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.
Ruin and Rising picks up immediately after the events in Siege and Storm, establishing a serious tone that persists throughout the entire story. The path to Ravka’s salvation is filled with trials and tribulations, as Bardugo shows time and time again. No one is truly safe, and unpredictable plot twists provide each character with their share of suffering.
As the story progresses, Alina continues to come into her own, becoming a powerful force to be reckoned with. She’s strong, loyal, and caring, and I truly believe that she got the ending she would have wanted, given how much she had been forced to endure. It may not be the choice that I would have made, but I can respect and accept her choices.
Ruin and Rising elaborates upon the Darkling’s back story, making him an incredibly sympathetic and complex villain who is arguably my favourite character in the series. He’s ruthless, power-hungry and manipulative, yet he possess this certain charisma that is very intriguing. Although the Darkling commits countless atrocities, his loneliness and need for an equal made me pity and love him even more.
Surprisingly, Mal managed to grow on me by the end of Ruin and Rising. He finally started seeing Alina’s powers as part of who she is, and selflessly gave her his full support and unfailing loyalty. While I still don’t ship them, certain interactions made me understand why some people do.
Nikolai/Sturmhond stole the show whenever he was in a scene. From his impossibly stylish entrance to his witty and arrogant quips, he provided a bit of lightness/comic relief, and his love for Ravka shone through his every action.
One of Ruin and Rising‘s biggest strengths lies in its secondary characters. Bardugo has created a colourful cast that possesses very distinct voices and personalities – all of whom are memorable in their own right. I truly enjoyed exploring their interactions and relationships, both with Alina and with one another.
Overall, reading Ruin and Rising was very much like being on an emotional roller-coaster. And while it may not have given me the ending I wanted, I believe that Ruin and Rising was a beautiful, authentic finish to one of my favourite series.