YA Review: King of Scars

Title: King of Scars
Author: Leigh Bardugo

More Grishaverse! More Nikolai! More Zoya! More Nina!

I was so excited to read another Grishaverse novel that I accidentally picked this one up before the sequel is available in paperback, and now I’m counting the days until its publication. The story picks up pace as the book progresses, and the ending brings everything together to set up the second book. I can’t believe I have to wait so long to continue the story!

Nikolai Lantsov, King of Ravka, has a secret. Before the dramatic events at the end of the Shadow and Bone trilogy, Nikolai was cursed – and the curse is growing stronger. As the General of Ravka’s Grisha army, it is up to Zoya Nazyalenski to ensure the king’s safety, and the safety of everyone around him. As Zoya’s task becomes more and more difficult, she and Nikolai agree to search for a cure, however dangerous it might prove to be.

Zoya’s challenge could not have come at a more inconvenient time. There are rumours of planned invasions from Fjerda in the north, and Shu Han to the south, and Nikolai is in need of supporters to strengthen Ravka’s political and military position. A politically significant marriage offers the perfect solution, and arrangements are underway for a grand party where the King will be able to meet the eligible daughters of his potential allies. His absence would be a disaster, but so would any failure to conceal the curse. Zoya must put her own feelings for Nikolai aside as they travel in secret to discover the truth about an ancient ritual that might hold the key to his fate.

Meanwhile Nina is working undercover in Fjerda, smuggling persecuted Grisha to safety in Ravka. As a powerful Grisha herself, Nina must avoid detection and capture while seeking out and rescuing as many Fjerdan witches as she can. When she convinces her team to visit a town where the river is rumoured to be poisoned, and girls have begun to disappear, she finds more persecuted people, and nightmares she wasn’t expecting.

King of Scars is the setup for whatever will happen in the second book. The narrative jumps between three plotlines – Zoya and Nikolai, the Ravkan court, and Nina’s mission – building each to a climax and a cliffhanger ending, ready for Rule of Wolves to complete the story and tie up the loose ends. It’s not a satisfying story in itself, but as half of a Grishaverse duology it is gripping and exciting with unpredictable plot twists and plenty of peril for the characters.

Nikolai is probably my favourite Grishaverse character, and even subdued by the curse and the mounting threats to Ravka, his personality shines through. He is always quick with a witty remark and positive even in the face of a dangerous curse, while remaining aware of the reality of his position. He understands his place in the world, and the necessity for sacrifice as well as charm and charisma. I adored him in the Shadow and Bone trilogy, and King of Scars adds depth to his already wonderful portrayal. (Yes, he’s my Book Boyfriend. Definitely not sorry.)

Zoya has grown and evolved since her adventures in the earlier trilogy, and she makes a highly competent General. Her friendship with Nikolai makes the dangerous parts of the story hard to read, as it is evident to the reader how much she is suffering in her quest to protect the King, even if no-one else can see it.

Nina is still a wonderful character, only just coming to terms with her unique powers, and determined to protect as many Grisha as she can from experiencing her persecution it the hands of the Fjerdan government. While her story does not connect with Nikolai or the Ravkan court in this book, the ending places her in a very interesting position for the start of Rule of Wolves.

I cannot wait for publication day!

Have you read King of Scars? What did you think of the story? Did this return to the Grishaverse live up to your expectations? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

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