A lot of this series reminds me of Game of Thrones. Not that they’re all that similar, but that they both share the common trait of “if you thought something good was going to happen, you were wrong.” It’s also apparently a trend for the books to start with Alina being weak, rising to power, and finishing even weaker than she was before.
There’s a fair amount of humor in the series, especially this book, which I loved. Ruin and Rising had the most and best in my opinion. Alina cracks some of the best jokes. I honestly liked her the most in this final installment. She has her moments when I don’t feel so, but honestly, she’s human. She’s gone through hell and faces a lot of dark moments thanks to the Darkling. In the end, things work out, though. It’s cliche, but it’s not terrible.
In this addition, we get to see the rest of their world - something I really loved and expected more of in the second book.
I really enjoyed all the folklore about the phoenix and Morozova. Baghra turned out to be one of my favorite characters, especially as we learn some of her backstory. She’s so flawed and she never denies that. As evil as she could have been, I think she sides with goodness. Maybe to make up for all of her years before.
Most of all the side characters become much more filled out in this book. I never knew if I could trust them before, but they stuck together until the end. Alina couldn’t have gotten to where she is without them.
As I wrote in my review of Shadow and Bone, I originally went into the series expecting Mal to have a big role - whether he was a Grisha or instrumental for Alina to be able to cast sunlight - so I was not surprised by him being the third amplifier. I was not happy that he came back to life! I get the logic behind it, but gosh dang it!! Mal is still my least favorite character in the series. He’s slightly better in this portion (as is everything in Ruin and Rising), but it didn’t matter to me by this time…especially after falling in love with Nikolai. Even if I ignore how much I wanted Alina to accept Nikolai’s proposal, Mal still should have stayed dead. His story was done.
Speaking of Nikolai, I was worried he was a goner! If not physically, I thought he was going to be controlled by the Darkling. I was surprised that the Darkling’s effect was undone. I especially like the quote “I can still feel that darkness inside me. I keep thinking it will go, but–“ and her reply “I know.” That was it. They could have recovered together from the darkness, the chaos, the death of both the Darkling, Mal, and all of their friends… Even Tolya held onto his hope! I’ll forever be sad about this ending.
I originally thought the Darkling was irresistible but a bit overdone. Now? He’s one of my favorites especially after reading his novella and this book. He became so human. I loved that he went after his mother instead of chasing Alina. I thought he had stopped caring about her. He’s also the most compelling and complex character. I almost wanted Alina to go back to him because I like him so much. Then I remember he’s actually pretty evil and that would be such a dishonor to the previous books. I also really enjoyed the powers they stole from one another. Namely visiting the Darkling. Like calls to like.
The ending wasn’t as I hoped. While I figured the ending would be a positive one, it wasn’t as good as I wished for! The 4.5 rating isn’t a 5 because the ending wasn’t all that I had hoped for. BUT it also got that 4.5 instead of a 3.5 or 4 like previously because Ruin and Rising has so much more action and emotion.
Ultimately, Bardugo is a great writer. She’s got a talent for developing her worlds and writing one hell of a villain. I’ll probably read anything she ever writes. I’ve picked up a few of the novellas and plan to read the rest soon. What I’ve read so far has been amazing.
Overall, I would recommend this book to fantasy lovers, but be wary; this isn’t the ultimate romance novel. You’ll probably be angry at the ending like everyone else.
Writing style: 3/5
All around idea: 4/5
Final Score: 4.5/5