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King of Scars (King of Scars Duology (1)) Hardcover – January 29, 2019
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"[Bardugo] touches on religion, class, family, love ― all organically, all effortlessly, all cloaked in the weight of a post-war reckoning with the cost (literal and figurative) of surviving the events that shape both people and nations." ―NPR
"Dark, beautifully written, and full of characters who instantly get inside of your head, the first book in this new duology is an instant classic." ―PopSugar
"Why You’ll Love It: … Leigh Bardugo continues to breathe new life into her lush fantasy world, and it’s impossible to resist reading every single one.
For Fans of: Fantasy authors like Susan Dennard and Sabaa Tahir." ―Paste
"A richly detailed and refreshingly diverse world inhabited by individuals who, for all their magical talents, are resonantly human." ―The Washington Post
"Deadly clever political intrigue, heart-stopping adventure, memorable characters, and several understated, hinted-at romances (how will we wait?!) come together in one glorious, Slavic-folklore infused package. Bardugo's star continues to rise." ―Booklist, starred review
"The sharp dialogue and lovable characters continue to enthrall and bewitch long past the final chapter. With twists and revelations cleverly dispersed up until the very last page, this novel is a must-have for any book shelf." ―School Library Journal, starred review
Praise for the Grishaverse
“A master of fantasy.” ― The Huffington Post
“Utterly, extremely bewitching.” ―The Guardian
“The best magic universe since Harry Potter.” ―Bustle
“This is what fantasy is for.” ―The New York Times Book Review
“[A] world that feels real enough to have its own passport stamp.” ―NPR
“The darker it gets for the good guys, the better.” ―Entertainment Weekly
“Sultry, sweeping and picturesque. . . . Impossible to put down.” ―USA Today
“There’s a level of emotional and historical sophistication within Bardugo’s original epic fantasy that sets it apart.” ―Vanity Fair
“Unlike anything I’ve ever read.” ―Veronica Roth, bestselling author of Divergent
“Bardugo crafts a first-rate adventure, a poignant romance, and an intriguing mystery!” ―Rick Riordan, bestselling author of the Percy Jackson series
“This is a great choice for teenage fans of George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkien.” ―RT Book Reviews
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“If men were ashamed when they should be, they’d have no time for anything else.” ~ Leigh Bardugo
KING OF SCARS was my most anticipated read of 2019, and it did not disappoint. For those who haven’t yet been introduced to the Grishaverse, get acquainted (start with the Shadow and Bone trilogy, then move on to the Six of Crows duology), then find your way back here. Also, know that I’m jealous you get to read these fabulous books with fresh eyes.
For those who don’t know, Leigh Bardugo is one of my favorite authors of all time. I literally took the day off work to start in on King of Scars. When it arrived, I ran to the door, grabbed the package from off the floor (while the astounded Amazon deliveryman stared at me with wide, blinking eyes) and started to scream. I mean, little kid on Christmas scream. Between these giggles and high pitched shrieks, I thanked the man, dashed inside, and continued to dance around my living room and kitchen, clutching the package and hopping up and down like a little bird trying to take flight. I was that excited.
I was this excited because Leigh Bardugo, without fail, writes stories I want to read, stories I feel were made just for me. Her characters are rich and her world building beautiful. She explores things I’m interested in: different cultures and customs; different languages; different relationships; different loves. But most of all, she is honest. Her writing is honest, and so are her realities. Even in a fantasy realm, she doesn’t cop-out. She doesn’t engage in dishonest tropes and parlor tricks simply to appease the masses. She keeps it real. Oh, and she’s funny. Did I mention how funny her writing can be?
King of Scars was no different. Within the first chapter, I was transported. Whisked away, back to Ravka, back to Nikolai, back to the home of the Grisha. I loved King of Scars because it was familiar in a way that Leigh’s writing has become familiar to me. It’s not only the characters, but it’s the truth she speaks. It’s a familiarity that changes, too evolving naturally, because Leigh is one of those writers who seems to always get better. With every story she spins, I see her evolution as a writer, and to me, that is more enchanting even than the Grishaverse. Leigh is the kind of author I aspire to be. And King of Scars is the kind of book I want to write. Let’s just hope that when I do, I can get a cover half as eye catching!
This book talked about all of Nikolai's insecurities and everything he had to fight. We dive into his childhood and his relationship with Dominik, his whipping boy, and his older brother Vasily. It also talked about why he chose to be charming and well-connected.
Overall I loved this book and can't wait for the next.
While going into King of Scars, I knew nothing about the Darkling or Nikolai. But I must say, I felt fine without reading the trilogy first. Of course parts of the history of the world building and the different races went over my head, but the overall enjoyment of the book didn’t suffer much. It just wasn’t as fascinating as Six of Crows – but it’s hard to compete with a heist and Kaz (love KAZ he is my kind of hero).
