Updated: Mar 11
King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo is the first in a duology, but it’s related to the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology. If you haven’t read those, you’ll probably want to read those before getting into this one, since this book WILL reveal important plot twists that you definitely won’t want to know before reading those books. Also, while I’m at it with the warnings, you most likely want to skip this review as well, since I’ll be addressing said spoilers (while not revealing spoilers for this book).
Nikolai Lantsov, the King of Ravka, has a talent for accomplishing the impossible. He’s hidden what he faced during the civil war from the people he rules over, and he doesn’t plan to change that. But the dark magic inside of him is growing stronger every day, and threatens the stability of what he’s trying to accomplish.
Zoya Nazyalensky has spent her entire life training as a Grisha, and rebuilding the Grisha army. She knows that the Grisha rely on Ravka as a place of sanctuary from a dangerous world, and that Ravka cannot stand with a weak king. Zoya will do anything to help Nikolai keep the throne, but she faces new enemies to deal with.
Nina Zenit is also fighting her own battle, in the far north. She’s dealing with grief and a frightening new power while working as a spy against people who would rid the world of Grisha. She must learn to confront the pain of her past if she wants to overcome the perils of the present day.
Some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried, and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.
This book gives insight into some of my favorite characters from previous books: Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina.
Nikolai is brilliant, charming, a natural born ruler, but … there’s just that teeny tiny matter of the monster lurking just under his skin. The one that’s getting stronger each day. As he faces new challenges on top of the old ones, he always come through in true Nikolai fashion. He’s kind of the anti-Darkling. I know there’s a monster in there, but no matter what, I just can’t dislike him. He’s charmed me right through the pages of a book! Especially after learning about his own upbringing.
Zoya has her moment to shine as well. She’s not the nicest character in the Grisha books, but she’s far from the worst. This is the book I’ve been waiting for — the one where we learn about Zoya’s backstory. Because all along, I believed that she had her reasons to be how she is. I just didn’t know what they were, but I knew they had to be there. For a while I didn’t really like Zoya, but I really got attached to her in this book. She’s actually really cool once you get to know her.
Nina is the other piece of the puzzle. She’s the one my heart broke for in the Six of Crows duology. Her experiences changed her so fundamentally, and never has it been more apparent than in this book. Working undercover on an important mission, she’s a really important player in the story. I always knew she was strong, but she’s even stronger than I had realized.
Of special note for me, as I discovered when tracking it on my new 2020 spreadsheet, it was published ON MY BIRTHDAY last year. How cool is that?
This book picked up on the best characteristics from each of the other series - plenty of action, political intrigue, heists, twisty plot maneuvering, and no shortage of incredible world-building. The end completely threw me for a loop. I was immediately antsy for the next book to be out. Unfortunately, it isn’t out yet. But the book overall was definitely an awesome one, and it was like seeing friends I haven’t visited and didn’t expect to see for a long, long time. I’m guessing the next one will feel similar.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn't an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 17
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars