My Thoughts While Reading Ruin and Rising (Shadow and Bone Series #3) by Leigh Bardugo

I’m the Sun Summoner. It gets dark when I say it does.

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo is the conclusion of Shadow and Bone series. If you haven’t seen my posts on Shadow and Bone or Siege and Storm I would recommend checking out those first before reading my thoughts on the final book in the series. As there will be spoilers. If you want spoiler free, go to the OVERALL THOUGHTS section as I’ll be wrapping up my thoughts there without any of the plot points.

Before starting the book here is the list of things that were already spoiled for me either by TikTok or through reading Six of Crows:

  • Nikolai becomes the King of Ravka, survives this series to go on to have his own and make an appearance in the Six of Crows series.
  • Alina dies at the end of the series or at least it’s hinted at in Six of Crows that she is dead.
  • Alina ends up with Mal (suggesting they both live but assumed dead, this one came from TikTok not Six of Crows).
  • Zova survives the events of this series (I don’t know why I never mentioned this one, as she’s a character that appears in Six of Crows which happens a few years after the events of this book).
  • Darkling is stopped, possibly dies, I just know he isn’t a problem anymore by the time the events of Six of Crows occurs.

Book Details

  • Title: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
  • Originally Published: June 17, 2014
  • Print Length: 422 pages
  • Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy


Soldier. Summoner. Saint.The nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

The Darkling rules from his shadow throne while a weakened Alina Starkov recovers from their battle under the dubious protection of the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Now her hopes lie with the magic of a long-vanished ancient creature and the chance that an outlaw prince still survives.

As her allies and enemies race toward war, only Alina stands between her country and a rising tide of darkness that could destroy the world. To win this fight, she must seize a legend’s power―but claiming the firebird may be her ruin.

Thoughts While Reading

Though they managed to escape the Darkling, the Apparat won’t let Alina leave the underground. Her condition has not improved in two months and still cannot summon light. Not to mention, they refuse to let Alina talk with other Grisha. Save for Genya, who has returned, but is now covered in scars from the Darkling. Who the Apparat only allows her to talk to since she’s a tailor, and they want Alina looking better. The only power Alina can kind of use is shadow manipulation, a small leftover she stole from the Darkling.

The Grisha manage to get a blast through the main flume of the underground system to get Alina light while she’s in the kitchens. She manages to first scare the priest and his followers with the shadows, then is finally able to summon some light again. Enough that she’s able to arrange a meeting to actually talk with her friends and make a plan to escape. The fact they managed to pull it off without discussing with each other is interesting.

Alina figures out how to go to the Darkling as he used to visit her. He has recovered from the ordeal in the chapel with much sign of any damage. Alina returns to herself, and gets her friends out the underground. On their escape, they grow close and become a unit. Only to be almost captured by First Army militia for the Darkling then rescued by Nikolai.

Nikolai takes them to a mountain base where he exiles his parents for what they did to Genya, and warns her she’s face trial when the war with Darkling is over. Mal informs Alina that he still loves her, but is letting her go so she can be queen. Nikolai gives her a ring, not quite a proposal but the offer is there. Along with his desire that she come to West Ravka to get support, while Mal takes a team to hunt for the firebird.

Alina ends up talking to the Darkling and learns two things:

  1. His real name, Aleksander, which she uses to get his father to admit that the Darkling’s grandfather/her father was Morozova the Grisha and Saint. And the child mentioned in the legends was Baghra’s little sister.
  2. The Darkling can wield a small beam of light that he plans on using with one of David’s designs to control the volcra (monsters in the Fold) and destroy West Ravka. A design that David had been working on with Nikolai, but left behind during the attack.

It makes sense where the Darkling gets most of his viewpoints, and why he knew the creatures weren’t myths. His grandfather had found them once. Not to mention, Baghra engrained those viewpoints into him from a time where Grisha were feared and hunted. He wanted Grisha to be free, and along the way the means to that got twisted.

Same with how Alina plans on stopping the Darkling. They truly are mirrors of each other, equals not just because of the link between their powers. But the way they go about things, it’s similar like a literary foil. Which I enjoy seeing in books. And honestly if the two did team up (which I know doesn’t happen), I would probably love reading that. How they work together. Which I know doesn’t happen, but that would be hella interesting. They both carve power and want the best for Ravka, their picture of that is however different. Alina believes she may be a descendant of Morozova, through Baghra’s sister if she had been rescued instead of drowned. Though there’s no proof of this.

Right before they are to separate into two groups: diplomats and hunters, the Darkling attacks the mountain base. He transforms Nikolai into a monster, and Baghra buys them time to flee as she tosses herself off the mountain. As Darkling still cares for his mother, he goes after her rather than continuing with his plans for Alina and Mal.

The group heads after the firebird, where Alina and Mal had been born. They make it to the abandoned mine and as Alina tries to get firewood, Nikolai appears briefly until she calls attention to him. The Darkling also tries to summon her, but she ignores his request. The team share memories of those they lost in the latest attack, and what to do as their group was too big to all go after the firebird. They end up splitting into two groups, one to go after the bird and the other to get the Sun Soliders.

As they travel, Mal states he’ll stay with her through anything even being a guard. Which is something he hated back at the Little Palace. But he’d do it to stay near Alina, even if she doesn’t end up with him. Everyone teases about the fact that Mal only has eyes for Alina around the fire. And he hasn’t been with anyone since he first kissed Alina. They keep traveling until they reach the top of a mountain where the firebird makes its appearance.

Only when they are about to hunt the bird, they realize that its not the amplifier that completes the set. Mal is. Alina realizes this to. She first used her powers when Mal was there. They only find the stag after kissing. The ice dragon after they were close to each other. They had the jolt of it another time as well, but Alina ignored it then. This time when he saved her from going over a cliff, she realized what was in front of her. And why the journals didn’t seem complete, Morozova had completed the set using his daughter that died. There were writings about preventing decay and keeping oxygen in the blood, as those were things he needed to resurrect his dead daughter. That bloodline of being an amplifier was passed down through Mal’s line not Alina’s.

… I mean that twist… I did not see coming. How the hell do they end up together? If the only way to complete the set, is if she kills him. He evens eludes that he knows he has to die for it. And that he’s fine with it. Or accepted it, maybe for Alina’s benefit but Saints. Of course, she refuses this and kisses Mal.

When they get back, Alina learns the Darkling took out a good chunk of West Ravka and attacked the location where the students from Little Palace had been taken. She leaves to talk to the Darkling, and he’s still in the burnt out estate of Keramzin. He waited there with bodies hanging in the tree for Alina to seek him out through the connection. The Darkling admits the students were not killed, for now. They will however die if she doesn’t come to the Fold with Mal. Which means if Mal dies to become the amplifier, that would doom the children. And if he doesn’t, Alina won’t have enough power to fight the Darkling and destroy the fold. So, there’s really a no win situation for Alina. Even with David’s idea of using Alina’s powers to make them invisible to smuggle out the children. Begrudgingly, Alina agrees to kill Mal as a last resort and turn his bones into the final bracelet. If the rest of their plans go horribly wrong and its the only way to destroy the Darkling.

Nikolai comes to Alina and tries to get her to help him get rid of whatever the Darkling did to him. But it doesn’t work. He recognized the ring he gave her though, then hunger took over. He manages not to eat Alina before disappearing into the Fold. I feel so bad for the guy. I know he’s fine and whatever the Darkling did is undone. But still, I miss his humor and sarcasm. Seriously, he might just be my favorite character from the Grishaverse.

The group enter the Fold to face the Darkling, Alina hiding the group from vision and manage to slip onto the Darkling’s ship. Only to learn he has a whole fleet. Nikolai also reappears and helps them in the fight against the Darkling. The Darkling also never brought the children into the Fold, as at the end of the day he wants Grisha. So, killing the future Grisha is a terrible idea. The Darkling also hasn’t learned what Mal actually is. But Alina is hurt in the process during the assault. She manages to get away from the Darkling only to run into Mal.

Alina kills him only to find her powers are gone. And the Sun Soldiers erupt into light, destroying the Fold around them. The collar and bracelet amplifiers fall off of Alina as the Darkling approaches them. The Darkling realizes he’s alone now that Alina is no longer a summoner. And she stabs him in the heart with the same knife she killed Mal with. As the Darkling dies, she mourns his death and tells him his real name once again at his request. Then Nikolai turns into himself again, and Mal comes back to life. Alina tells her friends to spread word that she died in the Fold. So, she does “die” but she doesn’t actually die. She makes a promise to bury the Darkling but have no grave marker as he dies, so no one can discrete his grave.

As Alina and Mal heal, they agree to stay dead to the world and take on new names. Mal promises to one day marry her (which happens) and they run an orphanage. Nikolai becomes King of Ravka, and they lie that he had been captured by the Darkling then rescued by Alina before she destroyed the Fold. She meets with Nikolai to discuss his next steps with Ravka, and she gives him back the engagement ring. As she has no intention of being Alina the summoner or saint anymore. But he makes her keep it, not as an engagement ring but a promise that they are friends. Also Alina gets Nikolai to have Genya, Zoya, and David run the Second Army. Then she watches them burn Ruby, who died in the Fold, and modified to look like Alina. Next to Ruby is the Darkling.

