Title: King of Scars
By: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Nikolai Duology
Published: January 29th, 2019
Genre: YA | Fantasy | Magic
Buy it: Book Depository
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.
|| Goodreads ||
“The monster is me and I am the monster.”
OMG OMG OMG, I usually wait a day at least, after finishing a book to put my emotions in order, but after the ending that King of Scars has given us, I just couldn’t wait to tell you all about it. I’ll do, as always, this spoiler-free review, but I’ll have to talk about things from the previous books, so if you haven’t read the main trilogy or the Six of Crows books, I recommend that you don’t read this review yet because it’s impossible for me to talk about this book without mentioning things that happened in those books.
With that said, and leaving aside my feelings for the ending aside (which I LOVED), I can say… I enjoyed it. It wasn’t what I expected, in fact, it’s a rather slow book and to be about Nikolai, it focuses more on other characters rather than on him, leaving that aside, there are very solid scenes and Leigh Bardugo shows again why a writing queen, I’m still impressed by her writing style so passionate and wonderful.
In this book, we follow 3 main points of view, Nikolai’s one, who’s fighting to keep Ravka safe while fighting the darkness that grows inside him, because of the Darkling, after the civil war. On the other hand, we have Zoya, she’s the king’s right hand and the leader of Grisha’s army. She still has a lot of pain within her due to her past and must face it in order to keep her king and her country safe. Last but not least, we follow Nina, she was sent by Nikolai to a mission to Fjerdan to rescue Grisha who are trying to escape from there, while still suffering Matthias’ loss and looking for a closure to what happened.
I think that I’ve been through all the feelings reading this book, I’ll make a “summary” of my feelings for you.
I started feeling very excited about everything because I was going to see my beloved characters again and return to the Grisha world, it’s always a pleasure, it’s one of my favorite things, and I also enjoyed the Six of Crows duology a lot, so obviously with all that, plus: the promise of an entire book about Nikolai, I was having the moment of my life. And in the first chapters, I was really enjoying it a lot, I confess that nostalgia came to me and had a lot of influence on my enjoyment. But then when I was more involved in the plot I realized that it doesn’t really move much, we’re always going around the same problems we started with and most of the book is an internal monologue of the characters, while we also know more about their past. I really like to know the characters more deeply, which gives them more credibility and helps us understand their actions, but on the other hand, it was very difficult to stay focused on the rest of the story when it got more and more heavy, slow and boring. God, it feels so bad to say that, but I really felt it a lot, especially during about the middle 250 pages, where everything was about the internal characters’ problems, a lot of political discussion and places’ descriptions. But then something wonderful happened and I must say that no doubt, the last 100 pages are FIRE, there’s a lot of action, drama, new conflicts and FINALLY, it begins to take shape, those 100 final pages were EVERYTHING I expected from this book. And the ENDING, OMG, I’ll talk about it later.
To summarize that, it’s a book that was very difficult for me to give a rating to, on the one hand, if I had to rate the final part, I would give it an absolute 5 stars, but it’s a 500 pages book and the truth is that I can’t ignore that it was really heavy to me. so I had to give a little balance and not let myself be carried away by my feelings towards the characters because they’ll always be wonderful even if they’re just there doing nothing lol. I really think that it didn’t need to be a 500 pages book, it could’ve had the best moments in just 300, maybe.
The writing style is REALLY good, as I mentioned before, I think the author exceeds herself with each book and only grows to give us brilliant work in terms of writing. It shows the emotion that she puts in each word and there are extremely solid scenes like Nikolai’s memories of his childhood friend, like Zoya and the memory of her aunt and Nina and he memory with Matthias and his funeral, those are personally of my favorite scenes of the book, I could feel every feeling that the author tried to convey and I was able to put myself in the place of the characters, which is magnificent. Now I’m even more excited to read her latest work!
“Stop punishing yourself for being someone with a heart. You cannot protect yourself from suffering. To live is to grieve. You are not protecting yourself by shutting yourself off from the world. You are limiting yourself.”
As always, I really like to talk about each character, so I’ll give as briefly as possible my thoughts and feelings about each of them and their development during the book.
First, my babe Nikolai, whom we all love, I think he’s a wonderful character and even in this book his essence is captured exactly how he is and by this, I mean his intelligence and great humility and courage. On the other hand, although I’ve always loved his sense of humor and his dialogues, this time I’m not so sure, he continues to have great moments, but I think that the resource of humor is used in an over-manner and perhaps it’s a bit too much for me. .As for his personal story, I think that although we always see him with a relaxed and overcome attitude, there’s much internal struggle against this kind of monster or dark demon that has taken hold of him It’s really sad sees him become something so evil since we know his true self and not recognizing him in that terrible being makes me feel so sad for him, on the other hand, I think that being put in this position gave him another perspective and made him believe more in himself and in his abilities to be king despite all the people who still doubt him because of his father and family rumors. I adored Nikolai and I’m happy to see him again, although I would have enjoyed a whole book under his POV, even more, it’s not for despising the girls, but that was what I hoped to find and he ends up being something like a secondary character.
Then we have Zoya, with whom I’ve always had a somewhat complicated relationship, in the first books I didn’t like her, but then I started to appreciate her much more and now that I know where all that anger comes from, I can put myself on her place, and I think she, her personality and her story stolen the show and she ended up being the main protagonist of this book. Immediately we can see that she has put the country on her shoulder and tries hard to always do the best for her people and for her king, she’s a very powerful woman and I’m glad to have also known her past because has given her a lot of sensitivity, being a character that we always knew as someone hard and cold. In these books we read about a Zoya in more contact with her feelings and also sharing her personal story before arriving at the small palace and how the war affected her as well as loving the Darkling at some point. She regrets many things and blames herself for everything, but personally, I think she has always been a survivor and makes me happy to see that warmer side of herself and her love for her loved ones.
