Ruin and Rising

(The Shadow and Bone Trilogy #3)

by Leigh Bardugo

4.5 stars actually.

I read the first two books as they came out, but kind of lost steam at the end of the second book and so put off reading this last book in the trilogy until the TV series gave me renewed interest.

This is a fitting end to the emotional pain of Alina and Mal’s saga. The author kind of wimped out on major emotional damage and made it too happily ever after.

Okay, I am torn.

On one hand, Alina has really grown as a character. The way she handled her continued connection to The Darkling made it clear she’s no longer naive, and that he has unbelievably cruel despite his support of Grisha in general. The way she handled Nikolai had the makings of ‘I am going to be too noble for my own good’ so the terrible way in which the Nikolai situation was resolved here was terrific– not only did it remove him as a viable romantic option, it forced Alina into leadership.

That was great.

And Mal. Poor Mal. So noble. The revelation of his tattoo and his true nature, kudos. Lots of hints along the way in the shape of “if he’s normal, why is Mal able to do so many things” finally comes to fruition in the context of his long relationship with Alina.

But then, the juiciest, most heart-tearing part of the book is over in a flash and then the impact of that is negated pretty quickly.

And I felt cheated of some truly intense emotions that could have resulted from following Alina along this long, long journey (not to mention most of this book is kind of summarized journeying from one place to another which is fine, but I wanted more actual interactions. Although the side character banter is great!)

Alina escapes the Apparat with her crew of remaining Grisha, meets up with Nikolai and his airships, and then must go after the stag– the last amplifier– whilst fending off atttacks from the Darkling. The author does an amazing job of tying up many, many loose ends (and really the deaths are necessary, Ravka really couldn’t go on with that many powerful people still hanging out) and setting the stage for a new Ravka. I am now wildly curious about the duology with Nikolai’s story where I wasn’t before (the prospect of him fighting his own monstrous nature is delicious sounding).

Nice ending, but part of me wished for more emotional impact of Alina’s most devastating choice.