In the epilogue, Mal and Alina are married with only Oscat (a orange tabby that joined group on the journey) and Misha (an orphan that decided to stay with Mal and Alina after the war) were in attendance. The two rebuild Keramzin as an orphanage. Nikolai, Genya, Zoya, and David often visit them and give them presents. Alina never regained the ability to summon though Zoya gave her a note that said she would always be one of them. And Mal lost his ability to track the way he used to be able to. I left that loss with them. That wanting for something you can’t have anymore.

And the loss of Darkling, even though he was evil… I can’t hate the guy. Yes, he was twisted and cruel, but he did in a way want the best for Grisha and Ravka. It was just not the right way of going about it. But he’s also centuries old, so I understood from a standpoint where certain things stopped mattering. People die and in the end there’s no one left. So, Alina was the only glimmer of hope he had. He probably wouldn’t have forced her to do things if she had sided with him instead of running. I do believe him when he says that. I don’t think he wanted to do all the things he did, but he also knew there was no other way since Alina wouldn’t willingly help him in the end. I don’t know. His death was also very human in the end, not something mythical. Like the world had balanced everything again. No Darkling, Alina powerless, and Mal no longer the third amplifier.

Overall Thoughts

Ruin and Rising was good, and though I knew the ending in a way it still surprised me. There were elements that I didn’t know, and as I got to the end I felt the rollercoaster of emotions. The loss that all four characters experienced: The Darkling, Alina, Mal, and Nikolai. I’m curious where King of Scars is going to take Nikolai as it takes past post the events of this series and Six of Crows duology (though apparently there’s going to be a third book now in that series). I’m also really excited to read his series as he’s one of my favorite characters from the Grishaverse.

I’m not going to read King of Scars quite yet, as I have a few other books to read first and I kind of want to wait until I have Rule of Wolves which comes out in March 2021. I do have it pre-ordered. Apparently it’s supposed to be the grand finale to the Grishaverse, but I’m not so sure on that now that a third Six of Crows book has been announced. Maybe timeline wise they overlap, but still. Going to wait on that series until March, I think. I might read King of Scars before then, but right now my plan is to wait. Now to somehow avoid spoilers for six months, so I can actually have a reading experience in this universe where I know nothing beforehand.

Plot wise, I enjoyed the twists as there were some elements of surprise and others that if you take a step back to look at the series overall you can see the details fit together. And I like how those came towards even if it felt like a knife stabbed directly in my heart at times. Even though I knew certain characters were safe, I still felt anxious trying to sort out how they were going to make it. And then I thought TikTok lied about the fate of another, because seriously that was… I don’t have words for what happened. What happened in the end of the battle was confusing (in a way) and yet it was best outcome for all parties involved. There was no way the Darkling was going to be redeemed, not really anyways.

Again, I still would be hella interested in a version where Darkling and Alina did team up. Not sure how Mal would fit into that version, as there’s the dilemma of his situation to contend with. But still, it would’ve been something I would enjoy reading as well. Though the ending there might’ve been the same as here in the end. All depends on some variables. And in the end the story would’ve came back to Mal in some way. I liked his character, but I didn’t love him as much as Nikolai or the Darkling. Especially with how he treated Alina in Siege and Storm, and he kind of redeems himself in Ruin and Rising by accepting his fate. But still, at the end of the day he never accepted/loved Alina as she was when was a summoner and saint. Only when she was normal. And he got his wish in the end, something he even admits to. Though he says he didn’t imagine it being quite the way it turned out. Still, not sure how I feel about that.

Anyways, onto the rating. I would give this book a 4.5 out of 5 stars. I could definitely see myself returning to this series in the future. And I’m really curious how they are going to do the Netflix TV series, since it’s also going to have Six of Crows mixed in with it. Alina Starkov and Kaz Brekker weren’t doing their things at the same time. So, it will interesting to see how they handle that. As they are doing very different things with their only link being Nikolai and Zoya, who make appearances in Crooked Kingdom to help them with the Grisha and Kuwei situation.

Love ya,

Mae Polzine

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  1. October 18, 2020 / 11:42 AM

    Great review, Mae. Sounds very good. I don’t read much fantasy, but I might give the Netflix series a try 😉

    • Mae Polzine
      October 18, 2020 / 2:12 PM

      Thank you, I think the Netflix series will be interesting since the series they are covering are years apart but they are going to be together in the show.
      ♥ Mae

      • October 18, 2020 / 5:14 PM

        I will check it out. Do you know when it’s going to be aired?

    • Mae Polzine
      October 18, 2020 / 5:40 PM

      No release date yet. Was supposed to be in 2020 (June originally) but production was delayed due to pandemic.
      ♥ Mae

  2. Brooke Carrington
    October 25, 2020 / 3:17 PM

    Nice review! Netflix series sounds good too!

    • Mae Polzine
      October 25, 2020 / 3:31 PM

      Thank you! I know, I can’t wait for it to come out.
      ♥ Mae

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