made me angry, I would pause to admire her beautiful prose. She does heartwrenching observation with the same skill as she does humorous banter. From a writing perspective, she’s one of my favorite authors. Those sentences make me weak in the knees. Usually, I have a couple of pages noted to consider when choosing my favorite quote, but I had a bunch listed with Ruin and Rising.

In book three, I’m just as in love with the world Bardugo has created. The characters, too, with a notable exception, are so much fun. Basically everyone banters, minus the Darkling, whose so utterly himself that I love him too. The Darkling remains one of the best villains bar none. It’s hard to make a villain threatening and scary, but to also make readers root for him to succeed, but Bardugo did that. Baghra’s basically my favorite in Ruin and Rising. I also love all of the secondary ships that Bardugo puts together.

Unfortunately, and it really does pain me to say this, the plot went rather to shit in Ruin and Rising. Big old plotberg and the book sails right into it. The other two books constantly surprised me; I never knew what would happen next. I predicted almost everything that happened in Ruin and Rising, either before I read the book or as I was reading. Ruin and Rising was predictable and it was convenient. Everything happens so damn easily. It’s a cop out and not approaching the darkness I like from this sort of fantasy. For all that the Darkling is one of the best villains ever, the resolution of his plot line is laughable and anticlimactic. I can’t help seeing it as a waste. Where the rest of the series impressed me with its ingenuity and uniqueness, Ruin and Rising felt like the worst YA tropes. I really wasn’t prepared for that. My least favorite trope of all time happened: View Spoiler »

The romance too didn’t work for me. Leigh had three guys in the running in one of my favorite love shapes. I liked this because each guy held an appeal for Alina and they all were legitimate choices. I had my favorites of course, as everyone does, but I admired the set up a lot. Ruin and Rising feels so forced to me, romance-wise. In fact, there’s a bit of a ret con involved: View Spoiler » It could have been worse, I suppose, but I also didn’t feel that spark. She didn’t sell me on it emotionally. View Spoiler »

Now, this ending which disappointed me so hasn’t really impacted the reactions to the book at all from what I can tell. It’s the sort of ending that will please most readers. Indeed, books with endings like this, books where I am the baaing black sheep, traditionally enjoy great popularity. From a marketing perspective, I get why Bardugo and Macmillan did this. Do you write a book Christina will enjoy or a book the general populace will enjoy? That’s an easy answer. Sadly, it leaves me not able to say I actually liked this book. I wanted Ruin and Rising to be unique and special and to take risks, but apparently I expected to much.

These books will stay with me. That’s the most powerful testament I can offer. Despite the fact that I’m left feeling disappointed and a bit betrayed (unfair, but feelings ain’t fair), I’ll reread these down the road and hope to find that my heart and brain can come to terms with this and enjoy the full series wholeheartedly. If not, I’ll just admire how gorgeous the books look on my shelf.

Favorite Quote:

“Beauty was your armor. Fragile stuff, all show. But what’s inside you? That’s steel. It’s brave and unbreakable. And it doesn’t need fixing.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif tyra banks we were all rooting for you

20 responses to “Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo”

  1. NoooooOOOooooo! I am/was so looking forward to reading this one! Dangit.
    Wandering Meander recently posted…Review: The Paradox Trilogy by Rachel BachMy Profile

  2. Amy Jane says:

    *wimper*
    This is why I have a neurotic fear of series(es) and almost never read past book-1 (yes, I’ve been told be several I’m not a “normal” reader). I fall so much in love with book-1, I’m willing to walk away and let it be that “perfect kiss between strangers” rather than risk the later books ruining it for me.

    I AM trying to get over it. My difficulty reading next-books, I mean.
    Amy Jane recently posted…Dream Boy Blog Tour: Authors’ Interview (and GIVEAWAY!)My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Ha, I do understand that and I know some people who do that. I didn’t finish Jessica Darling because I liked where it was and didn’t want it ruined, so I get it. Usually, I don’t have sufficient willpower to stop though. I wouldn’t recommend you start completing them here. Rae Carson’s Fire and Thorns series would be a good one. I think the first book is the weakest in the series by far.

  3. Isabel says:

    FINALLY! Someone who has the same feelings as me about this book! I enjoyed the book overall, but that romance thing REALLY killed me!
    Isabel recently posted…Book Bingo Wrap UpMy Profile

  4. It’s very good to see I’m not the only one who was disappointed by this series finale. Everyone is so happy about it, but things were lacking. I agree that I was expecting more, because of the wonderful things Bardugo did in the first two books..

