Book Rating: ★★★★☆ (4.5 / 5 stars)
After the Darkling’s attack on Os Alta, Alina, Mal, and their allies have been forced underground with the Apparat heralding Alina as a Saint. But, as Alina’s own quest for the firebird has taken precedent in her mind, and the power she shares with the Darkling continues to haunt her every day, she has to choose what her future holds…and what she wants the most. Will she lead Ravka to peace? And if she does, what will her future look like?
In a satisfying conclusion to the Shadow and Bone trilogy, we venture back to Ravka with Alina as she stands off one last time against the Darkling. While the end of the series was certainly predictable in some aspects, Leigh Bardugo’s execution really made Ruin and Rising shine as a conclusion to the series. By far, in my opinion, it was the best book of the series, really letting each of the characters shine, with a satisfying ending that made perfect sense for the characters.
While I still hold that Six of Crows is a far better book, Leigh Bardugo paints a beautiful image of a world enshrouded by darkness. But, through it all, we have light. This is not just Alina’s powers; this comes down to the characters: the way Nikolai has come into his own, the way Mal “becomes a blade” (as ridiculous as that sounds), the way Genya takes her destiny by control, and the way Zoya shows herself as more than just a bitter squaller. Each of these characters cast a light onto Alina’s story, and without them, she may have fallen into the Darkling’s influence.
The Darkling is a remarkably influencing villain, reminiscent of many light/dark connections in fantasy. He’s toxic, manipulative, and his terror influences Alina as well. Leigh Bardugo does a fantastic job showing this internal struggling in Alina. Truth-be-told, the way her story ends is the only one that made sense due to this power struggle.
Now, I do want to comment on Mal’s character as I know he is controversial. Is he the perfect guy? No. But I think he is the most human character in the series. His reactions to Alina are normal: he’s worried she’s losing herself, and he doesn’t see himself in her future. Yes, he supposedly flirted with others and was jealous over Alina’s flirtations with others…but Alina was just as guilty. Plus, I did not anticipate THAT surprise in his character arc (although, it definitely reminded me of Harry Potter).
Overall, my problems with the Shadow and Bone trilogy as a whole come down to tropes common in YA that I don’t like: love triangles (or in this case, a quadrilateral), misunderstandings between characters , and a first-person narrator who is, for lack of a better word, “the chosen one.” But, I knew these would all be the case going into this book, so I was able to take them in stride.
Overall, I give the entire series 4 out of 5 stars. Shadow and Bone might not be the most *original* story in the world, but it takes some of the best aspects of fantasy and bundles them into a world ripe with magic. I am so happy I read this series with the TV show out, and I cannot wait to return to the Six of Crow’s Duology. Certainly, Shadow and Bone offers the necessary background to make Six of Crows pop, and without it, I don’t think that book would really shine.
For lovers of YA fantasy and elemental magic, I highly encourage you to check out Shadow and Bone.
Really, overall, the Grishaverse is amazing…and it deserves the hype it has received in my opinion.
What’s it about?
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.