Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publication Date: June 17, 2014
*Slight spoilers for books 1 and 2*
Upon completing Crooked Kingdom and subsequently suffering from a Major Book Hangover, I scrambled to find a book that would not necessarily reach the grandeur of CK, but perhaps soothe my emotions, at least slightly. A perusal of my bookshelf brought me to my copy of Ruin & Rising, worn Darth Vader bookmark still marking the page I had left off. I'm not quite sure why I abandoned it in the first place, but knowing myself, it was probably due to the very slow, dreary pace the book starts off with. I had decided that I wanted to complete it following Sturmhond's appearance in Crooked Kingdom (and recalling how much I had adored him) but I hadn't anticipated missing a fictional universe to this extent. So, I dove into Ruin and Rising with much fervor.
I'd hate to say that this fervor was ill-founded, but I have to say it: it was extremely ill-founded. Everything about this book had me scratching my head thinking, did a different Leigh Bardugo write this? And was this entire series just as dissatisfying? While I do not remember much about the previous installments, I do know that I adored them--and my lack of enthusiasm for this one is possibly because my reading tastes have changed quite a bit in the past few years.
My first issue with the novel was the pacing. I don't know what is it with last installments and pacing (ahem, Dreams of Gods & Monsters) but god did this book lag. There wasn't much that happened for the first third of the novel aside from never-ending treks (and who in their right mind would enjoy those). Heck, I'd even say that only the last few chapters had anything of substance. And whenever Nikolai made an appearance, but I'm kinda biased in that department.
Everything was just bland, especially the characters. I didn't care about any of the supporting characters aside from Nikolai and Zoya--both of whom, by the way, I love with all my heart. Mal grated on my nerves, not because he was "weak" or whatever; his cockiness just rubbed me the wrong way. His and Alina's relationship was gag-worthy, and while I know they were the best for each other given their circumstances and whatnot, that doesn't stop me from being bitter. [The unrealistic voice in my head was rooting for Alina and Nikolai to get together, but that would've kind of been out of the blue, and even Bardugo isn't gutsy enough to pull a surprise like that. (hide spoiler)]
Oh, Alina, I remember loving you so much. Thankfully, I still do. I loved you at the beginning of the book, what with your brewing resistance and irritation with your reality. You're a breath of fresh air in a slew of unnaturally confident and "spunky" fantasy YA heroines. You're awkward, you're unsure of yourself, you can be a bit harsh at times, but overall, you're a damn relatable character, and you feel genuine.
I did love the Grisha world in Ruin and Rising. But I wouldn't credit this for my newfound interest; Six of Crows deserves that credit. The epilogue bordered on cheesy territory, and I'm still not convinced that it was a good ending to the trilogy.
Despite my complaints, Ruin and Rising did indeed cure my book hangover. And contrary to the technical problems I had with this, it felt good to revisit old characters that I had almost forgot about and gain some semblance of closure from a series that had been a favorite during my high school years.