Review: King of Scars

Review: King of Scars

King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) by Leigh Bardugo

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My Rating


Official synopsis

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. 


"Most women suffer thorns for the sake of flowers. But we who would wield power adorn ourselves in flowers to hide the sting of our thorns."

I am screaming. Those last 20 pages were INSANE and intense. I binge-read the entire Grishaverse before reading King of Scars. I read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom first and then trekked my way over to Sankta Alina territory with the Shadow and Bone trilogy. While I absolutely adored Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom for their incredibly strong and unique characters as well as deliciously dark and cunning plot, I had issues with Shadow and Bone that mostly stemmed with Alina and being inside her head. Nikolai stood out to me in this series as being one of the best characters in the Grishaverse so all signs pointed to me loving King of Scars. And those signs were right.

Diving into the first chapter, Nikolai quickly reminded me why he's easily one of the best things to come out of the Shadow and Bone trilogy. He's intelligent, charming, witty and unapologetically arrogant at (all) times, all great qualities in a King, and it's almost impossible to fathom admiring him more. But then he goes on being selfless, fighting his internal demons (literally) and the way he carries himself through his internal struggle through the guise of strength makes you fall in love with him as a reader. Not to mention the banter between him and Zoya. It's so clever and sharp and made me laugh out loud and gave me literal heart-eyes ( I swear it) as I read the dialogue between the two of them. I love the love between Nikolai and Zoya. It's so pure and genuine and I really hope they get their due in the next book.

Zoya absolutely surprised me. I LOVE this unapologetically brash, harsh and could not care less about what anyone thinks of her, character. She stands her ground, even to the King, and I couldn’t love her more for it. Finally, a strong and badass character who doesn’t have to change or become a damsel in order for others to like her. She knows exactly what she is and makes no excuses for it. In the Shadow of Bones trilogy, I admired her for her quick thinking and fierce loyalty. In Crooked Kingdom, I respected her. In King of Scars, I needed her character to grace the pages before me. She quickly became my favorite in this - sorry Nikolai and Nina. She’s sassy, intelligent and powerful, and learning her backstory made me love and admire her strength even more. All hail the great Zoya. I can't wait to see what she's capable of in the future.

Nina was one of my favorites in Six of Crows and I was thrilled to be getting more of her, and let's be real, more of Matthias. I loved that he was in Nina’s head early on as it made me miss him slightly less (ugh, can't stop the tears). But their final chapter together destroyed me. I was not expecting the wave of emotions that came with saying goodbye to one of my favorite characters from Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom. I was so proud of Nina and her strength and her relentlessness in doing what was right, even when commanded against it.

I was so beyond shocked at the end of this roller-coaster ride of a book but felt so happy knowing I just read a book where 2 of the 3 main characters were female - powerful, unapologetic and strong-willed - so different than Shadow and Bone (thank god) and so similar to Six of Crows. I really admire the world of Grisha and it's not hard to quickly get lost in it, turning the pages endlessly, not realizing how much time has passed since you physically moved.

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