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.
Me after reading King of Scars:
To say that I loved this book would be the hugest understatement of the century. Even if you gave me ten hearts, my love for King of Scars (and Nikolai) would still overflow. This is my most-anticipated book of the year and finally having it on my hands after a month in Book Depository purgatory was one of the most wonderful feelings in the world.
Nikolai Lantsov is also my favorite character of ever and it’s satisfying that he’s finally given the spotlight he deserves.
Note: King of Scars is part of the Grishaverse. It’s best if you read the Shadow and Bone trilogy and/or the Six of Crows duology before reading this one. Major spoilers from both series are present in KoS so I won’t recommend reading it b
MORE OF MY SCREAM-FILLED THOUGHTS HERE:
• It felt like one grand reunion
I read my first Grishaverse book less than a year ago but this series has already made a huge imprint on my heart. Opening King of Scars felt like a huge homecoming. Going back to Ravka + Fjerda and meeting the characters I have loved so much gave me a hundred kicks of nostalgia. I can’t even thoroughly describe how reading about Nikolai (MY MAN), Zoya and Nina made me feel. I was beyond happy to see them but I also had this sour feeling in my mouth (I’m sure it wasn’t because of my less satisfactory lunch) because I knew they were going to suffer once more.
Also, even though she’s not the most likeable character, I still felt ridiculously proud whenever Alina was mentioned in King of Scars.
“The simple whitewashed building with its blue dome had once been dedicated to Sankt Vladimir. Now a blazing golden sun hung over the entry, a sign that the building had been reconsecrated to Sankta Alina of the Fold.”
Of course, I’m still salty that she picked a boring sack of potatoes over Nikolai but I’ve come to terms with that now. Sort of. Look, it’s not easy okay??? I shipped them so bad and when it sank, I felt as if I drowned with them too.
“He’d liked Alina, maybe he’d even started to love her. And maybe some arrogant part of him had simply expected her to say yes.”
• I also lived for every mention of Kaz and the rest of the Dregs. It HURT reading about Nina again because I only missed Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Wylan, and Matthias more. It surely felt like I was missing all of my limbs.
“Nina wasn’t sure where to go next. The factory felt much larger now that she was inside it. She wished she had Inej’s gift for spywork or Kaz’s gift for scheming, but she only seemed to have Jesper’s gift for bad decisions.”
I MISS THEM SO MUCH. It will complete my life if I see them again on the next book. You can’t really blame me for hoping, can you?
• The political intrigue also kept me on my toes. In King of Scars, Ravka is still healing its wounds three years after the civil war while Shu, Kerch, Zemeni, and Fjerda circle it like sharks who are out for blood. The strategies of the Triumvirate coupled with Nikolai’s charm and ingenuity are the only things that keep Ravka from being devoured by these bloodthirsty giants. The tension among Ravka and its surrounding countries makes the Grishaverse so REAL. I’ve got nothing but respect for my queen Leigh Bardugo.
• I‘m very glad of Nikolai’s character arc too. When I first met him in Siege and Storm, I immediately knew he was the one (this review is starting to sound like a love letter sorry). He is the most charismatic character I’ve ever met so you can only imagine my happiness when I found out that he was going to have his own series. I had my reservations though. I was afraid that I wouldn’t like his character arc. This already happened to me with Dorian (from Throne of Glass) and I don’t want to experience that excruciating pain again. Seems like I didn’t need to worry after all.
It was painful to read about all his sufferings but I was glad that he didn’t let the hardships extinguish his light. He continued to fight the demon inside him and was willing to do everything to save Ravka, even if it costs him his life. I basically spent 99.9% of my time reading this book fangirling over Nikolai and being proud of him.
Me when Nikolai smirks:
Me when Nikolai says something witty:
Me when Nikolai invents things:
Me when Nikolai stabs something:
Me when Nikolai breathes:
Okay. You probably get the point now.
• The banter in this book was everything I wanted and more. I expect nothing less from a Nikolai Lantsov book. The Zoya-Nikolai exchanges are always the best. OOH I CAN SMELL A SHIP SAILING.
“A king cannot remain locked up in his own castle,” he’d declared when he’d decided to resume travel away from the palace.
“One risks looking less like a monarch and more like a hostage.”
“You have emissaries to manage these matters of state,” Zoya had argued, “ambassadors, underlings.”
“The public may forget how handsome I am.”
“I doubt it. Your face is on the money.”
• Zoya and Nina are my queens
I will swear fealty to the Zenik and Nazyalensky banners in a blink if they ask me to. These two brave queens deserve everything. In the Grisha trilogy, I didn’t like Zoya that much but my heart eventually softened for her (I think she’ll kick me in the face for saying that but I have no regrets). I understand her now and his loyalty to Nikolai only made me appreciate her more. Her harsh countenance masks her good heart but that doesn’t make her less formidable. I actually can’t wait to see more of her character development in the next book.
And then there’s Nina. It was excruciating to read her perspective because I felt all of her pain like my own. She has also grown so much after Crooked Kingdom and I feel like a proud stage mom. Her time at Ketterdam with Kaz and the Dregs made her spirit stronger. It also taught her a thing or two about schemes. If Kaz just saw everything she did in King of Scars, he would’ve been proud too.
“Nina looked up at the mountain, at the factory road lolling like a long, greedy tongue, at the guardhouse at its base—the first line of security for the soldiers working above. She remembered the lessons she’d learned in Ketterdam, when she’d run not with soldiers bound by honor but with liars, thugs, and thieves. Always hit where the mark isn’t looking.”
• Leigh Bardugo does not disappoint with her plot twists
I CAN’T EVEN WITH THE PLOT TWISTS IN THIS BOOK I’M—
The last few pages of King of Scars almost gave me a heart attack. If you want to scream in the middle of the night to annoy your neighbors, pick this book up.
There was also one point in this book that made my mouth hang open in amazement and joy. Hint: The pleasant surprise starts with the letter D and it may or may not rhyme with “wagon”. You heard nothing from me.
King of Scars gave me more reasons to love the Grishaverse and Nikolai so obviously I’m one happy bookdragon here. Leigh Bardugo really knows how to keep her readers begging for more because after THAT cliffhanger, I will never know peace until I get my hands on the sequel. Will the next book complete or destroy my life??? No one knows.
Have you read King of Scars already? If yes, what did you think? What are some of your favorite bookish universes?