Hello friends & happy Sunday! I’m finally back with another review, and this time it’s over one of my most anticipated 2019 releases: KING OF SCARS. I still can’t believe this book exists. Like, we get an actual series about Nikolai Lantsov. What a gift to this world.
This review will not include spoilers for King of Scars, but there may be minor spoilers for the other five books in the Grishaverse series. That includes the Grisha trilogy (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising) and the Six of Crows duology (Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom). However, the section at the end titled ‘Overall Thoughts’ is completely spoiler free if you wish to read that. 🙂
Aaaand here we go!
(Okay can we first take a moment to appreciate how stunning this cover is?)
➤Title: King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1)
➤Author: Leigh Bardugo
➤Genre: YA Fantasy
➤Publication: January 29, 2019 by Imprint
➤My rating: ★★★★☆
The first thing I have to say about the plot is that it was… very unexpected. I knew we’d be dealing with the aftereffects of the civil war, and with Nikolai facing what had happened to him in Ruin and Rising, but I was surprised (in both a good and bad way) by the direction Bardugo decided to take this storyline. As a result, I have lots of mixed feelings about the setup of this plot and the actual events that took place.
We follow three main storylines told from four different perspectives (Nikolai, Zoya, Nina, and a new character, Isaak). I absolutely loved reading from each of these character’s points of view and getting more insight on all of them. Like Six of Crows, this book is primarily character driven. We go in depth with their personal stories and get to see their development along the way. And as always, that’s what I like to see in a book. I thrive on character driven plots.
But, at the same time, I felt like this particular plot was disjointed. While I enjoyed the multiple perspectives, I didn’t like how Nina was in a separate location from the others on an unrelated mission of her own. I mean, I honestly adored Nina’s chapters. Those were some of my very favorite parts. I just wish the events in her chapters had somehow connected to the rest of the story. Instead, it felt as if we were constantly split between two main plots, which didn’t make this flow very smoothly.
Without getting in to spoilers, I also want to note that I wasn’t exactly loving the overall conflict of this book. Especially because of what it lead to at the end. The ending was what frustrated me the most because I just didn’t think what happened was… necessary. I know I’m being vague, but I was really hoping for a different and more refreshing storyline. But, again, since this book was character driven, it made up for it. Because I love these characters more than anything:
➤Nikolai: My overwhelming love for Nikolai Lantsov remains strong. Seeing him attempt to keep Ravka together while also dealing with his own personal conflicts in this book hurt me, but I’m just so glad he’s getting this duology he deserves. I only wish we did get a little more page time with him in this book. Still, what we did get was always glorious.
“He thought he had grown used to his scars, but he had never grasped how much of his will it would take to hide them.”
➤Zoya: I made a Goodreads progress update at one point that just said “Zoya Nazyalensky is honestly my hero” and I feel like that says enough. Zoya absolutely owned this book. I liked her enough in the trilogy, but her character development in this was next level. She’s a legend.
➤Nina: Here’s me doing some initial planning for this review –
Thank you for this support Arin. Honestly though, Nina is everything and the fact that she had a POV in this book made my entire life. Like I said before, I really loved her chapters. She’s just the best and every mention of waffles was iconic.
➤Hanne: A new character! I liked Hanne a lot and I thought she was a great addition to this cast. She’s fierce, has a surprising backstory, and definitely has the potential to become a favorite of mine later on.
➤Leoni: Another new character! I loved Leoni’s optimistic personality and how that brought some lightness to this book. She’s lovely.
➤Adrik: Remember Nadia’s little brother, the one who lost his arm back in Ruin and Rising? I wasn’t expecting it, but he was pretty prominent in this book. I liked reading about him and seeing how far he’s come since we last saw him.
➤Isaak: Another new character who had quite a significant role in this story. I grew to like Isaak pretty quickly because of his innocence and kindness. He’s a real gem.
And last but certainly not least, I want to give a shout out to Genya, David, Tolya, and Tamar because they deserve some recognition. Every part of this book that included them was too good. I mean, I could also write an entire essay about how much I love Genya Safin, but let’s move on before I do that.
Leigh Bardugo’s writing is magnificent. She’s come so far since Shadow and Bone and her improvements are definitely noteworthy. I wasn’t at all surprised to find myself falling in love with her writing all over again in King of Scars. This writing style is one I easily connected with in previous works, and that connection was still strong in this one. The world building, the humor, the descriptions, the characterization, the banter*; it was all there and it was all excellent.
We also got some classic character backstories like we had in the Six of Crows duology, which I was so satisfied with because she always writes those extremely well. I love how much time she spends fully developing these characters and giving us that important insight on them. Basically, this book felt very Bardugo and it was great.
*When I say banter, I mean practically every interaction between these two:
“You’re late,” said Zoya.
“I’m the king,” said Nikolai. “That means you’re early.”
The pacing is where I had some slight issues. I wasn’t ever truly bored (I don’t think I can be reading a Grishaverse book), but I did feel that there were some parts that dragged a little. I mean, this is a new series. I get that. We’ve skipped ahead years in the timeline, so a slower start with plenty of explanation was expected. Still, I wish the beginning had been more gripping. The chapters in the first half of the book were also incredibly long which is personally something I have a hard time with. It just took a bit for me to get fully invested.
Overall: excellent writing, some shaky pacing, but still well done.
All in all, I did like this book, even though it had it’s faults here and there. I’m a little sad it wasn’t as spectacular as I expected it to be, but I’m also relieved I wasn’t totally disappointed either. The characters were just as lovable as they always were, the writing was terrific, and I had an enjoyable time reading it. Besides some issues I had with the split plots, the somewhat slower pacing, and that ending, I found this to be a pretty good read. I’m thinking a solid 4 stars.
I’m very much looking forward to seeing how the rest of this series will play out. We ended on a major cliffhanger in this first book, and even though it was one I’m pretty mad about, I’m already desperate for the sequel to see what’ll happen next. I have full faith that Bardugo will give us an epic conclusion to this duology that I’ll absolutely love.
This was a pretty good first book despite those few issues I had with it. And I mean, if nothing else, I’m just glad I got to read about Nikolai Lantsov again.