King of Scars – Book Review

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Page Count: 511
Format: Hardcover
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.

Initial Thoughts

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.

The Characters

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.”

Final Thoughts

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.”

Recommended To…

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

Find this book: Goodreads|Amazon

Have you read King of Scars yet? Are you planning to? Who’s your favorite Grishaverse character? Let me know in the comments below!


15 thoughts on “King of Scars – Book Review

  1. I love this book.. But I am pretty much biased since I can read a bazillion books about Nikolai regardless of it having a good plot or not..
    Tbh the book was going pretty good until halfway, when things got very wierd and far fetched.
    Everything which was established in Shadow and bone trilogy was flipped over and the writing wasn’t enough to convince that in a couple of chapters.

    I really liked the ending, so much happened in the last few pages. But definitely the biggest plot twist needed to be a little worked out or a little more built up. Because when you are planning to do something so iconic, it has to be done brilliantly or else it just feels random and pushed into the story.
    Just like when the story turned into bizarre direction halfway through the book.

    I needed a little more convincing from Liegh Bardugo.
    Finally I needed more Nikolai, and I hope the next book gives us that.


  2. I was not that sure why Nina’s story was told in this book, it would have suited better as a novella for me. But yes, I loved this book as well!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Fantastic review!
    I have seen a lot of people having mixed feelings about this book and despite all the twists and one very unexpected one, I enjoyed reading it overall. In fact, I am truly psyched to read the next book because of that one unexpected twist in the end.
    However, I do agree that Nikolai, could have really done with a few more chaps from his POV after all it’s his book. I truly loved Zoya and Nina’s chap though and can’t wait to find out how Nina’s story will converge with the rest of Ravka’s storyline.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, exactly! I wish there were more Nikolai chapters, I would have loved to feel closer to him and see his side of things more. But I’m excited for Nina and Zoya even more now. And hoping really hard that the SoC crew will join them for the sequel..😍 that would be just awesome. I didn’t think I would miss Kaz and the others much but I do! ☺️


  4. One thing I have noticed reading all the reviews of this book (including yours) is the shock over how it ended.

    It also seems to be very divisive…. people seem to love it or hate it. You are one of few that are in the I’m not sure camp. I do agree about Zoya. I feel it was more her book than Nikoli’s in some ways.

    I will say what I’ve said to everyone… with all the name dropping? I really hope the Dregs are coming in for the sequel.

    Liked by 1 person

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