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“We would find the firebird. We would face the Darkling. Maybe we'd even win," thought Alina. –Ruin and Rising

Ruin and Rising

Shadow and Bone Trilogy #3

by Leigh Bardugo
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Following his successful attack on the Grand Palace, the Darkling now rules Ravka from his shadowy throne. Alina, Mal, and what remains of the Second Army escape through Ravka’s underground tunnels, which are controlled by the Apparat. The Apparat, formerly the King’s spiritual advisor, now leads the cult that has formed around those who consider Alina the Sun Saint. But Alina’s light summoning powers are useless so far underground, and she fears the Apparat will attempt to use her as a puppet for his own gain. Even though Alina and her friends are safe, Alina feels uneasy, and is determined to escape the Apparat’s clutches and return aboveground to defeat the Darkling. 

Eventually, Alina and her friends manage to make it out. They reunite with old allies and set off on a harrowing journey to obtain a powerful tool that just might be the key to finally defeating the Darkling: the firebird, the third and final of Morozova’s legendary creatures that, once killed, can serve as powerful amplifiers. Although Alina already possesses two of Morozova’s amplifiers, more than any other Grisha has, it has not been enough to match the ancient Darkling, who has had centuries to hone his powers. 

But nothing in the world of Grisha is ever straightforward. Alina is entering completely uncharted territory and attempting to stretch her powers to unprecedented lengths. The more she discovers about the firebird and Morozova’s history, the more she begins to doubt her plan. In the end, Alina must decide if saving her beloved country is worth the immense sacrifices she would have to make. Only one thing is certain – no matter what Alina does, neither she nor Ravka will ever be the same. 

Ruin and Rising is a stunning conclusion to the Shadow and Bone Trilogy. This book is full of twists and turns and epic battles that will have readers on the edge of their seats. Nothing and nobody are ever what they seem to be, and the surprises will elicit plenty of gasps throughout the story. There will be tears, too – the losses and anxiety of war lead to heartbreaking revelations between characters who had fought as one. Betrayals abound and rivalries form, and nobody emerges from battle quite the same person they were before. 

Between the action-packed scenes, there are plenty of heartwarming interactions between characters that keep Ruin and Rising from getting too dark and remind readers of the humanity behind these otherwise ruthless soldiers. Every single character is complex and experiences tremendous character growth. Alina is by no means a perfect heroine, but it is in how she addresses her mistakes and strives to fix them that makes it impossible for readers not to root for her. Even the Darkling, by the end, is not meant to be looked at as pure evil, but rather as an overambitious child who let his hunger for power get the best of him in adulthood. This story, and these characters, will stay with readers long after they finish the last page. Readers interested in exploring another unique world with magic should also read the Legacy of Orïsha Series by Tomi Adeyemi and the Something Dark and Holy Series by Emily A. Duncan. 

Sexual Content 

  • When Nikolai, Alina’s friend and ally, asks Alina about her time underground, Alina says, “There’s not much to do underground besides train.” Nikolai jokes, “I can think of a few more interesting ways to spend one’s time.” 
  • Genya, Alina’s friend and former servant to the Ravkan King and Queen, describes how she poisoned the King. “‘I poisoned my skin, my lips. So that every time he touched me–’  She shuddered slightly and glanced at David. ‘Every time he kissed me, he took sickness into his body.’” In the first book, Genya confirmed that the King treated her as if she was a prostitute.  
  • The Darkling and Alina visit each other in dreams due to the connection between their powers. During one of these dream scenes, the Darkling kisses Alina. “He leaned in. I felt his breath against my neck, then the press of his mouth against my skin just above the collar, almost a sigh. ‘Don’t,’ I said. I drew back, but he held me tighter. His hand went to the nape of my neck, long fingers twining in my hair, easing my head back. I closed my eyes. ‘Let me,’ he murmured against my throat. His heel hooked around my leg, bringing me closer. I felt the heat of his tongue, the flex of hard muscle beneath bare skin as he guided my hands around his waist. ‘It isn’t real,’ he said. ‘Let me.’” Alina pushes him away soon after. 
  • When Alina goes to wake up David, she opens the door to David’s room to find “a very bleary Genya and David [blinking] up at [her] from beneath the covers of a single narrow cot.” 
  • When Alina and Mal talk to each other about their shared childhoods in the Keramzin orphanage, Mal sheepishly tells Alina, “‘I had some very . . . distracting thoughts about you. And I felt guilty for each one of them. You were supposed to be my best friend, not . . . ’ He shrugged and turned even redder.”  
  • Alina and Mal sleep together for the first time. “I drew him to me, felt him shudder as our bodies came together, skin against skin, felt the heat of his lips, his tongue, hands moving until the need between us drew taut and anxious as a bowstring waiting for release. He clasped his hand to my wrist and my mind filled with light. All I saw was Mal’s face, all I felt was his body –  above me, around me, an awkward rhythm at first, then slow and steady as the beat of the rain.”  


