King of Scars
by Leigh Bardugo
ebook, 528 pages
Published January 29th 2019 by Imprint
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.
When I asked for a Nikolai book, I didn’t ask for this.
Let’s start from the beginning. Initially, I was excited. The first few chapters felt like coming home; if you know me, you know I love TGT more than SoC. So yeah, this book felt like coming home. To see Ravka again, walk the halls of the Little Palace and Os Alta, to see the Grisha in training and met familiar characters…. it was home. So where did it went wrong?
01. The too-descriptive writing
I realized this a few chapters later. You can’t read this book if you haven’t read The Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows trilogy as this book refers to a lot of events and characters happening in the previous series. Especially the Grisha trilogy, because this book directly deals with the impact of the Civil War. Yet Bardugo feels the need to explain everything again and again: Zoya’s blue kefta and her sharp behavious, Nikolai’s golden hair and his charm, as well as Nina’s love for waffles and changing power, the Grisha’s orders, and many more. Once or twice in the beginning is fine, but continuously throughout the book? It became redundant.
02. Nina’s chapter being too long and removing myself from the story
Speaking about Nina, she became my second hurdle. Nina’s chapters took half of the book. Like literal half. And for a series that titled “Nikolai’s Duology”, the other half was divided between Nikolai, Zoya, and Isaak. What is this?? Nina’s story doesn’t even have anything to do with the happenings in Ravka, nor we see any interactions between them. Her povs should be its own novella, as it doesn’t have correlation with the happenings in the Ravka and jarred me with the differences. If SJM can do it, Leigh Bardugo can do it. It would be better rather than allocate half of the book about Nikolai and Ravka dealing with the Civil War to another story in faraway land with no correlation at all.
I mean, I can see where the story leads on with that ending, but it just drags the whole book.
03. The characters
Look, I love them. Like I said, it felt like coming home to see these characters again. And I know it won’t be the same, the event in Ruin and Rising are still fresh in their mind and they are still dealing with it. But they just blurred together to me most of the time, with the same wit and choice of words, and how they all just seem to be able to throw sarcasm around in all situation. Like all of them. Yes, we do get glimpses into their minds, but only in Nikolai and Zoya’s povs-the latter who saved this book for me. It just doesn’t make sense!
The Nikolai I knew would not joke when the country is at the brink of war and he’s faced with a crisis, we’ve seen him dealing with crisis a lot in TGT. Neither would Zoya, she may be sharp and sarcastic, but she’s not witty. Neither did Tolya and Tamar. Maybe they already bonded in this book and with the threat of The Darkling gone, they are more comfortable and therefore banter around. But it just really unsettles me.
04. The romance
I’ve seen the potential of Nikolai/Zoya since the ending of R&R, so I should be happy that the hints are there in this book right? Well, I take it back. While I initially thought Zoya’s snark and no bullshit attitude will balance Nikolai’s, in this book, it’s all they talk with. It’s like they couldn’t speak like normal person. Not only that, but the whole Triumvirate and Nik’s inner circle speaks in witty attitude all the damn time. It’s getting too much.
And speaking of romance, why does everyone has to be paired off in this world? Can’t we have single character??? I hate it when an author does this, and Bardugo is no exception.
05. The ending
SPOILERS SPOILERS, CLICK THE ARROW TO SEE
Look, I love the Darkling. I hated it when he was killed in Ruin and Rising; he had so many potentials and stories to be explored! His methods are definitely wrong, but his intention is only to protect his people, the Grisha, from persecution. All this time, the people in power could stop it if only they care about the Grisha, but they did not so he took power for himself. I would do anything to see him again, to get more of his story.
But this is not it.
In this book, we saw how much his actions affect others. The scars he left behind and the people he killed. We spent almost a whole book to learn about these bad things that still affects these people even though the war ended years ago, and then use one of these people, one that actually suffers the worst, to act as his hocrux???
I don’t think it voids the ending of the original series. It did not, it serves as an extension of the story. But this? Using Nikolai like this? That is the final nail in the coffin for me. We finally got a Nikolai book, only for his povs to be the least (only second to Isaak) and have his whole story, his whole journey in this book, to be The Darkling hocrux. To bring him back. Yes, the Darkling is under their thumb now and yes, I can’t wait to see them working together. It will be epic. But it really pisses me off how Nikolai is used in this book and how we were all promised.
On a small unrelated note, this is why I think authors should have ARCs, no matter how established you are. It’s not like I will get one anyway, a small international blogger who lives in the middle of nowhere. But I do noticed EVERYONE (okay, at least 90%) complained about Nina’s chapters. Some are willing to overlook it and still gave this book high ratings, but the fact that we all agree on one thing showed how important readers input are.
Ultimately, this book is a disappointment. Other than the world building, the nostalgic feelings, and the awesomeness that is Zoya, this book is a supreme let down. The writing was too descriptive, the plot dragged, and Nikolai is used in a worst way possible. Will I still read the second book? Of course. I told you I love a certain someone, there are just so many ways it could lead to an epic team-up we deserve and certain someone being held accountable. Not to mention the power struggle that might be happening, all the ways the certain someone could control Nikolai in return (he is the owner of merzost inside Nikolai), and all the ways Alina’s ass could be dragged back into this mess from the retirement. And of course, the possibility of The Dregs joining the war!! More epic team up!! But for this one, I would say that this book is really not what I expected, in the worst possible way.