With the imminent release of the Shadow and Bone Netflix series (if you haven’t heard me talk about that basically all the time as of late, where have you been? Watch the trailer here) and the even closer release of the second book in the duology King of Scars is a part of – Rule of Wolves – I thought it was time I finally caught up on the Grishaverse.
It’s been a while since I’ve read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, but I still vividly remember how easily I fell in love with the characters and the world they inhabit. It has been much more recent that I tore my way through the Shadow and Bone trilogy, finally catching up on Alina’s storyline and getting that proper introduction to Nikolai Lantsov. He deserved that grand entry like no other! I’m glad I picked up all the previous books before reading King of Scars, because I think I would have been lost without people’s backstories.
That’s the thing with the books in the Grishaverse; in the beginning you might have been able to just read one series or another, but we are in so deep now, with everything being interconnected, that it would do you a disservice not to know the previous material. In fact, it’s necessary, because so much of this series is built on your feelings for the characters and what is about to happen to them.
“The monster is me and I am the monster.”
King of Scars, just like the Six of Crows duology, offers multiple POVs. The most important ones are likely Nikolai, Zoya and Nina, although I have to say that I struggled to really find a proper connection between Nina’s storyline and the others. She felt very much apart with her mission in Fjerda, even if her plot made sense for her character development and offered a great new path for Nina. It’s something only she could effectively pull off. And I could see those small crumbs that tried to hint at how it would link to the business in Ravka, but (at least in this part of the duology) it felt very much like it could have been a completely unrelated just simultaneously running story.
So, I couldn’t help but feel more drawn to what was going on with Nikolai. I think I wasn’t alone in quickly having him become a favourite even without him having his own perspective back in Shadow and Bone. This broken golden boy just has his charms, as every other character in the Grishaverse could probably attest to. The fact that he now has a major part in this duology just shows that Leigh Bardugo knows what her fans like to read about.
“Most of us can hide our greatest hurts and longings. It’s how we survive each day. We pretend the pain isn’t there, that we are made of scars instead of wounds.”
While I felt like the plot was moving along quite slowly at times and not necessarily contradicted previous books, but definitely rewrote a couple narratives (just throw out your knowledge about amplifiers now for example …), which I did not care about massively, I did appreciate how much more we got to know the characters.
Again, Nikolai is not just charming, he is a really good man. The way he puts Ravka above all his needs is incredible and possibly not healthy, but he just wants to do better than the weak men who came before him. He would give his life if it meant that the people he is trying to serve as a ruler will get to have a more stable and prosperous life. As boisterous and superficial as he can seem, he is one of the most selfless characters.
But most of all, I appreciate that I got to know Zoya more. I’m not going to lie, I struggled with her character for a long time in previous books, because I just couldn’t forget her mean girl behaviour from the beginning. I don’t enjoy people who make others feal scared or lesser than just to feel superior and she has always given off that vibe. She was never kind, nor good, she was ruthless. Now though, I feel like this showed us why she is the way she is. Why she thinks kindness is such a weakness, even if that’s not true at all. Why she is all prickly like thorns despite her beauty like the most gorgeous flowers. There’s really quite a lot of selflessness in her too.
“Most women suffer thorns for the sake of the flowers, but we who wield power adorn ourselves with flowers to hide the sting of our thorns”
King of Scars definitely isn’t my favourite book in the Grishaverse, but it does what it is supposed to – it keeps me wanting more. I always want to know and probably always will want to know how these characters are doing and if lasting peace is an option. But it’s Ravka … something always goes wrong.
Lastly, which is really more of a personal side note than a criticism, I wish there wasn’t this incessant need to always pair everyone up. Tolya is literally the only person I can think of who currently doesn’t have a crush and it’s a lot to me. Sometimes characters can just be friends … or partners in crime … or confidants … or alone?
Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! I rounded up, but I did struggle with this book at times.