Book Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Ruin and Rising

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Series: The Grisha

Rating: 4 stars

Review:

(Some spoilers.)

It is a dark time for Rakva: the Royal family are all either missing or dead, the Darkling rules, and the Sun Summoner has fled with the Apparat and a small group of loyalists. Hiding in an almost lost network of caverns, weakened by the darkness surrounding her, Alina knows she is nothing but a puppet being pulled by the Apparat forced into the role of a Saint. She still struggles daily with the idea of people worshipping her, but to make matters worse the Apparat refuses to let her go.

Alina knows she must escape, working with Mal and a small group of people who still see her as an actual person to rebel against the Apparat’s influence and power. Once out, Alina’s mission is clear: she must hunt down the Firebird and use its bones for the third and final amplifier, and finally destroy the Darkling. But that won’t be enough, she’ll need an army to bring down the Darkling’s forces. The only person Alina knows who could help is Nikolai – if he managed to survive the destruction of the royal palace…

It’s always emotional when you come to the end of a trilogy, especially when it’s one as good at the Grisha series. There are always high hopes and expectations, the building of anticipation as you wait for the last book to be published. The more I read, the more I wonder if our expectations are ever completely met. On some levels I think the readers will always be disappointed. Luckily, Ruin and Rising is one of the better endings I have read, and although I had some hopes for the ending that didn’t work out, I knew that they didn’t really fit with the nature of the story, so I wasn’t really let down. It’s a great book, just what you would expect from Leigh Bardugo, pack with action and romance, and a twist I didn’t see coming. I loved the evolution of Genya and the strength she found after being ‘ruined’ at the end of the last book. There is also a special place in my heart for Nikolai, whose charm and wit is still intact despite all he goes through in this book. Leigh Bardugo shows she can be so cruel to our beloved characters (though I should have known after Genya’s fate). Be warned, she will wring out your heart.

(And here’s where the spoilers start:)

My personal reservations with Ruin and Rising were centred around Mal, and his relationship with Alina. I liked Mal in the first book, despite it literally taking Alina’s disappearance to realise that he was in love with her. In the second book, however, Mal becomes far too whiney and clinging, jealous of Alina while she’s trying to fight against the Darkling. He seems to calm down in the final book, deciding to be useful instead of annoying by using his tracking skills to find the Firebird. He throws himself into becoming her weapon, even to the point of getting a huge sun tattooed on his back. I’m personally getting sick of this trope in YA novels, the ‘why do you love me, I am not worthy’ cliche, that usually means one person just ignores the other’s wishes, then ends with one person selfishly leaving for ‘their own good’. I personally feel that these characters are so self deprecating that their ‘noble’ act of leaving is actually a way of saying that they know best. And I feel that this is what Mal became in book two, the self loathing, ‘I don’t even deserve you’ love interest, and though he was fair less annoying in this book his character has been tainted to me. I will say though that the last chapter, which showed Alina and Mal together in the future, was very sweet. Also, I’m still unsure about Mal being the third amplifier. I was surprised, I didn’t see the twist coming, but even after I finished the book I was still torn about it. It was clever, but I feel it wasn’t explained properly, and ended up just sitting wrong with the rest of the plot. And lastly, I felt the Darkling was killed off fair too easily, it was not the epic show down I was hoping for.

So, all in all, a good finish to a great series, but there were just a couple of things that didn’t feel completely right to me.

4 stars.

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Series Review: The Too-Clever Fox by Leigh Bardugo

Welcome to a special series review, where I review all the books in a series I love in one go. This week’s series is the amazing Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo; a Russian inspired world where one girl discovers she is the Sun Summoner, gifted with the power of light, and must fight against the darkness spreading over the land, and the man who can control it.

Lastly, this is the second short story and most recent in the series The Too-Clever Fox.

