Author: Leigh Bardugo
Page Count: 511
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Blurb as on Goodreads:
Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.
Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.
I had no idea what to expect from King of Scars going in but I was excited to read more about Nikolai. I’d seen some negative reviews which worried me but I was also riding the high of finally reading and enjoying the Six of Crows duology (click on Six of Crows or Crooked Kingdom for the respective review) and a bit apprehensive about revisiting Ravka after the madness and chaos in the darkness of the Barrel.
Anything worth doing always starts as a bad idea.
Plot & Writing
The writing, though simple and easy to get into like the Shadow and Bone trilogy, didn’t always convey the gravity of the situation or a character’s feelings. More on that in the next section.
The plot was super-gripping and kept me reading at odd hours of the day and night even when I was exhausted and just wanted to sleep. The story is told mostly from the POVs of Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina.
Hope was the wind that came from nowhere to fill your sails and carry you home.
Nikolai is struggling to restore peace to Ravka and rebuild his beloved nation while battling the demon growing stronger within him with each passing day. Zoya spends her days as Nikolai’s General and at night, she does everything to keep the monster from being exposed or taking human life. And finally, Nina is grieving (you know why if you’ve read Crooked Kingdom) and she’s on a mission in a dangerous land to rescue as many Grisha as possible.
“Most women suffer thorns for the sake of the flowers. But we who wield power adorn ourselves in flowers to hide the sting of our thorns.”
These storylines seemed to be advancing parallelly and a lot happened in both plotlines and I’m excited to see how they will converge in the next book! I just loved this book, even though I didn’t like a couple of plot twists, the rest were so unexpected and incredible that I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Nikolai was my absolute favorite character in the Shadow and Bone trilogy and I was devastated by what he went through in Ruin and Rising – so I was looking forward to seeing how he was coping after all that. But…how do I explain this? It was like looking at a photograph that would be perfect with enough saturation, but not as is.
I just kept feeling like something was missing. Nikolai didn’t seem enough like himself despite everything that was happening, what he was going through, I just needed more – more pain and anguish, deeper feelings – I wanted to feel more of what all was going through his mind and his heart. I feel like the writing fell a little short.
He’d found his way to her, despite the fatal wound, despite the pain he was in. For one last kiss, for a final goodbye.
On the other hand, I was able to connect with Nina a lot more – her grief, her pain, her fury, and her fire. I also loved seeing Zoya’s side of things and getting to know her hopes and thoughts and forbidden desires, her past and struggles and what drives her now. It was amazing to read Nina and Zoya’s chapters and I’m loving where their stories are going. Nikolai too, of course!
“You’re strong, but you’re afraid of anyone seeing it, so you hunch and try to make yourself smaller. You’re only at ease when you think no one is watching.”
I had to take a couple of days to try to sort out how I feel about this big, beautiful book but my thoughts were a mess up until I was halfway through writing this review. There was a LOT going on that I wasn’t expecting and I get why some people didn’t like it. But I enjoyed it so much!
I loved getting an insight into Zoya’s past, meeting certain new characters, reading from new perspectives even though some twists took me by surprise – I mean, I was so NOT expecting that ending and I still don’t know whether I’m excited or just a tad annoyed. I don’t know what will happen next but I’m here for it.
“Stop punishing yourself for being someone with a heart. You cannot protect yourself from suffering. To live is to grieve.”
I don’t know…someone who likes odd twists? Expect the unexpected if you pick this one up. Or don’t. It’s nice being surprised, right?
My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5
Have you read King of Scars yet? Are you planning to? Who’s your favorite Grishaverse character? Let me know in the comments below!