Alina Starkov is now a disgraced Sun Summoner living underground with the Apparat, a Sun Summoner that might not be able to have her powers back. The Capital is now under the control of the Darkling and the only way to stop him is to locate a special firebird, which can hold the power to jinx his unbeatable magic. So if the Apparat will let her, the remainder of her group must trek across a burned Grisha world and risk their lives once again.
I was very hesitant to even borrow this book from my library because not only was Siege and Storm a snoozer, it had a cliffhanger to the next one that in its own way suggested this book would be tedious. I put it this way: Alina loses something, and that something made the first Shadow and Bone such a hoot. And then it turns out, Alina is able to regain this power too easily, feeling like a fakeout rather than a promised storyline. But after that small thing, I found myself actually enjoying it a little, I think because this is the last book, and Bardugo knows it. Don't get me wrong, there are finales that have been much better, and much more uproariously violently fun, but considering all my low expectations after Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising kept its feet up for a good enough climax and conclusion.
The best part of the book is how Bardugo is able to explore the Grisha universe more, letting us travel around this fictional world with the fact this is the last book helping us turn the pages as we await the showdown. Alina and Mal are even a couple that I liked more than some couples in better series. I ship them more than Amy and Nox from Dorothy Must Die, and I ship them a bit more than America and Maxon from The Selection. And the way they utilized what I think every reader was hoping for in that context, a much better grade than Siege and Storm seems more warranted.
Still, a few things seem a bit smaller than they should be. One example of in my opinion a miniature finale is Ignite Me, which spent 80% of its book not doing any of the things the last book promised and had an overly quick way to end it. A superb example of a finale is Morning Star, the last book in the Red Rising trilogy. It had everything from violent disagreements with cherished friends, planet explorations, gunfights, politics and an ending with deluxe cayenne pepper. I feel a finale to any series has to be big to succeed. You have to give a goodbye to characters, settings and relationships, and you have to feel like after what's going to happen in these next few pages, the universe might never be the same. While there are some chilling flashback scenes that gave off this hype, it still for the most part felt this wasn't supposed to be the end, and except for Alina and Mal, there were no characters I was really in love with by the end. Maybe I just don't tend to like characters from fantasy novels, because that's a growing trend for me.
The ending was still good. I was interested what The Darkling was going to say and whatever last line he was going to before he either perished or officially took over the world.
I'd hesitate before recommending the Grisha trilogy, but I can't deny that 2 of the 3 books were (kind of) recommendations, and that they were sometimes a little funny. Cracking a joke once in a while is healthy.