17790188Title: The Too-Clever Fox

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Series: The Grisha #2.5

Rating: 4 stars

Review:

There is such a problem as being too clever. Koja, the runt of a litter of foxes, has learnt to survive on his wits alone, as his cleverness has saved him several times already. It has helped him escape traps and gained him friendship with some of the more dangerous animals in the woods. When a hunter so skilful they enter and leave the forest with no trace begins killing his friends, Koja believes his cleverness can save everyone – but in doing so he learns the difference between confidence and arrogance.

The second of Leigh Bardugo’s fairytale short stories, The Too-Clever Fox is another success: well-written, quaint, and very entertaining. After reading Siege and Storm, the comparison between the fox Koja and the privateer Strumhond is very clear, as they both rely on their wits and charm to weasel their way out of problems and win friends. Koja’s exploits are enjoyable to read, and despite the briefness of the story you find yourself engrossed with the plot and the friendships he forms.

In terms of the message this story gives, it is more heavy-handed than the first fairytale, The Witch of Duva. It features similar morals: you can’t always trust appearances, and women are more that their fairytale stereotypes. However, the hunter, the villain of the piece, felt a little too two dimensional. It’s not shown what goes on in their mind, and they never fully explain why they killed the animals other than “because I can”. They just brag about how they cleverly tricked all the animals, which links in to the story’s moral but isn’t much of an explanation.

Another great addition both the series and the world, we can only hope that a full collection of these fairytales will be in the near future.

4 stars.

Series Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Welcome to a special series review, where I review all the books in a series I love in one go. This week’s series is the amazing Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo; a Russian inspired world where one girl discovers she is the Sun Summoner, gifted with the power of light, and must fight against the darkness spreading over the land, and the man who can control it.

Today is the second novel in this series: Siege and Storm.

14061955Title: Siege and Storm

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Series: The Grisha #2

Rating: 4.5 stars

Review:

(Spoilers for book one.)

After hiding from the world for a few months Alina and Mal are betrayed and handed over to The Darkling, who has not only survived the Shadow Fold but gained a terrifying new power. They travel as prisoners on a pirate ship across the True Sea, hunting and capturing the mythical ice dragon known as the Sea Whip, to use its scales as another amplifier. The Darkling’s disturbing new plan to control both Alina and the Shadow Fold nearly comes into fruition – until the Captain, Sturmhond, steals the Sea Whip and escapes with both Alina and Mal across the Shadow Fold and back to Ravka.

After only just surviving an attack on the Fold, Strumhond reveals his true identity and his plans to fight against The Darkling, but he needs Alina’s help. Taken back to the Little Palace, Alina struggles to juggle uniting and leading the other Grishas, play politics with the Royal Family, dealing with the public belief that she is a Saint, and keep her relationship with Mal from falling apart. When she discovers that there is a third and final mythical creature that can be used as an amplifier, Alina has to face whether her desire for this power is just her duty to defeat The Darkling, or for her own gain.

If Shadow and Bone begins the series in with a familiar fantasy story, Siege and Storm throws out these well known and used ideas, and carves out its own path in a completely unpredictable way. It’s a thrilling book, full of surprising twists that work to make a brilliantly entertaining and clever read. One of the main causes of these twist is the character Strumhond, the notorious privateer who is not who everyone believes him to be. With a reputation for being charmingly clever as well as a cut-throat, he and his ship are for hire to the highest bidder – but you can never trust that you are in fact the highest bidder. Brilliantly scheming, charmingly witting, and a naturally confidant leader, Shurmhond is a new favourite character.

This book not easy on its treatment of Alina. She is struggling to fight a war and accept her responsibilities as the Sun Summoner by embracing her power whilst trying to still remain herself, despite finding that she is becoming increasingly tempted by the idea of more. She is terrified of turning into a monster, like The Darkling, but can’t stop herself thinking about him, and though she denies it, she is beginning to relate to him. Alina also has to deal with the expectations of the public believing her to be a Saint, the weight of her duty to save Ravka and being “holy” slowly crushing her spirit, but not her determination. Alina is a wonderfully written character, becoming even more real in this book. Her strength is admirable and her inner conflicts make her a relatable character, and just like the plot she makes some surprising but great choices.

