Series: Nikolai Duology #1
Published: Imprint, 2019
Genre: YA fantasy
My rating: 5/5 stars
Description: “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)
Why I picked it up: I’ve been reading Bardugo’s work since The Grisha Trilogy was heavily recommended to me by some friends. While I’ve had my ups and downs with her books, Nikolai has always been one of my favorite characters, and I was stoked when I found out he was getting his own book.
I bought this book the week it came out and there was definitely a lot of hype, but prior to reading it, I saw a lot of mixed reviews. I was disappointed and almost put it off but ended up picking it as my next TBR jar pick. I tried to go into it with an open mind based on the reviews, and while it was different than I expected, I really loved it.
A lot of reviewers have said that the book is more political than the adventure of Six of Crows we might be expecting. I have to agree with this, and I think King of Scars was a great mixture of The Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows. It was a slow read, but not in a bad way. It was a read that I wanted to take my time with, to understand the intricacies of those politics and the threads that connect the novel with the rest of the Grisha-verse.
Because of this focus on politics, we got more of the Grisha-verse and of pre and post-war Ravka. Like I said, the book was more political than Six of Crows. Throughout the book, Nikolai grapples Ravka’s post-war politics, debt, and impending threats from other countries (and, of course, the demon hanging out waiting to take over his body). I got a better understanding of the inner-workings of Ravka and the affect that The Darkling had pre-war as well as the effects of the war itself. Grisha magic itself is political because of the prejudices. Through the politics of Grisha in the ranks after the way they were used by The Darkling and the first and second armies recovering from his rule, I felt we got some more information on the workings of Grisha and politics in the Grisha-verse.
The cast of characters is wonderful. I loved getting to follow old friends like Nikolai and Zoya, and even Nina. We also met some new characters like Isaak and Hanne. I did find Nina’s storyline to be slow at times, but I liked getting to know her character from a different angle after the events of Six of Crows, and even get insight to what her life was before joining the Dregs. I was surprised at how much I loved revisiting Zoya’s character. I didn’t care for her in The Grisha Trilogy, but King of Scars follows her in the aftermath of the war and her shattered relationship with The Darkling. She spends much of the novel attempting to understand her relationship with The Darkling and the trauma she had gone through as one of his right-hand companions. This was a rather deep storyline I didn’t expect, and I appreciated seeing Zoya’s character beginning her recovery.
One complaint I’ve seen a lot online that I have to agree with was that, for being the first book in the Nikolai Duology, it didn’t have enough Nikolai. We did get to know him on a deeper level than we did in The Grisha Trilogy, and I didn’t mind the changing point-of-view or different plotlines, but I was expecting the story to be more focused on Nikolai himself. I’m hoping book #2 is more Nikolai-focused.
And, to avoid spoilers, I’ll keep this short: one of the biggest problems I had with this book is the recycled villain. I really expected more out of the climax and certainly out of the antagonist.
Although this book was somewhat not what I expected, I did really enjoy it. I didn’t mind taking my time, understanding the depth of the characters and politics, and being immersed in the world. Though I do wish it had been more focused on Nikolai and the antagonist had been different, I did love the characters and the plot itself was well-written. I’m definitely looking forward to getting my hands on book #2!
“Tamar says fears are like weeds. They grow wild if left unattended.”
“Every day you choose the work of living. Every day you choose to go on. There is no failure here, Nina.”
“She would not be governed by her fear. She did not have that luxury.”
Recommend for fans of: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor
Thanks for reading!
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