Book Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
Ruin and Rising
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Shadow and Bone #3
Genre: Fantasy, adventure, romance, magic
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
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.
*This reviews contain spoilers*
I think I'm not as disappointed in this book than other people is because I know what is going to happen, and I went through a lot of psychological preparation before officially giving this series a second chance. I enjoyed this book when I finished it, but it was the other reviews that actually lifted my veil and made me rethink (and re-realizing) the astounding number of plot holes in this conclusion.
The Parts that made sense:
I know, how the hell can I says something like that? The fact that Aleksander did not end up with Alina is straight up traumatizing. But again, I came into this book with a LOT of mental preparations, so I trained myself fully to understand and accept the ending before giving in. Cut Bardugo some slack, it's the only way. From the beginning, Bardugo purposely made Alina and Nikolai have literally NO chemistry instead of only friendship. Even if the Darkling and Alina did have chemistry, unfortunately, we all know he was unredeemable. It would've never and it cannot ever work out. The Darkling and Alina are ultimately soul-mates that are never meant to be together. It's truly tragic, but that's the way it is. Maybe in another life, in another parallel universe where Alina can rescue Aleksander before he became so unredeemable.
There are also people that are really mad at how Alina lost her powers. I feel like it's appropriate. It's the right thing to do. Although how this worked is a bit confusing (and kind of doesn't make sense, which I'll elaborate later), I agree this is how it should've gone. Throughout the entire series, Baghra was the true voice of reason. It's either Alina giving up this great power, or risk becoming like the Darkling. She had this recurring fear that she would become just like him, so this was the ending proof to show how she, in the end, is not the same as he is, despite everything the Darkling believes and their similarities.
Romance wise, Mal is also the preferable choice and the right choice. This is hard to swallow because, in young adult books, we're so used to (and enjoys) the heroine choosing the "less easy", "less nice", and "less boring" guy. We want the "villain" to be redeemed and end up with the heroine, or the unexpected hate-love relationship. But Mal out of the three (Nikolai, Mal, and the Darkling) loves Alina more. He also has the less to offer out of the three, and he is well aware of that. You don't choose the person that has the most, you chose the one that is willing to give you the most. Nikolai cares about Alina undoubtedly, but it still came down as an alliance proposal. He even admitted it himself, saying if they were to get married, they can "grow to love each other". He doesn't love her yet. The Darkling and Alina have attraction, but as much as I hate to admit it, he's gone. He is the true villain of the series, he can never be the end game.
Greed and infinity have been a main theme in the series. "What is infinite? The universe and the greed of men”. The true test is not just being satisfied. It's being able to become satisfied when you can have so much more. I cannot agree more with Alina's choice in the end, and the plain and simple life she decided to share with Mal even with so much more out there she could've had. The fame, the power, the influence. She chose the one person and the one ending where she will be appreciated and love as her, and her only. Not the saint, the sun summer, or even queen. Not even Alina Starkov. Just Alina.
Less is truly more.
Despite what everyone said, I (at least myself) find myself understanding this bond quite well. For those who didn't get it, so basically, remember how the Darkling gave Alina the Stag so he can control her powers? Ended up, that was actually not just a one-way stream, but a two-way stream. You can't have a straw and only expect it to have one hole and flow in one way, and Alina having a brain (thank god) actually figured that out. The already have a bond there, but the nichevo’ya bite I believed strengthened the bond, and the reason that applied only to Alina is because 1) Alina and the Darkling already have a bond through the Stag, and 2) the nichevo’ya being basically physical abomination spawns from the Darkling is capable of transferring...a part of him I guess. It's also because how this bond was strengthened that helped aware Alina not only she can resist the Darkling's control, but control his powers as well.
And if that still didn't make sense, please keep in mind it's merzost.
Now, let's take a look at the things that did not make sense:
Mal a.k.a Firebird a.k.a Third amplifier?!
Okay, good news, this fact most likely was not a last minute decision on Bardugo's part (we've all been suspecting something with Mal's true abilities from book 1 and his ability in tracking and able to "sense" his targets). The bad news...
...okay. I don't know, like how he works as the amplifier, how when Alina killed him she loses her powers, and how he came back from the dead...
I am very, very happy about the fact that Mal survived, but as much as I'm happy about that fact, it's...it's a bit forced.
That part of the story definitely is unexpected, but I don't know if I'm just going to slam its label on it as good or bad. But it's definitely controversial for a very good reason indeed.
But let's finish off on a good note! Here is the list of my favorite things in the book:
Nikolai’s superhero entry (I was smiling like an idiot haha)
ALINA LITERALLY SLICING OFF THE HEAD OF A MOUNTAIN
(As much as I'm mad at the Darkling) when he told Alina his real name
The Darkling's reaction to Alina when she first appeared in dream form (and that sequence as a whole)
Nikolai's ring and proposal
Alina being such a smart character that grew so much in learning how to act and manipulate in the beginning, playing the role of the saint in the Apparat's place and MANIPULATING THE DARKLING FOR A TINY BIT WHEN SHE FIRST VISITED HIM I FORGOT ABOUT THAT
Mal and Alina contemplating what would've happened if she was discovered when she was a child, and how they reached the conclusion that they would've still found each other (*tear*)
But seriously though, the anger is really, really, TRULY well deserved. The fact that Bardugo didn't make Aleksander redeemable and end game...the only reason I'm so okay with this is that I mentally prepared for SO LONG.
Since the ending is not going to change...I might as well train myself to like it. But if you'll excuse me, I never thought I'll say this, but I have some fanfiction that I need to look for...
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leigh Bardugo is the #1 New York Times bestselling and USA Today bestselling author of the Six of Crows Duology and the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, as well as the upcoming Wonder Woman: Warbringer (Aug 2017) and The Language of Thorns (Sept 2017). She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, and graduated from Yale University. These days, she lives and writes in Hollywood where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band. She would be delighted if you followed her on Twitter, elated if you visited her web site, and fairly giddy if you liked her selfies on Instagram.