March 6, 2019

Book Review: King of Scars

Spoiler Warning: If you have yet to read the original Grisha trilogy or the Six of Crows duology, you should stop reading this review right now, as there will be spoilers (of the mild variety) mentioned. I’d recommend checking out those books first – all of which are quite wonderful in their own right – before diving into King of Scars, because there's a lot you'll need to know that's revealed in both.

It’s been two years since the end of the Ravkan civil war. Two years since Nikolai Lantsov was crowned king. Two years of pretending all is well, even as he and the few people he trusts work together to keep the truth of his darkest secret from getting out. But when his struggle turns overwhelming, Nikolai must find a way to keep the dark at bay once and for all… and to save his beloved Ravka from destitution and the hands of its enemies. Nikolai has always had a gift for the improbable, true, but will it be enough to accomplish the seeming impossible yet again?

Let’s get one very important thing out of the way first: I’m still 100 million percent in love with Nikolai Lantsov. He’s always been my one true Grishaverse love, as I’ve said to many people, and that remains true after reading King of Scars. In fact, I will be so bold as to say that I love him even more. But more on that in a moment!

I was tempted to simply state that I devoured the entirety of King of Scars within three days of its release and thoroughly enjoyed it. The reading experience was already bound to mean a lot to me, considering that I have never once wavered in my love for Nikolai since he first makes an appearance in the Grishaverse, but I didn’t know that I would find this to be as compelling as it was or that I would love being in his head so much. Since I feel like I would keep on talking solely about Nikolai and how much I love him otherwise (which I don’t think he’d be opposed to, really), I’ve decided its in everyone’s best interest to share a couple of specific things I liked about King of Scars.

  • A return to the world of Ravka, particularly after the events in the original trilogy – It was thrilling to make a return to Ravka (though I did enjoy visiting Ketterdam and Fjerda in the Six of Crows duology, of course) post-war. I didn’t realize how much I wanted to see what it was like after all that Alina and the gang experience in the first trilogy, both the good and the bad. It was lovely to see that there had been so many pleasant changes, but it was also stressful to realize that change couldn’t come all at once or easily considering the economic situation the war left the country in. Leigh certain did an excellent job showcasing what Ravka is like now, complicated and wonderful as it might be depending on which perspective you consider it from.
  • Nods to the other series – I’m the kind of reader who loves when authors connect their series, and Leigh does that well within this story. She mentions events that occurred in the other books she’s written (especially the first trilogy), as well as includes familiar names and faces at many a turn. I found so much enjoyment in picking up on all the little bits and pieces she wove into this tale and look forward to seeing more.
  • The plots – There are several different things happening within this tale: the political maneuverings to secure allies and prevent the outbreak of war, the hunt for solutions to make up for the lack of military and fight against the jurda parem problem, the rescue of Grisha in hiding to give them safe refuge, the battle Nikolai constantly has to wage with himself even as he and his advisers hunt for a solution. Some of these plot aspects are paced better than others, to tell you the truth. But in the end, I was equally interested in discovering the outcome of all these different situations, so credit must go to Leigh for her ability to draw me in and get me invested.
  • Characters – I already mentioned that familiar faces make an appearance, but I won’t specifically mention who those folks are (because it was delightful for me to discover them, and I want that same experience for all of you). Suffice to say that it made me very happy to see them, and I would pretty much kill anyone who tried to hurt them… Ahem. Anyway, the two characters I will talk about here are the two other narrators of this novel – Nina Zenik and Zoya Nazyalensky.
    • Nina is one of the Dregs from the Six of Crows series and is grieving over a loss she suffers at the end of Crooked Kingdom. Determined to do what’s right and to help rescue other Grisha, she ventures into Fjerda only to find herself uncovering an unexpected, dangerous plot. I’m not going to lie – it took me a while to really warm up to Nina’s perspective. It took some time before I found myself fully interested in what she was up to, but once it clicked into place, I was eagerly anticipating what our fiercely passionate Corporalnik would do next.
    • Zoya is a secondary character from the original Grisha trilogy, who is now a member of the Grisha Triumvirate and the general of the Second Army. She serves the crown above all, determined to protect her king and to help him find solutions to the terribly complicated situations he faces on all sides. Honestly, I didn’t go into this novel expecting to enjoy Zoya… but that’s exactly what happened. While Zoya appears to be simply an abrasive personality (and she’s done things I’m not happy about in the past), there’s more to her than meets the eye. I really liked getting to know her better and can’t wait to read more from her perspective!
  • Nikolai Lantsov – Honestly, Nikolai deserves an entire bullet point to himself because he really is a well-crafted character that simply leaps off the page. He’s got the same charming, roguish personality that I originally fell in love with in spades. (Seriously, his commentary is excellent at making me laugh or breaking the tension.) But what I loved most about this novel is how it showcases the vulnerabilities he works hard to hide. Readers are treated to the complicated array of emotions and plans he experiences as he struggles to keep it together, and just seeing that made him feel even more real. It was such a treat to get such an intimate glimpse into the inner workings of Nikolai Lantsov with this novel, and I need more of that in the next one.

Even though it took me a little bit to click with one of the narrators, that didn’t end up being a deterrent towards my overall enjoyment of King of Scars. Bardugo has crafted a novel that combines the familiarity of the world she masterfully wove together in her other series with an entirely new story – and it is magical. I’m really looking forward to finding out how everything comes together in the sequel! Oh, and I’m also obviously looking forward to more Nikolai, of course, because you can never get enough of the ones you love…

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo | Series: Nikolai Duology #1
Publisher: Imprint | Publication Date: January 29, 2019
Source: Hardcover purchased from The Strand


  1. Amen, Nikolai is my one true love from the Grishaverse!!

  2. I skimmed your review, since I haven't read anything by this author, so there would have definitely been a spoiler or two. However, I've only heard wonderful things about the author and her books, so I'm planning on at least starting them this year!

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? 💬

  3. I'm so glad you enjoyed this book! I've been kind of hesitant to read it because I loved Six of Crows and don't wanna be disappointed. I wasn't a huge fan of Nikolai, like I liked him but he wasn't my favorite, but since you mentioned other characters make a cameo, I'm sold. I would read anything that has even the possibility of featuring Kaz or Inej tbh. Great review!!

    Emily @ Emily's Crammed Bookshelf


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