by Leigh Bardugo
‚You are all I’ve ever wanted,‘ he said. ‚You are the whole of my heart.‘
The final of the trilogy is the point where it finally reaches up from the depths of ‚Just above average‘ to ‚excellent.‘ It’s right here where Leigh Bardugo’s writing makes the great step towards that perfectness of Six of Crows: the story about Alina’s feelings and struggles and the war for the fate of Ravka reach their climax, and it’s breathtaking to behold at last.
‘Ruin and Rising‘ is a book about just what the title suggests. It’s about Ravka, that once great and now war-torn country, lying in ruins. The Darkling has installed a reign of terror, and the Second Army is destroyed. Just like her country, Alina Starkov is ruined, hidden away in caves deep below the earth, her powers weakened, her friends dead or gone. Only a handful of them remain with her, and although all hope seems lost, they all know that they will have to rise again. To beat the Darkling once and forever, to reinstall the rightful king, to mend Ravka. Just like her broken country, Alina will have to rise up, for she is their beacon and idol: the Sun Summoner, the only Grisha alive who can possibly have any hope of saving them all.
‚I am not ruined. I am ruination.‘
So they rise up from the ashes of their burnt hopes and set out for their last fight, looking for the last of Morozova’s powerful amplifiers, the one weapon which may give Alina enough power to win this fight. And looking for their king, Nikolai Lantsov, that embodiment of brilliance. Of course, he finds them before they find him, in a manner as spectacular as befits him.
‚I saw the prince when I was in Os Alta,‘ said Ekaterina. ‚He’s not bad looking.‘
‚Not bad looking?‘ said another voice. ‚He’s damnably handsome.‘
Luchenko scowled. ‚Since when—‘
‚Brave in battle, smart as a whip.‘
Now the voice seemed to be coming from above us. Luchenko craned his neck, peering into the trees. ‚An excellent dancer,‘ said the voice. ‚Oh, and an even better shot.‘
‚Who—‘ Luchenko never got to finish. A blast rang out, and a tiny black hole appeared between his eyes.
I gasped. ‚Imposs—‘
‚Don’t say it,‘ muttered Mal.
So Nikolai and Alina, once again united, wage the war for the future of Ravka and its Grisha. And what a war it is. There is so much loss, so much tragic, so many beloved characters killed and destroyed. The things Bardugo does to her characters are both terrifying and breathtaking, and now the story takes twists and turns in every way possible. At one point it resembles the journey to the Ice Court, because we are left with Alina and a handful of her followers, accompanied by all that group dynamics and struggles readers of the duology love. Of course, Alina and Mal still have their issues with each other, but other than in the prequel, both of them give a fine final performance here.
‚Maybe love was superstition, a prayer we said to keep the truth of loneliness at bay. I tilted my head back. The stars looked like they were close together, when really they were millions of miles apart. In the end, maybe love just meant longing for something impossibly bright and forever out of reach.‘
It’s great to see how Bardugo’s writing improved from Siege and Storm to this one. Step by step, it becomes more unique and more haunting. Alina’s inner conflicts and feelings are presented so vividly that you finally get really attached to this story and its characters. ‚Ruin and Rising‘ starts a bit slowly, but once Alina and her friends leave these caves and rise up to save everything they hold dear, this is a true page-turner. Impossible to put down.
‚Aleksander,‘ I whispered. A boy’s name, given up. Almost forgotten.
The ending was both breathtaking and bittersweet – I loved all of it. The big tiwst, Alina’s incredibly painful inner struggle and decision, the epic confrontation. I loved how her story ended. To me, everything fell into line perfectly. This was such a big tragedy about power, betrayals and love, I never would have been content with a simple happy ending. Definitely the best book of the trilogy. It made facing all the little flaws of its prequel worth it, and the trilogy as a whole is to me a perfect example of how an author improves with each book she writes. Haunting, intriguing and with a lot of heart, five stars.