  • In order to escape the underground tunnels, Alina and her friends fight the Apparat and his followers. “Mal had gotten hold of a sword, and his blade flashed as he cut through one guard, then the other. They toppled like trees. Two more advanced, but Tolya and Tamar were there to stop them. David ran to Genya’s side. Nadia and Zoya flipped another guard in the air. I saw Priestguards on the periphery raising their rifles to open fire.” This scene occurs over four pages. Several people are injured, but the only deaths are described above.  
  • Alina and her friends are ambushed by members of the First Army who want to take Alina back to the Darkling. Nikolai and his flying ship come to Alina’s aid, and they manage to escape, but Nikolai claims all the First Army soldiers have to die; he doesn’t want information of Alina’s whereabouts or allies to return to the Darkling. “Tolya and Tamar followed, cutting through the remaining ranks of militia while Nikolai and his crew tried to lend cover from above. I saw one of the militiamen break free and run for the woods. Tolya put a bullet through his victim’s back, and before the body had even hit the ground, the giant was turning, his hand forming a fist as he crushed the heart of another knife-wielding soldier looming up behind him.” This scene occurs over two pages. 
  • Baghra, Alina’s tutor, explains her family history and connection to Ilya Morozova, the famous Grisha who created the amplifiers Alina seeks. When she was a child, Baghra accidentally killed her sister using the Cut, a special power that severs anything in two, after she broke Baghra’s favorite toy. “Remember, if you can, that I was just a child, a lonely child, with so few treasures of my own. I lashed out at my sister. With the Cut. I tore her in two.”  
  • The Darkling kills Sergei, one of Alina’s allies. “In one movement, the nichevo’ya ripped Sergei’s limbs from his body and severed his head from his neck. [Alina] had the briefest glimpse of the shock on his face, his mouth open in a silent scream, then the pieces disappeared beneath the cloud bank.” 
  • Although Ravka is a safe haven for Grisha, other countries view Grisha as abominations. Harshaw, one of Alina’s allies who did not grow up in Ravka, says that “when [his] brother’s power showed itself, they cut his throat and hung him upside down to drain like a pig in a slaughterhouse.”  
  • Alina and her team attack the Darkling and his army. “The first shot struck one of the Darkling’s oprichniki [personal guard soldiers]. He toppled over the skiff’s railing. Then the shots came in a rapid patter, like raindrops on a rooftop at the start of a storm. Grisha and oprichniki slumped and fell against one another as confusion broke out aboard the glass skiff. I saw more bodies fall.” Many of the Darkling’s soldiers die or are injured, but Alina’s team remains unharmed.  
  • The Darkling brings in reinforcements, turning the tide of the battle. Alina describes, “I heard screams, shouting, our soldiers returning fire. A red stain appeared in the sand and with a lurch I realized that one of our people was bleeding.” Several, including Alina, are injured.  
  • When it becomes clear that the Darkling’s forces are too powerful, Mal convinces Alina to sacrifice him in order to take down the Darkling. “With Mal’s fingers guiding mine, I shoved the knife up and into his chest. The momentum jerked me forward, and I stumbled. I pulled back, the knife falling from both our hands, blood spilling from the wound, but he kept his hold on my wrist. ‘Mal,’ I sobbed. He coughed and blood burbled from his lips. He swayed forward . . . He gasped, a wet rattle. His full weight slumped against me, dragging me down, fingers still clenched, pressed against my skin as if he were taking my pulse.” 
  • Alina stabs and kills the Darkling. “With one swift movement, I drove the shadow-wrapped blade deep into the Darkling’s heart. He made a soft sound, little more than an exhalation. He looked down at the hilt protruding from his chest, then back up at me. He frowned, took a step, tottered slightly. He righted himself. A single laugh burst from his lips, and a fine spray of blood settled over his chin. ‘Like this?’ His legs faltered. He tried to stop his descent, but his arm gave way and he crumpled, rolling to his back.” 

Drugs and Alcohol 

  • Alina and her allies occasionally chew jurda, a stimulant used to stay awake (its effects are similar to coffee).  


  • “Saints” is used frequently as an exclamation, much like “Oh God.” 


  • This book involves a magic system known as the Small Science, a way of manipulating matter in a way that appears supernatural or magical. Those who can wield the Small Science are known as Grisha; many of the main characters in this novel are Grisha.  
  • The Grisha are split into three orders: Corporalki (the Order of the Living and the Dead), Etherialki (the Order of Summoners), and Materialki (the Order of Fabrikators).  
  • The Darkling and Baghra are Shadow Summoners, while Alina is a Sun Summoner; these are unique abilities that no other known Grisha possesses. For example, Alina summons light for the first time since going underground. Alina “felt the light, miles above me – so tentative, barely a whisper. Panic gripped me. The distance was too great. I’d been foolish to hope. Then it was as if something within me rose and stretched, like a creature that had lain idle for too long. Its muscles had gone soft from disuse, but it was still there, waiting. I called and the light answered with the strength of the antlers at my throat, the scales at my wrist. It came to me in a rush, triumphant and eager . . . The light slammed through me and burst over the room in a blinding cascade that illuminated the almost comical expression on the Apparat’s face.” 
  • Alina describes some of the contents of Morozova’s journals. Ilya Morozova was one of the first known Grisha, famous for his inventions, his dedication to studying the Small Science, and his creation of the three amplifiers. “His early journals chronicled his experiments: the blacked-out formula for liquid fire, a means of preventing organic decay, the trials that had led to the creation of Grisha steel, a method for restoring oxygen to the blood, the endless year he’d spent finding a way to create unbreakable glass. His skills extended beyond those of an ordinary Fabrikator, and he was well aware of it.”  

Spiritual Content 

  • Many Ravkans worship Saints, and some consider Alina a living Saint, and call her Sankta Alina (Saint Alina) or Sol Koroleva (Sun Queen). 
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“We would find the firebird. We would face the Darkling. Maybe we'd even win," thought Alina. –Ruin and Rising

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