King of Scars
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: King of Scars, #1
Page Count: 527
Original Publication Date: 2019
Genre(s): Young adult, Fantasy
Nikolai Lantsov has finally gotten what he’s worked so hard to obtain: a throne. But being King of Ravka isn’t all he’d hoped. The country is broke, surrounded by enemies, and on the precipice of war. Oh, and he has a residual darkness in him that threatens it all, thanks to what happened with the Darkling. With the help of his Grisha general Zoya and Yuri, a young monk with a questionable loyalty, Nikolai hopes to banish the darkness within him—and save Ravka—before it completely overtakes him.
Told in alternating third-person POVs, King of Scars is the third series set in Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse. Shadow and Bone, though not the most unique story, was an enjoyable, fast read; Six of Crows was astounding in every way possible and has become a favorite; yet King of Scars left me a bit bored and wanting…more. And I’m super bummed about it.
King of Scars follows characters we’ve met before. We meet Nikolai and Zoya in the Shadow and Bone trilogy, with a short guest appearance in the Six of Crows duology. I immediately loved Nikolai, and eventually grew to like Zoya, so I was fairly excited to read about their lives following Sankta Alina’s “death.” Was Nikolai long-term affected by his temporary transformation? Was Zoya settling into her new role as the Commander? How was Ravka fairing post-Darkling? I’d hope it wouldn’t be all politics and would include plenty of action, magic, and Nikolai charm. I was…half right. Most of their story was interesting. I enjoyed following their journey across Ravka in search of a cure for Nikolai. I’ll admit some parts were slow, but that’s typical and it didn’t bother me too much. Towards the latter half of the book, we actually get another POV thrown into the mix, and I found those scenes particularly boring, which slowed it down a bit too much for me.
The worst part, however, was that roughly a third of this book is also about Nina and follows her on her own journey in Fjerda. Nina is from Six of Crows, a Grisha wildly changed after exposure to parem, a drug unlike any other that most Grisha don’t survive when cut off from it. I liked Nina in SOC, but I felt her story post-SOC didn’t fit in this book. I mean, she isn’t even mentioned in the book’s synopsis, and yet almost a third of the book is from her perspective! But to me, it felt like a side story that didn’t belong. Those chapters were slowest of all for me, and I didn’t quite grasp the connection between her adventure and Nikolai’s/Zoya’s. It felt unnecessary, and I didn’t care for it. Honestly, I’m still pretty upset about Matthias’ death in Crooked Kingdom, and it felt like a sad excuse to give Nina a purpose and a story of her own to throw into KOS. It just didn’t fit for me, and I would have preferred the book without it.
For me, this book was a 3-star, middle-of-the-road story. If not for the battle-laden and action-packed final fourth of the book, I’d have honestly lost faith completely. The final reveal is worth it, though. And it sets up for book 2 very nicely. I’m hoping Rule of Wolves is more interesting, but I’m afraid of once again being bored by Nina’s POV and only partly invested in the other ones. But I hold out hope, if only for that final reveal and what it could give us in this next book.
Obviously, if you’ve made it this far into the Grishaverse, you should absolutely read King of Scars. It’s kind of an obligation at this point. And while I was bored for a good chunk of it, I still enjoyed being in this world with these characters that I’ve grown so attached to. With the Netflix adaptation of Shadow and Bone out in four days, I’ll be hard-pressed to finish my Grishaverse readathon. But I think I can do it. Fingers crossed ROW returns to what I love about all the other books in this universe!