The Grisha series might now rank among my favourite books. I loved Ruin and Rising. There were so many times when Leigh Bardugo surprised me. I did not expect what happened to Nikolai, not at all. It was interesting and made sense to the story and definitely left a lasting impression on him and me. I also didn't expect what happened with Mal and the Firebird. I thought there would be some kind of thing, like with the Stag or the Seawhip, but nope, something else. Though I did suspect there was something about Mal. He was just too good.
There were just so many wonderful moments. I loved how Bardugo always kept the action going. The first big bang is pretty close to the beginning, it was the same with Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm, something happens to get your heart racing. There are so many great fights, that could have finished Alina or the Darkling and the book, but no, they weren't big enough. They didn't cost enough, break enough hearts or cause enough tears. I loved the characters. All of them. I loved the Darkling, Nikolai, Zoya, Tamar, Tolya, all of them. Bardugo created people that Alina could count on, but were flawed and had their own motivations. None of them were the same and they all had distinct personalities. I loved Tamar and Nadia, unexpected and subtle. I adored Genya and David's relationship. I know Zoya was so mean, but she was also very loyal. I loved the scenes when Alina finds she needs friends, that she can't be separate from everyone from everyone all the time. It is a brief moment of lightness when Alina gathers her "girlfriends" and brings them to her room to get their opinions on Nikolai's gifts. I loved when they gathered again to comfort her. I could see them becoming her "ladies" at court if she married Nikolai.
I feel like I should stop talking about all the things I loved about Ruin and Rising, but honestly, I loved everything about it. Characters, world-building, scenery, plot, pacing, everything. I know that one day, I will read the Grisha series again - likely before the first movie comes out. I've read Leigh Bardugo's novels and all but one of her Grisha short stories and they were all wonderful. At this point, I will read anything Bardugo writes. The imagination, the twists, I could not put Ruin and Rising down.