The only setback to Siege and Storm was the ongoing relationship drama between Alina and Mal, mainly caused by Mal’s stubborn belief that Alina thinks her power makes her better than him. Whilst the reader can see through Alina’s narrative that this not true, it is obvious that her power does drive a wedge between them. This gives Alina another complication with obtaining the last amplifier, as she will have to eventually choose between her power and Mal. Mal, however, comes across as fairly selfish because of this and becomes just one more person demanding something from Alina.

 

It’s impossible to to predict where the next book, Ruin and Rising, will go, but I personally cannot wait to see what will happen. My only complaint is that the next book is sadly the last. This series is highly recommended.

4.5 stars.

Series Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Welcome to a special series review, where I review all the books in a series I love in one go. This week’s series is the amazing Grisha Series by Leigh Bardugo; a Russian inspired world where one girl discovers she is the Sun Summoner, gifted with the power of light, and must fight against the darkness spreading over the land, and the man who can control it.

Today is the first novel in this series: Shadow and Bone.

10194157Title: Shadow and Bone

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Series: The Grisha #1

Rating: 4 stars

Review:

Tonight may be Alina Starkov’s last, for tomorrow her battalion travel across the Shadow Fold – a mass of darkness, swarming with man-eating monsters. Few are expected to survive. Alina worries for her safety, but more so for the safety of her friend Mal, whom she has been in love with since they grew up together as children. Her worst fears are realised when Mal is attacked on the Fold and she dives in to save him, casting a blind light with powers she had no idea she possessed. Alina is the fabled Sun Summoner – the only hope of destroying the Shadow Fold.

Taken from her life as a lowly First Army mapmaker Alina is now a Grisha, living in the Little Palace, learning to control her new found power. She is watched closely by the strongest of the Grisha, a man only known as The Darkling, who can create and control darkness, a man who is both her opposite and her partner. He believes that together they can change Ravka, and maybe even the world. But what he believes is best for the fate of their country may not be what the other Grisha and the Royal Family had in mind. Together they need to hunt down a mystical creature known as the Morozova’s Stag, and use its antlers to increase Alina’s power to destroy – or control – the Shadow Fold.

Shadow and Bone was a surprising book. It starts as a fun, but familiar story: the orphaned child who discovers they actually have a rare and sort after power and are the only key to saving the world, the unrequited love for the best friend who is charming but oblivious to these feelings, the boarding school style setting, and the powerful mysterious mentor. It’s not until half way through that it brakes away from these familiar fantasy troupes, with a great twist that changes the whole book in a brilliant unexpected way.

One of the best part of Shadow and Bone is the characters. Despite the familiar setup, in this fantasy no-one is black and white, and many characters are used to portray different ideas. The Darkling shows that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and that what one person believes to be “for the good of the nation” others believe to be an act of aggression or an abuse of power. Mal shows that even the nicest people can be oblivious to the feelings of their loved ones, and how much pain that can cause them. Genya, a secondary but great character, shows that beauty, and the attention it can get you, can be just as much of a curse as a blessing. The main character, Alina, goes from being a naive, shy girl to someone who embraces her abilities, though still has doubts, in a realist manner and pace. With the growth of her power, Alina is finding herself tempted by the idea of gaining more and is beginning to relate to The Darkling – thoughts that scare her and isolate her from Mal, but also make The Darkling more relatable and human.

Other great parts of this book were: the Russian inspired setting and imagery, the beautiful scenes with the Morozova’s Stag, and the sweet romance between Alina and Mal. Shadow and Bone was a pleasant surprise, a great and unpredictable journey that is only just beginning of this splendid trilogy.

4 stars.