A Light at the End || Ruin and Rising Review

Initial Thoughts: 

Well hot damn. From my thoughts about the last book, I honestly didn’t think I’d be won over so well and truly with the love story that became super pervasive in all three books. I mean. I GET that it had to happen, because where would the poetry be that tied all three books together? What I didn’t get, until now, was that it FITS. I get it now. I understand this ending.

And hot damn. That didn’t make it any better. I still cried for all the loss. I still cried for Aleksander. And I totally blame Bardugo for making me an emotional wreck throughout this entire book.

WARNING: This is the third book of the Grisha trilogy, so expect spoilers from the first two books, and possible spoilers for the third book (because how could I NOT talk about the shit that happens in this third book…).


by Leigh Bardugo
Square Fish, June 2017
YA fantasy, romance
Rated: 5/5 cookies

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.

I will admit I went into this last book apprehensive and a bit afraid of what I was going to find at the end of it. Like many trilogies I’ve read, I normally go between loving the conclusion and wishing I’d just stuck to the first book because I was fine with how it ended then. This is probably one of the reasons why I am not so quick (okay, code for “I suck at”) to pick up a sequel or a continuation of a series. To me, standalones are still awesome.

But Bardugo spared no punches in this book. Ruin and Rising quite possibly beat out Shadow and Bone as my favorite of the trilogy, and I say this grudgingly because not only does it show one of my favorite characters in quite possibly the lowest point in his life, but it also slightly humanizes one of the worst villains ever. It was both painful and sad to read, and yet…

Hell, I read this whole book in two sittings. That’s got to be the record to beat this year. (This may not be a big deal for many readers, but again…I READ LIKE A TURTLE OKAY.)

The book pretty much follows a couple of months after Alina goes underground. Imprisoned by the Apparat in the White Cathedral, Alina is still recovering from a deadly battle that had occurred between her and the Darkling at the end of Siege and Storm. Unfortunately, with Alina mortally wounded, the royals of Ravka missing/possibly dead, and all but 12 of the Grisha Second Army decimated, it comes as no surprise that the Darkling has taken his rule over a ruined Os Alta. Already the situation is bleak, so it stands to reason that things can only get better, right?

Wrong. So, so wrong. If anything, things could possibly stand to get even worse. AND IT DOES.

But let me not dwell too much on the horrible bits and get to some of the lighter things I enjoyed about this book. (Hah, lighter things…)

“You are on your knees,” I said. “We are not negotiating.”

His lips thinned, but after a moment, he dipped his chin in assent.

Alina is definitely sassier now. I love this change in her. I love that it’s a continuing process. She went from a girl I had no patience for, to someone I respected. Yes, this comes in the territory of having great power, and in my mind, as I read the story, I was pretty sure there was going to be a way to nix Alina by the end. Alina was a special snowflake at the beginning, but to be honest, I ceased thinking of her as one because she definitely worked at being the person that she is by Ruin and Rising.

“I’ve never understood this taste for otkazat’sya. Is it because you thought you were one of them for so long?”

“I had a taste for you, once.” His head snapped up. He hadn’t expected that. Saints, it was satisfying.

And honestly, someone who could say that confidently to a man that constantly dogged her throughout Siege and Storm and Shadow and Bone deserves every respect.

Which brings me to the matter with the Darkling. What I loved about this trilogy is that Bardugo created a villain that had gone so far that redemption–if there is to be any–is absolutely unfeasible. In the first book, the Darkling was someone I sympathized with (I do have a weakness for Tall, Dark, Handsomes after all…). In the second, I cringed with disappointment because holy hell, Darkles, did you have to do that to Genya and Baghra?! By the third book, I knew–and I was ready to see–that the Darkling was too far gone into the Dark Side. Darth Vader would be proud. Erm. Wrong fandom, I get it.

And yet…Bardugo still found a way to humanize him. She gave him a name. My copy of the damn book includes a short story prelude to the entire trilogy. (Which I haven’t read, because I’m still emotionally scarred and I am not ready to cry some more over someone who completely broke bad). She gave him a heartbreaking backstory. By the end of it, as much as I agreed with how it ended, I still sympathized with a lonely boy who thought the only way to belong was to forge a new world where everyone could belong. Best intentions…but again, not the way to go about things, Darkles.

Oh god. The Darkling IS Walter WHITE. IT ALL MAKES SENSE NOW.

(I won’t get into the thing with Baghra…I’m still crying over the thing with Baghra. I don’t think my sorrow over Baghra is ever going to get better.)

There’s poetry in the romance. In my review of Siege, I’d mentioned that I was not really seeing the ship that was clearly Bardugo’s endgame. I still saw Mal and Alina as mismatched, Mal constantly does a 180-turn in his personality (and he does this again in this book), and Alina–as strong as she’d become–is still hung up over a boy she’d grown up with. The love story itself does flesh itself out in this book, and the twist that concerns Mal kind of adds to the drama by the end, but all in all, I thought the resolution regarding Alina and Mal’s relationship was done well. It’s honestly not my preference, but to each her own.

“Toss him over,” Zoya said. “Break his heart cruelly. I will gladly give our poor prince comfort, and I would make a magnificent queen.”

Frankly, I rather agree with Zoya. Might have to do with that Lantsov emerald, NOT GONNA LIE.

But it mostly has to do with how much I loved this book with Nikolai in my life.

“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…An excellent dancer…Oh, and an even better shot.”

Like Siege and Storm, I was always riveted by bits where the Lantsov prince walks into the scene. He always comes off with flair, and even in his darkest moments (and ohhhh boy, did those send me in a tizzy), there is still that bit of hope I had that he would eventually get through.

(It did, however, help that I knew he’d be around for the sequels–hell, there’s a duology about him coming up and I cannot WAIT.)

“You never know,” said Nikolai. “I’ve been busy. I might have some surprises in store for the Darkling yet.”

“Please tell me you plan to dress up as a volcra and jump out of a cake.”

Oh gods. I just realized the foreshadowing in that quote.

“There’s not much to do underground besides train.”

“I can think of a few more interesting ways to spend one’s time.”

“Is that supposed to be innuendo?”

“What a filthy mind you have. I was referring to puzzles and the perusal of edifying texts.”

But yes, without Nikolai, I don’t think I would have read this book faster than I did.

5 out of 5 cookies! Honestly, Alina’s story could not have been tied up better, and as much as I would have loved to see her feature more in later books, I think this poor girl needs a rest. I’m mostly ready for Genya and David and Zoya to rock out in their new roles. And I’m most definitely ready to see Ravka flourish under its new king.

Did you read this book? What did you think?

3 thoughts on “A Light at the End || Ruin and Rising Review

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