Posted in Book Review

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Read dates: September 9, 2019 – September 25, 2019
Publication date: January 29, 2019
Source: Owned hardback

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King of Scars1

5 cats

The war is over.
The Darkling is dead.
Alina is gone.
Nikolai is King of Ravka.

Though Nikolai’s family were all casualties of the Darkling’s hunger for power and the decimation of Os Alta, Nikolai is not alone at the palace. He has his commander, Zoya, and nearly the entire gang of Alina’s followers, the Triumvirate, at his side. But none of them are able to vanquish the darkness within him, left there by the Darkling’s evil soul before he died. Nikolai just wants to rule Ravka in a way that would give his people peace and freedom, but how can he do that when he lives with the beast inside who enjoys showing up unannounced and wreaking havoc on everything around him? How long will his companions stand by his side and risk their lives to rein the beast? Can Nikolai be a good king while this darkness looms within him?

Meanwhile, Nina is on a secret mission to gain intelligence for Ravka. But what she finds when she arrives to Fjerda is much worse than she could have ever imagined. Can she put her grieving aside to do what is necessary? Can she show the Fjerdans mercy as Matthias has always wished of her? Will she ever be able to forgive the entire race of Fjerdans for the shortcomings and loss in her life?

“Call me Grisha. Call me zowa. Call me death, if you like.”

First of all, let me start by saying, “WHAT THE WHAT?!”
Does Bardugo have a voodoo doll of me that she’s using as a pin cushion? Because that’s what it feels like.

What a ride that was. I’m still reeling. So many unanswered questions and new revelations to chew on until the second book comes out WHENEVER THAT MAY BE.
Dear lord… how am I going to make it? I’ll tell ya how… I’m NOT. I can’t wait that long! I need to know the answers to my questions! I need to know what’s going to happen now that… those… things… have happened! Ughh…

So, the book starts off strong with the story of a boy named Dima. He is the youngest of his brothers and is sent out one night to close the barn doors as it seems the wind has blown them open. The boy is terrified but he wishes to earn the respect of his older brothers so he braves the storm and sets out. When he gets to the barn, he is met with a winged beast and narrowly escapes disaster when a beautiful grisha steps in to capture the beast. I loved reading this beginning piece. It sort of set the eerie mood of the book and amped you up for what was to come so I thought it was definitely worth mentioning.

“We are all connected, King Nikolai. The Grisha, the Fold, the power inside you. The Fold is a wound that may never heal. But perhaps it was not meant to.”

The rest of the story is told primarily through three perspectives. Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina. That’s right. Nina is BACK. We learn a lot about the origins of Nikolai and Zoya in this story and Nina’s tale continues and nearly brought me to tears a few times. Nikolai is battling the beast within him. Zoya is battling her past. Nina is battling the future and moving on with her life after the end of Crooked Kingdom.

Though the Darkling is dead, he’s left his mark on the world. Strange things begin to happen and a monk appears claiming to be one of the people in charge of the Cult of the Starless. A group who ultimately worship the Darkling and wish him to be seen as a saint. He wishes to officially make the Darkling a saint with the help of the Apparat (gag me with a spoon) and King Nikolai. Now Nikolai and Zoya must figure out if the monk’s ramblings are just that or if there is some truth to the Darkling’s soul living on in the fold after his death. But there’s only one way to find out! That’s right! Go to the fold!! We’re on an adventure!! Honestly, this entire book is an adventure. Nikolai and Zoya are on an adventure, Nina is on an adventure with Leoni and Adrik. It’s just chock-full of adventure and I LOVE IT.

I will never be ready for the Grishaverse to come to an end. I’ve so enjoyed the world building and the character building and the constant changes and revelations the characters go through. I don’t think I will ever tire of reading about the Grisha. I even love the characters who aren’t Grisha. I wish I could say I had favorites but I really pretty much love them all!

I will say I really hope the next book doesn’t turn into a love triangle. I don’t know if my heart can take it and it would honestly just be a little weird but they sort of alluded to a future love triangle at the end of this book.

Also, JUST LOOK AT THAT COVER!

Bottom line: this book was everything a book should be. It kept my attention, it kept me guessing, it had me attached to the characters, and it had me hating life while I was too busy to pick it up and continue on to find out what happened next.

I was eager to read this book even before I got into the Grishaverse. When I read the synopsis on Goodreads, I was thinking to myself, “Oh this is going to be gooooood.” But then I did a little more research and found that there were quite a few books ahead of this one so I decided to do the right thing and start at the beginning.
I can tell you, my anticipation for this book did not go to waste. This book scratched the YA/fantasy itch I’ve been dealing with for some time now. Once again, Bardugo gives us multiple POVs and delivers them seamlessly. I’m still in awe of how she’s able to pace a book with multiple POVs and it not be a jumbled mess. She’s become one of my all-time favorite authors and I can’t wait to read Ninth House while I wait to read the fate of King Nikolai and his ruthless and powerful commander, Zoya, and the girl who became one of my favorite characters during Crooked Kingdom, Nina.

A few honorable mentions that I can’t leave out:

The story about Dominik and young Nikolai. Ughhh

“This country gets you in the end, brother. Don’t forget it.”
“Not us,” he said. But Dominik was already gone. “I’ll do better,” Nikolai promised, just as he had so many years ago in Mitkin’s classroom. “I’ll find a way.”

The story about Zoya’s past and the way the dragon (that’s right, there’s a dragon) cares for her. UGHHHHHH

“Stop punishing yourself for being someone with a heart. You cannot protect yourself from suffering. To live is to grieve. You are not protecting yourself by shutting yourself off from the world. You are limiting yourself…”
“Zoya of the lost city. Zoya of the garden. Zoya bleeding in the snow. You are strong enough to survive the fall.”

The part where Nina breaks down in front of Hanne talking about her “husband” and how he loved her and she loved him. WAHHHHHH

“Have you always been this sure of yourself?”
Nina shrugged. “Yes.”
“And your husband didn’t complain?”
“He complained,” Nina said – and suddenly she had to look away, because it was not some fictional merchant who had come to mind but Matthias with his strict propriety and his disapproving glower and his loving, generous heart. “He complained all the time.”
“Was he quick to anger?” Hanne asked.
Nina shook her head and pressed her palms to her eyes, unable to stop the tears that came, not wanting to… “No. We didn’t always agree.” She smiled. “In fact, we almost never agreed. But he loved me. And I loved him.”

Keri