    I hated that trope and I also didn’t like how she gave him more ‘use’ in the book. I hate his character and it was even worse in this book, so I wasn’t satisfied with the ending at all. Baghra was amazing and I loved the background story! I also like the mixed feelings you get from The Darkling. He is a creep, but at the same time there is something sad about him.
    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted…Monthly recap. June.My Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Mel, I’m not alone anymore! I thought I was the only oneeeeee. Yeah, this just is so much not what the other books were in the tone and plotting. Maybe this is what had to be done to be marketable to the larger audience, but I’m so sad.

      That trope is awful. Someone had the idea about the extra use, so I actually wasn’t surprised by that. I didn’t think it was established all that well though.

  5. Sadly, I felt the same. I’ve been torn between giving this book a 3 or 3.5 star rating, and I’m leaning towards 3. It’s such a shame, because like you said, I love the prose and the world, and I was crazy about the first two books. I just could not deal with that ending at all. It seemed kinda lame to be honest. I also was bothered by that plot hole, but I’m thinking maybe they didn’t feel that connection before because she didn’t have the two amplifiers yet? Or maybe not…I don’t know. Great review!
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  6. Morgan says:

    I have to say I agree. I also hate the first spoiler tag you wrote; it seems cheap. Maybe it was all the hype, but I didn’t find myself as engaged in Ruin and Rising as I was in the other books. I wanted MORE Darkling and a stronger, more complicated ending. Bittersweet can be ok! This reminded me a lot of Mockingjay actually, which worked for me there but not here. I think I would have liked it more if I felt it was earned. Like you said, it felt anticlimactic and easy. Still an amazing series and I did really like it as a trilogy ender. But there could have been more.

    • Christina Franke says:

      That spoiler is never good. There are only a couple of circumstances in which I’ll accept it. This was assuredly not one of them. Yeah, I think the hype is part of why I wasn’t as engaged. I also think there was less actual plot here. They do a lot of roaming to little effect, whereas all the roaming in the others was accomplishing things. MOAR DARKLING. MOAR PAIN. Yes. That. The Mockingjay ending was so much darker. I wish it had actually been like Mockingjay. Honestly, I’m really not happy with this as a trilogy ender, but it’s what I’ve got. I still love the series, but the ending does not please me.

  7. Lesley says:

    I rated it more favourably because I didn’t actually notice how predictable it was until I’d finished reading it and was talking it over with someone. There weren’t any surprises in it. Well, one, but it pissed me off. And I agree with everything you tagged as a spoiler, particularly the first one. In fact, that spoiled the ending for me. I probably could have accepted anything else, but boy did that make me mad.

    It was disappointing, sure, but I still enjoyed reading it a lot.
    Lesley recently posted…BEFORE I FALLMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      It’s nice to learn other people had the same issues, because it’s not just me. However, still sad that so many of us are disappointed. I had so much faith in this book, and I now remember why faith mostly isn’t a thing I do. Yeah, that trope should almost never be used and only with very huge ramifications. It was still an entertaining read, I’ll grant. If there hadn’t been SO MANY things that bothered me, it would have been a 3, but maaan that was a lot of weak plot stuff.

  8. I know you were ranting, but I laughed so hard at YOU HAD ONE JOB MAL xD Actually, I laughed throughout this whole review. I’M SORRY I LAUGHED AT YOUR PAIN.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this ending, and maybe I was too easily appeased because it did end up pretty well put together and not too painful (ish). But to each their own, and at least you’ll have a beautiful trilogy to look at on your shelf!
    Kayla @ The Thousand Lives recently posted…Saturated Reads: The Museum of Intangible ThingsMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      I’m glad you enjoyed my yelling. (I sort of enjoyed it too.) Well, not having to right it, but I was pretty happy with the one job line.

      Haha, I know most people don’t like painful endings, but, in this case, I really wanted one. *cries at lack of crying*

  9. Lyn Kaye says:

    We all need a hug after this one. My review is slated for next week, where I talked about the series more than the last book. I do wish there had been something MORE at the end.
    *hugs hugs hugs* It was rough to see it end. Very, very rough.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Forgotten Fridays: The Art of Hearing HeartbeatsMy Profile

  10. I fiiiiinally read this and I actually liked it, but I wanted to know your thoughts nonetheless. I agree that it was the most predictable ending, but I also felt like it was the most fitting. And in this book alone, Mal was actually tolerable to me, because YEAH he actually bantered a little and actually was really loyal and self-sacrificing. But you’re so right that it’s total retconning that he “loved Alina all along” because he was such a douche before. I think it helped me that I read this one sooooo long after I read Siege and Storm.

    MAL HAD ONE JOB. That actually did piss me off too, and I knew that would have been one of your issues too lol.

    🙁 *hug* I understand your feelings totally. But at least the writing and the world are still pretty? ♥
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