Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo Book Review

Ruin and Rising is the final installment in Bardugo’s The Grisha series and at this point, I’m still reeling a bit from the emotional and violent end.  As I’ve previously remarked, The Grisha series has more than a few similarities to the Harry Potter series and can be seen as HP for older young adults and ages upward.  Aside from the fact that we still have Alina (Harry Potter) whose scars ache whenever the Darkling (He Who Shall Not Be Named!) is around, this final book veers off the HP train track and flies into darker territory while Little Palace (Hogwarts) is overrun by the oprichniki (Death Eaters). Henry Holt & Co. | Hardcover | June of 2014 | 417 pp

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) Book Review
Siege and Storm (The Grisha #2) Book Review

In a quick sum up, Alina discovered that she has magical abilities as a sun summoner, making her a member of the elite Grisha – a clan of magically-gifted warriors.  She is the only one of her kind, one who can summon light, and she was paired with the Darkling – leader of the Grisha who can summon darkness and demons.  Together it was proposed that they could get rid of the Fold, a swath of land draped in darkness and and swarming with demons, an area which divided the country and was an abomination created hundreds of year prior by accident.  But the Darkling had other intentions.  He wanted to expand the Fold, and he needed Alina’s help to do it.

In the first book, Alina discovered his plan and escaped Little Palace with help from Mal, her best friend and romantic interest.  In the second book, Alina’s power of the sun is amplified with two parts of an ancient puzzle.  They think they know where the third part is which should give Alina the power to defeat the Darkling, but at what cost?

In Ruin and Rising, Alina and Mal and several other loyal Grisha who survived the massacre of the palace are hidden away by a clan of sun summoner worshipers.  The king and queen of Ravka, along with their remaining son Nikolai, also escaped to somewhere unknown.  While the Darkling now claims the throne of Ravka, thousands still hope and pray around their new patron saint – Sankta Alina.  Unfortunately, she’s nowhere to be seen – hidden away by a controlling priest and strangely stripped of her powers.

When Mal and a few other Grisha execute a small attack within the caves, Alina’s power is restored and she takes control over the growing number of sun summoner worshipers.  Alina and her pack of survivors exit into open air while tasking the priest to take care the growing army in her name.  They have a quest to fulfill – find the last piece of the puzzle.  It leads them back to the town where Alina and Mal were both orphaned.

Alina is connected to the Darkling through similar powers and previous encounters.  He was able to visit and torment her as a vision that only she could see.  But Alina and her powers have grown since the last book, and now she can pull the same trick on the Darkling.  While he remains a dark force to be reckoned with, he softens whenever Alina visits as a vision – he tries to woo her, as always.  She’s not impervious to his dark seduction (like calls to like), but she continues to resist his charms.  Eventually, he becomes more forceful even when playing sweet.

“No,” he said gently as he folded me in his arms.  He pressed a kiss to the top of my hair.  “I will strip away all that you know, all that you love, until you have no shelter but me.”

What I love about this series is that we have a fated protagonist whose head doesn’t swell with being the chosen one (not that Harry’s did either).  With every sighting of Alina and her power to summon the sun or smite enemies with a celestial blade of deadly light, her following grows under a new religion.  And she hates it.  People are branding themselves, calling her the new patron saint, and fighting in her name. And she despises it even more.  Yet, she knows that to heal Ravka and eventually defeat her dark nemesis sitting high on the throne, she’ll have to play the part – while ripping her hair out.  She is human and knows that she isn’t a saint … she isn’t divine … she has massive flaws.  You can’t even call her a believer in anything beyond what’s real.  Her power?  She believes it is just a normal scientific, genetic trait.  Nothing divine about it.

“Faith didn’t protect your soldiers from the nichevo’ya.  No amount of fanaticism will.”

Then there is Mal, our supporting character.  He’s our incredibly handsome hero who every girl tries to land, but he’s stuck on Alina – the girl he grew up with in the orphanage.  In Ruin and Rising, he’s more of a romantic hero than ever, putting aside his faithful love for Alina so that she can eventually sit on the throne next to Prince Nikolai.  But there’s something else about Mal – the way he can track anything that has a heartbeat, the way he touches Alina and she nearly has a seizure, the way Alina first discovered her ability when she thought they were about to die in each other’s arms.  Yup – it amounts to something.  But it isn’t as cheesy and predictable as Mal being some long-lost and forgotten prince.  It’s way better.

The other characters come into their own as well.  Zoya, the jealous beauty of a Grisha, stays loyal to Alina even though they despise each other.  Her antagonistic remarks become the needed levity that even props Alina up.  Genya returns at half the person she was on the outside, twice the person on the inside.  But if you remember from the second book, make no attachment to any of the secondary characters because … well … it’s a bloodbath.  Few will survive to the end.

An incredibly captivating, heart-wrenching, masterful series for all high fantasy lovers, young adult and ages beyond.

Brilliant Conclusion

My Rating

4.5 Stars

You'll grieve, you'll cry, you'll see some of your favorite characters torn limb from limb - but you won't be able to stop reading.


Rebecca Skane is the editor-in-chief for the Portsmouth Review. She holds a Bachelor of the Arts degree from Lawrence University in Wisconsin and resides in Portsmouth, NH with her husband and two children. She is the founder of The Portsmouth Book Club which boasts over 1,000 members. She also doubles as a professional escapist. Her genres are scifi and fantasy, both adult and young adult - but she often reads outside of her preferred genres. You can follow her on GoodReads. Aside from her love of good books, she is a professional website developer, content editor, and SEO expert. You can visit her web design and development site at RebeccaSkane.com.


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