King of Scars
Author Leigh Bardugo
Publisher Imprint | 2019
young adult | fantasy
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. (from Goodreads)
This review is spoiler-freeeee! 🙂 (except the last paragraph. But there’s a warning down there, too.)
AHHHHHHHHH!!!!! WHAT THE FRESH FORKING SHIRTBALLS. As I’m writing this, I literally just finished and I had to immediately sit down to get some thoughts and feelings out. I’ll try to keep this fairly short, because I don’t want to write too much and give anything away. But WHOA.
“But I can’t help believing that somehow, I’ll find a way to outsmart all of the kings who came before and set this country right. It is the height of arrogance.”
So let me start by saying that Nikolai is my favorite character from the Grisha trilogy and I was ecstatic when Leigh announced this duology. He is my sweet boy and I love him. However, this book presented a different Nikolai than what I am used to. He is struggling with his inner demon (literally) and is facing the task of ruling a country on the brink of war, rather than trying to be a charming prince towards Alina. I feel like every other thing Nikolai would say in the Grisha trilogy would be sassy and upbeat, but in this book I felt like that side of him was toned down, which isn’t a detriment, just a change. I also feel like we didn’t get enough Nikolai? In his own book?? We finally got inside his head and learned more of his backstory and childhood, which was amazing, but there were so many other things happening surrounding the Darkling plot. It was interesting to see him so outside the lens of Alina and all of her feelings towards him, and you definitely get a grander sense of the lengths he’ll go to save his country. By the end of this book, he seems more kingly than ever, and he grows into his own self very beautifully and gracefully.
“Matthias, your country can kiss my fat Grisha ass.”
OK onto the wonderful women of this book. NINA, MY WONDERFUL WAFFLE-LOVING GRISHA. I MISSED YOU. It was like visiting a good friend I hadn’t seen for a bit. She is as lovely as ever. She is still the same Nina from Six of Crows but carries her grief with her now, which adds a new layer to her amazing character and there was a lot of closure for her in this book. Every single mention of Kaz or Inej or her time in Ketterdam brought me SO MUCH JOY. We didn’t get any indication of her having contact with them or what they’re up to, but I’m holding out hope for the next book!
“Fear is a phoenix. Words Liliyana had spoken to her years ago and that Zoya had repeated to others many times. You can watch it burn a thousand times and still it will return.”
To be completely honest, I wasn’t a big fan of Zoya in the trilogy. Some of that was probably due to the fact that we were in Alina’s headspace and her bitterness towards Zoya might’ve swayed me a bit. But I LOVED her in King of Scars. She is such a badass and she becomes even more powerful and sure of herself by the end of it. It was fantastic to learn more about her and her history with her family and the Darkling and I’m super happy that we got so much from her POV and I’m glad Nikolai has her around.
THE ENDING. THE ENDING. OH MY GOD. There were so many things happening at once but it all came together. I was stressed out reading the final 30 pages and THE LAST PAGE???? OH. OH YEAH. I SHRIEKED. I AM READY FOR THIS!!!!!!!!!! I will say that although it ends on a HUGE cliffhanger, it wasn’t a cliffhanger where I’m like, “I absolutely have to read this next book immediately or I will perish.” It’s more like, “OH WOW. What a whirlwind. Gonna need time to digest that one.” And by the time the next book starts rolling around, I’ll be PREPARED. BRING IT ON!
*Warning: slight spoilers ahead!.… maybe. I don’t know. Better safe than sorry.
It hurts me to my very soul to not rate this the five stars I was anticipating. There were just times when the book felt a little slow to me and it doesn’t match the love I have for Six of Crows. And I think I was just expecting more interaction between Nina and Nikolai and Zoya. I really wanted to see more of the dynamic between Nina and Zoya and instead got nothing. Hoping that changes in the next book. I also think I might’ve had too much expectations for Dregs references. I… don’t know how I feel about Nikolai & Zoya? I knew there was a chance of it coming from reading the sampler a few months back, but it’s such a slow, aching burn that I won’t know how I truly feel until something really happens. We’ll see!!!