The capital has fallen.
The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.
It was with a heavy heart that I had to give this 3 stars. I had so much hope and expectations for this book, especially with how Siege and Storm ended. Maybe that was my problem. I had really high expectations and it just didn’t do it for me. Unfortunately for me, it did not deliver. I still liked it but it didn’t feel like a good ending for a trilogy. Okay, I’ll start with the things I didn’t like so that I can end the review on a good note. A star was taken off because this book was probably the most boring one in the trilogy. I was 100+ pages in and I was still bored. It finally reached 117 when things started to get interesting. I’m not even lying, I tabbed it on my copy.
Ekaterina: I saw the prince when I was in Os Alta. He’s not bad looking.
Nikolai: Not bad looking? He’s damnably handsome.
Luchenko: Since when—
Nikolai: Brave in battle, smart as a whip. An excellent dancer. Oh, and an even better shot.
Mal: Don’t say it
Things started to pick up and we finally reach the climax of the book. Everything’s happening so fast and I couldn’t get enough of it. Then, bam! Boring again for another 100 pages. It took me days to read and I resorted to skimming the pages because I couldn’t get through it. There were so many deaths, by the hundreds, throughout the trilogy and I was so nervous about the ending of this book — another disappointment.
I mean, I’m glad there were no serious deaths of main characters but because of it, it was safe and lackluster. I think that it would’ve been better if Mal stayed dead. He had his purpose and he completed it. He sacrificed his life and I accepted that. I was surprised that he was killed off but then it was ruined when he was brought back to life. Mal’s resurrection was too convenient. Oh! Don’t even get me started with him being the amplifier! Fine, whatever. I’ll accept it. But why did activating the third amplifier take all of Alina’s power? Another convenience. Then there’s the issue of the Darkling. His death was rather anticlimactic. For three books it was drilled into us that he was unbeatable. He was untouchable. He survived all these years. He’s all-powerful. I was looking forward for a big showdown of power between him and Alina. No. His life is ended with a blade to the heart. Just so easy. There wasn’t even a fight. Stabbed and tears and then he was gone.
I didn’t like the romance here. I actually stopped enjoying Mal and Alina’s relationship after the first book. Here it was just over the edge. I felt like Mal was being forced down my throat and all I wanted to do was throw him up. In Siege and Storm, it felt like Mal and Alina were being forced apart and then here Alina and Nikolai were being pulled apart. I had zero hope that Alina and Nikolai would happen so I wasn’t surprised but it was just too forcefully done. Mal had a 180-degree change from Siege and Storm and Alina and him barely talked about the events that happened. Romance is one of my favorite parts of books but this was overdone and annoying. It was like enough already.
The last thing that I didn’t like was Alina. She had two amplifiers, easily one of the most powerful Grisha’s ever known — as powerful as the Darkling. However, it’s never seen. She doesn’t go her full potential. We don’t see her use her powers fully. She always hid behind this shell, this shadow. I wanted to see her go above and beyond. I wanted to see her rule side by side with Nikolai. Not just because I shipped them, but because she would be amazing in power. Her and Nikolai on the throne? Think of the substantial changes they’d make in Ravka — the powerful alliances, the hope for a better future! Maybe then, Nikolai wouldn’t have had to rely on the apparat — I loathe him, by the way. In the end, Alina returns to the Alina we met in the first book, nothing special, no powers. I also hated how things ended with Nikolai. He was tortured by the shadows and Alina couldn’t stay, even for a month or something, to help him understand merzost. She’s the only one who understood it and could help him go through it but she didn’t even bother to help? *Round of applause for friendship*
The only thing that saved this for me was the Darkling and Nikolai. Let’s start with the Darkling. What a complex character! I didn’t like that he was so humanized that people were even forgiving his inhumane actions and murders. He is, without a doubt, the greatest antagonist/villain that I’ve ever read about. He was just pure evil and greedy. He was so interesting to read about.
Now to the best part of the trilogy — in my opinion haha.
“I hope you weren’t looking to me to be the voice of reason. I keep to a strict diet of ill-advised enthusiasm and heartfelt regret.”
Nikolai: You never know. I’ve been busy. I might have some surprises in store for the Darkling yet.
Alina: Please tell me you plan to dress up as a volcra and jump out of a cake.
Nikolai: Well, now you’ve ruined the surprise.
I was impressed, and also unnerved. Being around Nikolai was always like this, watching him shift and change, revealing secrets as he went. He reminded me of the wooden nesting dolls I’d played with as a child. Except instead of getting smaller, he just kept getting grander and more mysterious. Tomorrow, he’d probably tell me he’d built a pleasure palace on the moon. Tough to get to, but quite a view.
Nikolai was the sun, moon, stars, and everything that was bright about Ruin and Rising. He made it so much more interesting for me. He was funny, smart, intuitive, and inventive. It killed me when he was possessed by merzost. Of all the characters to have to go through that, it pained me. Just reading the description of it was painful. He was never the same after that and I’ll miss that the most.
I couldn’t read when I was… I would see signs in store windows, writing on crates. I couldn’t understand them, but I remembered enough to know that they were more than scratches on the wall […] I can still feel that darkness inside me. I keep thinking it will go but … this isn’t want people want of a kind, what they expect from me
I’m not saying he was the only one that lost something. Everyone lost something. Nadia lost her best friend. Aldrik lost his arm. Alina lost the power that gave her confidence. Mal lost the thing that made him the greatest hunter. Nikolai got his well-deserved throne but lost parts of his soul for it. It was such an upsetting ending for me. I didn’t like it one bit. I didn’t want it to end this way. I won’t be reading anything else from the Grisha world anytime soon because I was that angry (unless it’s a backstory or a continuation for Nikolai’s story or the Darkling’s).
To end on a happy note, I loved Zoya here! So much sass. I also loved Genya and David. The best part was when Genya faced the king and told him “I am not ruined. I am ruination”. It was a long time coming. It was so amazing and the fairness that Nikolai shows with the justice he served just exemplified his rightful seat on the throne.
King: She is a traitor to the crown. I want her head
Genya [to Nikolai]: I will take my punishment if he takes his
King: You will stay silent among your betters!
Genya: I have no betters here […] If he cannot be tried for his failures as a king, let him be tried for his failures as a man.
That was the best line ever delivered in this trilogy! WOW! You go girl! It only gets better from there.
Nikolai: Did he force you?
King: She is a servant. I didn’t have to force her
Nikolai [to the king]: Tonight, you will write out a letter of abdication. You will write the letter, and tomorrow you will leave […] If you remain, I will see you tried for rape.
Queen: Nikolai, you cannot mean to do this
Nikolai: She was under your protection, Mother. You are a queen and your subjects are your children. All of them.
King: You have no right, no authority. Who are you to sit in judgement on your king?
Nikolai: These are Ravka’s laws, not mine. They should not bow to rank or status […] The men will not follow you.
King: Vasily was twice the man you are. You are a weakling and a fool, full of common sentiment and common blood
Nikolai: Maybe so but you will write that letter … you will leave this place, or you will face trial, and if you are found guilty, then I will see you hang.
King: You are no Lantsov
Nikolai: I find I can live with that fact.