Alina is in a precarious position. She has basically become the prisoner of the Apparat. Trapped deep underground, far from the sunlight she needs, Alina is unable to use her powers. She needs to find the third amplifier to defeat the Darkling, but first, she has to find a way out from under the mountain and from under the Apparat’s control. Can she make it out, regain her powers, and defeat the Darkling? Find out in Leigh Bardugo’s final Shadow and Bone installment, Ruin and Rising
[Warning: My review of Ruin and Rising contains some spoilers!]
Alina – now an imprisoned saint
At the end of Siege and Storm Alina was rescued from her battle with the Darkling by the Apparat’s army. They got her out of the palace grounds and to a secret underground stronghold in the mountains. However, once the Apparat gets her there, he cuts Alina off from her supporters and uses her to awe and control the followers who have come to support “sankta Alina”. While she is treated well, the Apparat controls where she goes, what she does, and who she sees, all for “her safety” of course.
After her battle with the Darkling Alina’s powers are completely drained. She believes that if she can just go to the surface and absorb some sunlight she’ll recover. But the Apparat refuses because it’s too dangerous according to him.
What’s more, Alina is aware that the Darkling isn’t hiding out in a cave. She desperately wants to find the third amplifier so she can finally defeat him, but she doesn’t know where to start. Alina begins to despair that she will never escape from the Apparat’s grip and save Ravka. Luckily, her friends are there for her.
A daring escape and a dangerous hunt in Ruin and Rising
Mal, Tamar, Tolya, and other Grisha that worked with Alina in the second army realize that she needs to face the Darkling again. It’s clear that she must escape the underground caverns and the Apparat’s control to do that. They also know that she’s too weak to do it on her own. So they devise a daring rescue plan to free her and themselves from their gilded cages. The plan works and they head out to search for the firebird.
They also plan to meet up with Nikolai. The rumor is that he escaped the attack at the palace and was fighting a guerilla-style war against the Darkling. They hope that by meeting up with him that they can help each other find the amplifier and defeat the Darkling. Unfortunately, they don’t have a clue about where Nikolai is and only a faint hope of where the firebird might be.
Still, they strike out to find both and of course, all the best-laid plans implode. Will they make it to Nikolai? Can they find the firebird? Will Alina be able to pay to cost the third amplifier demands? And can she finally defeat the Darkling if she does?
The true cost of the amplifiers, and Mal’s devotion to Alina
Alina has been hell-bent on getting all three amplifiers ever since she learned of their existence. Everyone but the Darkling has warned her of the dangers but she has persisted. Baghra has warned her that such power comes with a cost but Alina has almost scoffed at her warnings.
But when she finally finds the firebird and realizes the true cost, she balks. It is a very steep price and Alina understandably draws a firm line. Interestingly, Mal, who has tried to discourage her from pursuing the amplifiers, is the one who pushes her to claim the amplifier. As hard as she resists claiming the amplifier, he insists that she must. Her fierce defiance and his quiet insistence are frankly heartbreaking. It’s also not surprising.
Alina loves Mal but she is more focused on herself. But Mal is entirely in love with Alina. He gives up everything and sacrifices his own happiness over and over for her. He places his country next on the list of importance, then himself. Mal might have been a bit of a rogue before he admitted his feelings for Alina, but once he realized how he felt she became the focal point of his world.
When she needed the third amplifier to protect herself and save the country (numbers one and two on the important list) he whole-heartedly believed that no cost was too high. His attitude was at once heart-melting and heart-breaking.
One epic battle in Ruin and Rising boils down to one pivotal moment
When Alina finally does meet the Darkling for the final showdown it is an intense battle, to say the least. Alina and her friends have created a pretty strong battle plan but unfortunately for them, the Darkling doesn’t play fair.
In the end, it all comes down to one selfless act. Even then it looks like the story will end in a very dark place. However, Bardugo finds a very elegant way to give the story a beautiful happy ending that doesn’t feel forced or silly but elegant and perfect.
An incredible ending to a fantastic tale by Leigh Bardugo
The Shadow and Bone trilogy is a truly wonderful story. Bardugo has great pacing with her novels. It never feels boring but it’s not overwhelming either. She also creates some really loveable characters. Alina is a very relatable character. She comes from the humblest of backgrounds and is suddenly thrown in over her head. She does her best and to be honest, I’m not sure anyone could do any better.
As much as I liked Alina, Mal was my favorite character by the end of the book. Once he found his true north, he never wavered. He was easily the most loyal character and even if he did something that wasn’t perfect, he did it because he really believed it would be for the best for Alina.
Nikolai was the consummate rogue that was always planning, but his plans were always to better his country and he too was extremely loyal once his loyalty was earned. Even characters that were slightly antagonistic or of dubious character, like Zoya, Tolya, or Tamar are fun to read and felt real.
I especially loved that the story was all wrapped up at the end of Ruin and Rising. Everyone is given an ending and it feels fitting for each character. They all get exactly what they deserve and it feels right.
Make sure to pick up this phenomenal ending to the Shadow and Bone trilogy after reading Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm.
My Rating: 9/10
Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo is available now! Have you read it already? What did you think? Let us know on Twitter or in The Cosmic Circus Discord! And if you haven’t already, check out our review of the second book in this trilogy, Siege and Storm!