King of Scars contains spoilers for Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising, Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom – all books by Leigh Bardugo.
If you have not read any of them, proceed with caution.
☾ about the book
Title: King of Scars
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Nikolai Duology
Format: hardback, novel
Trigger Warnings: for drug addiction, loss of a loved one, grief depiction, captivity, slavery, implied past sexual assault, torture, bullying, fatphobic comments, mention of past death of a baby, attempted pedophilia, suicide, and war themes.
☾ the 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.
☾ the characters
Nikolai Lantsov, King of Ravka, is still struggling with the remains of the Darkling’s magic in his body.
His advisors are urging him to find a wife and have a son to secure the future of Ravka, but in his attempts to help the Darkling to martyrdom he is captured by three of Ravkan’s reborn Saints.
Zoya is very close to Nikolai and helps him to battle the darkness that is still trapped in him while saving the people of Ravka from his monstrous form.
Nina Zenik is on an undercover mission in Fjerda.
After laying her lost love, Matthias, to rest there, she continues with her mission to find out who’s raising an army of Grisha influenced by Jurda Parem.
☾ the magic system
Grisha in the GrishaVerse practice the so called small science, and the three different Grisha orders are capable of different things.
The lethal and addictive drug Jurda Parem amplifies their powers and turns them into powerful war machines.
The Darkling is capable of merzost, the dark kind of the small science, with which he created the monster that lives inside Nikolai.
☾ the world building
Ravka is plagued by the threat of war against Fjerda, and the rising threat of the cult of the Starless, who demand that the Darkling be awarded Sainthood.
The new King of Ravka has to ensure that the Darkling doesn’t become a reoccurring threat while sending people to find out how Fjerda is going to play its cards in the war.
☾ what i liked about this book
I was so happy to return to the GrishaVerse, so that fact alone made me love the book.
It was so good to be back in my favorite universe and follow familiar characters on another adventure.
I also liked how Nikolai was chosen as a POV character since he fell quite short as a character in the Shadow and Bone Trilogy and was only briefly mentioned in the Six of Crows duology.
I also liked the fact that the Darkling still played an important part in the story, since he’s my favorite character.
☾ what i didn’t like about this book
I read a review where someone said that Nina’s arc was the strongest – and I agree.
I love Nina. I love her IDGAF attitude, I love that she’s strong and independent, and that she’s positive about who she is. However, I felt like her arc was out of place in a book that was – in my eyes – supposed to be about Nikolai.
It wasn’t that I hated her arc, or that it didn’t make sense in the story, but I felt that Nina’s mourning of Matthias and her experiences in Fjerda were taking away from Nikolai’s efforts to save Ravka.
☾ should you read this book?
Leigh Bardugo’s GrishaVerse books are great fuel for fantasy lovers, and her characters are diverse and relatable.
If you enjoy plot driven fantasy that has a very fleshed out magic system, you will definitely enjoy the books in the universe.
And if you’re already a GrishaVerse fan like me, you definitely don’t want to miss out on more of it!