YA Review: ‘Ruin and Rising’ by Leigh Bardugo

You know my friends; I really had high hopes for this series. Shadow and Bone wasn’t Ruin and Rising (The Grisha, #3)perfect, but as a first book it was one of the better YA books I had read in a while. I look back and should have seen through it, some smoke and mirrors must have been in use. Why? Because at its core it was about a young orphan who learns she has magical powers, goes to school to learn how to use it, and becomes the HERO OF DESTINY.

But I liked it. At this early junction Alina was intriguing enough, Mal wasn’t too stereotypical in his role as eventual love interest, and The Darkling was actually a pretty damn cool character despite his silly name. More importantly Bardugo had built a world I wanted to know about.   A class of magic users with fairly strict segregation, a faux Russia set up, and THE FOLD. Oh, if I have to be honest, this was a series in which the world grabbed me more than the characters. Still, after reading book 1, there was no doubt in my mind that I would be moving on. And as a little time passed I somehow built this start to a series as being a bit better than it really was.

Then book two came. Siege and Storm took middle book syndrome up to eleven. Long pointless passages dealing with travelling? Yep.   An almost exact repeat of the main quest from the first book? Of course, because everything important in fantasy should be scattered all over the world. And damn it if we are going to have a love triangle in book one then OF COURSE we should upgrade it to a love quadrilateral in book two. Mal was going to be a love interest, that was a no brainer. And SPOILER ALERT, so was The Darkling. So really is one more sexy man going to break this story? Of course not, the more the merrier, all courting Alina for different reasons.

But I was still excited. Just let me get past the video game quest and let Alina get over at least ONE of the damn suitors and let’s get to the payoff shall we?

Shouldn’t have bothered. Ruin and Rising is the most disappointing series ender I have read since, I don’t know, ever? I just…wow.

It starts of bad, with Alina stuck in confines that I just don’t buy. I don’t believe she could be held in a gilded cage so easily. So when the escape comes there is no excitement. Because it was inevitable and there to act as a minor side quest.  All it brought was relief and a hope that the once intriguing and now boring character holding and using Alina won’t be seen again.

It gets worse. Book two had its share of travel, book three took it further. Travel through caves, over mountains, just keep travelling. If someone reads this after me feel free to tell me what happens in the middle third of the book; I am pretty sure I dozed off for the entire run.

I am finding myself unimpressed. And I was kind of bored. And I have realized that while I have not read a lot of books with love triangles in them I REALLY hate love triangles (quadrilaterals, whatever). But at least this book is building for some heartbreak, a dark ending to go with the books dark premise. It may have dissolved into a video game with lots of travel and a few large quest items to retrieve, but there is still some hope here, right?

Perhaps this is the most discouraging thing about the end of the series, and this may constituted a minor spoiler. Or a major one. You know what? Just consider everything beyond this point to be a POSSIBLE SPOILER. But Siege and Storm decided to have cake and eat it too. An early tragedy takes a fairly major character and has some interesting future implications. A late realization will make for a heartbreaking final choice in this battle. Alina may still get to be a hero, she may save the land and even be able to destroy the monsters that inhabit it, but she won’t be able to get through it unscathed.

Or maybe she will, because she is a sun summoner and all it takes is magic light to make everything better. La de da, candy and rainbows for everyone, complete with a sickly melancholy epilog that puts Rowling’s disappointing ending to shame in its message of ‘everything is just all right.’ Except Alina is still going to mope a bit in it, because ya know, why change now that you have everything?

I really had high hopes for this series. But I honestly can’t recommend it past the first book.

2 Stars

 

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