I’ll make a little parenthesis here, to mention that I don’t like at all the couple that Zoya could possibly do with Nikolai, there are some moments of sexual tension and some romantic scenes, it’s very subtle but they’re there and I don’t know, I appreciate this relationship more like a bond of friends/family, more than anything else, but I’m sure this is an unpopular opinion.
Then we have Nina, and I know she’s the favorite character of many of you. Unpopular opinion again: I’ve never been Nina’s biggest fan, even so, I enjoyed her POVs a lot this time and I really appreciate the new stage that this character is undertaking, which I’ll like much more now. Even so, I remember that I’ve missed that wild side that Nina has, she’s very prone to make mistakes and is always putting herself in danger, but at the same time, you feel and know that her heart and her intentions are good. She’s a character who has been through a lot and now finds herself with a super important mission in enemy territory so she’ll be forced to solve her past to finally free herself and move forward. At the end of Crooked Kingdom, Nina takes with her Matthias’ body to give her an appropriate burial in his country, and that scene is one of the strongest, I confess that I cried a little, so totally touches my heart. The way in which the event takes place and every word is used is absolutely heart-breaking and moving. In the end, I think that if you’re a big Nina’s fan, maybe you’re disappointed that there’s no further development in her plot since she’s not there when the BIG events happen in Ravka, you know? Even so, you might find this new turn in her life interesting and enjoy more of her adventure in Fjerdan, which seems like a completely different book until it joins it with the main plot towards the ending. I think that possibly her POV gets much more interesting in the next book.
“Nikolai had been told that hope was dangerous, had been warned of it many times. But he’d never believed that. Hope was the wind that came from nowhere to fill your sails and carry you home.”
Then we also see many characters that I personally missed a lot, such as Genya, Tamar, Tolya, Nadia, David & Adrik, I know that all of them have had quite secondary roles, but in the events of the main trilogy all have had super important roles and everyone has supported Alina and that makes me feel sentimental, so re-reading about them and knowing how their lives are going makes me happy, especially since we have a couple of married between them. *My Emotions*
We also have the incorporation of new characters for this new stage and they’re Isaak, Leoni, Yuri & Hanne. They all form super important roles in each of their scenes, especially Yuri & Isaak. Isaak, on the other hand, has in fact even his own POV, which I found weird, at first because it’s strange for me that Nikolai has so few chapters and another character it’s added, but hey, in the end I like him a lot and his presence was super necessary to help Nikolai, he’s a super humble soldier and he loves the king, we also know a little about his personal life and we see him interact with the characters that are in the Palace, nothing really impressive, but were good scenes and he’s a good boy.
This time in this book we don’t travel much, we only moved once and we traveled to 3 different places during most of the book. Even so, I want to say that I LOVE this universe and that I hope that once they make the series they’ll be able to build all these wonderful places, its immensity, and landscapes because it would be a waste if they don’t. I’m obsessed with the new series and it hasn’t come out yet, but I can’t wait! (I LOVE THE CAST)
Were moments when I thought that the author was using too much the nostalgia resource, you know? There are many mentions of Darkling and Alina as well and you know, I love them both, they’re two of my favorite characters, but I think maybe it was too much. Another thing that I’m not sure about it’s the Saints, the first main plot it’s focused on that and in the past of the great Sants people and seems SO crazy like comes out of nowhere. I don’t complain, though, because the outcome is wonderful, but that idea came out of nowhere and was how “WTF is happening?”. Even so, I understand why the author chose that path, so I think was worth it and I get it, but personally, I was happy in the end.
There’s a new cult going on that venerates the Darkling, and I was how “where do I sign?” LOL. These people want The Darkling to be seen as a saint for the church: The Starless One. I know that many people hate him and I totally understand that, I want to take advantage of this moment for those people to understand that I can see that he’s an Evil person and has done a lot of terrible things, and I don’t support toxic relationships at all (because I’ve seen that comment a lot), but even so, he’s one of my favorite villains, he has been a brilliant character who has given me the best scenes and I just can’t not loving him, so that’s my truth. #LovingtheDarklingforever
I can’t tell you much about the ending, without spoilers, so I’ll just say OMG, I ALMOST DIE, I swear I almost hyperventilated because I didn’t expect it AT ALL. The ending starts like “OK, this is getting VERY good” and ends up like “OK, this is the best ending in the history of the endings” LOL. I feel that the ending will be super polarized because everything depends on how you feel about the characters, for me it was perfect and if you’ve read the book you know exactly why. Now I’m really excited for the next book, in the middle of this I didn’t think I would like to read the sequel, but now I’m ready and I need MORE!!
In summary, and finally, it’s a complicated book, I think didn’t needed to be so long, the best scenes and the main plot could have been told in a smaller book without problems, it’s quite slow to read, but if you choose to give it a chance, I promise you will end up pleased towards the ending. The last 100 or 150 pages show perfectly why Leigh is one of my favorite authors, there’s a lot of action, shocking moments, plot twists and many feelings in each scene. I recommend the book if you’ve really enjoyed the books in the series and if you love the characters as much as I do.