After the end of the second book, I was very much looking forward to seeing how Alina and her friends’ stories would end. Bardugo’s writing has gained strength since the first book, though her talent for vivid detail and world-building remains just as strong.
I can safely say that this book doesn’t suffer as much from slow pacing as the previous two books; however, the course of events isn’t all that interesting in hindsight. The intriguing part of the story lies more in the development of Alina and her friends’ characters than it does in everything that is happening around them.
I’ll be honest, though, and say that I was always far more interested in what was happening on the page whenever Nikolai was present. He’s a scene-stealer, to say the least. But Alina’s struggle to manifest her power, to reject her darker nature and the Darkling’s magnetism, and to heal her relationship with Mal was an enjoyable experience. She’s much changed since the beginning, though at times I felt as if Bardugo leaned too heavily on telling us how much Alina felt she has changed rather than seeing those changes for ourselves.
Mal was never a particularly interesting character to begin with, but his transformation from carefree pretty boy to a hardened soldier and devoted friend/protector to Alina is notable. In the end, I wasn’t all that invested in Mal and Alina’s romance, but I did enjoy reading their individual journeys to become their truer selves by the end.
As for the Darkling, his presence since the first book has diminished, but it’s always a pleasure to see him on the page. The darkness of his story and his ruthlessness make reading about Grisha politics and beliefs all the more compelling.
There were many more twists and turns in this book than anticipated, one of which had me wide-eyed and very worried about one of my favorite character’s future. And the consequences of both the Darkling and Alina’s political and personal stances culminate into a very bleak and emotional showdown. There is so much more loss and pain in this final installment, but it all holds water. Though not perfect, Ruin in Rising is a satisfying end to Alina and Mal’s story and is also a wonderful stepping stone for some other secondary characters, namely Nikolai and Zoya, who we get to see again in King of Scars!