But coming back to King of Scars, the author wove three different stories neatly together. Nikolai, Nina and Issak’s story.
Nikolai and Zoya have an interesting relationship that I can’t wait to explore more – and I wouldn’t mind seeing them end up together either. Their level of comfort with each other speaks volumes, even though Zoya is the one that is holding back the most, which makes her being so secretive even more interesting. Zoya’s growth throughout the book was maybe the most extensive of all. I can’t wait to see what else she is capable of doing. And the possibilities of Nikolai are immense as well, in the end all is open, and I’m interested in what’s to come.
Nina, after the ending of Crooked Kingdom, is on a journey of closure. And unknowingly starting her own quest, that will or will not come to completion in the next book. I understand why the author gave Nina the opportunity for closure, it just wasn’t a favorite part of the story. But the danger that she is getting into in the next book, has me wanting to read more.
I liked how all three stories wove through the book, without really connecting, but still moving the storyline forward. The author certainly knows how to write a well written book, but she also has no issue killing people if it suits her storyline. Again, I’m reminded that getting invested with her characters is not the smartest or healthiest move.
All in all King of Scars was slower, and more similar with the first trilogy than the action pact Six of Crows. I wasn't wowed by it, but I wasn't bored by it either, it was just ok. The excitement that I felt for Six of Crows and its incredibly charismatic leader Kaz was missing - and it was felt.
Top international reviews
Set in world heavily influenced by Russian folklore Grisha are born with power alternatively despised or worshipped. The country of Ravka is recovering from a war and the Depredations of the semi immortal leader of the Grisha known as the Darkling now deceased. One of those struggling is Nikolai the King of Scars, the ruler of Ravka who is suffering from a curse one of the last acts of malice from the Darkling. Beset on all sides by enemies there are two main plots running side by side and eventually twinning together. The A plot follows Nikolai and Zoya, ruthless powerful Grisha and General of the 2nd army as they try to find a cure for Nikolai, while the other members of their councils try to hold off there enemies who are Encroaching on all sides.
The B side follows Nina a Grisha, undercover in enemy country trying to find the source of an addictive destructive drug known as parem that enslaves Grisha and twists there power in unexpected ways, a victim of it herself from which she gained her new nickname as the Corpsewitch. Suffering the loss of her lover, Nina is caught in a storm of grief and loss looking for vengeance trying to find a way forward.
Fast paced, well written this is an excellent addition to the Grisha series definitely wouldn’t recommend this is a jumping off point to start reading this author. There are a lot of cameos and Easter eggs to events the original series and the six of crows series, with Nina’s plot especially tied into the six of crows and having read the original series while not as essential to understand the A plot, Nikolai’s story does make it easier to follow. So in short for those already following the Grisha universe this gets a enthusiastic recommendation for those new go back and read the original series or at least the Six of Crows series. There is a treat waiting for you.
Ultimately, I enjoyed this. Bardugo seems to be a naturally talented writer, but has also grown slicker and more polished over time. The prose is strong, the world is extremely well-developed, and the characters really come to life. The plot is nicely executed with plenty of twists and turns and a good mix of dramatic and more reflective moments, and of scary, funny, and romantic scenes. So there was certainly nothing to really complain about and plenty to be impressed by.
All that said, I didn't adore and devour this to quite the extent I was hoping and expecting. I think the main reasons were the POV character choices, the disconnected plot strands, and the lack of clear stakes and narrative drive for large swathes of the book.
Character-wise, it's narrated by three people: Nikolai and Zoya from the original trilogy plus Nina from SoC.
Nina is one of my favourites from the later series, so I was really happy to see her back. I'm not sure she works quite so well as a standalone character (which she basically was here) instead of as part of an ensemble. Still, no real quibbles with her point of view.
I know Nikolai tends to be a bit of a fan favourite, so I'm probably going against the grain here, but I was never a huge fan of him as a character and while he's undoubtedly had some good scenes in both prior series, I think he works better in small doses. Bardugo is absolutely amazing at characters treading a fine line between fairly villainous protagonists (Kaz) and fairly charismatic and sympathetic villains (The Darkling) and compared to them I find Nikolai a little bland and overly perfect. Attempts here to suggest an inner darkness and conflict just didn't come off for me.
Zoya was the one who left me really conflicted. I hated her in Shadow and Bone, even after she was fairly thoroughly redeemed, because she was just so pointlessly cruel to Alina in particular and to people in general in the first book. I usually like unlikeable female characters, and she certainly provided some of the moral ambiguity I've suggested Nikolai was lacking. But someone who's previously been horrible to a character you already have an emotional attachment to feels different to a ruthless character you're coming to cold. It was undoubtedly interesting to get some insight into her background and her psyche and her chapters ended up being some of the stronger ones as a result, but I just couldn't bring myself to root for her. And I struggled even more to get behind the hints of a possible developing relationship between her and Nikolai.
Plotwise, the Nikolai and Zoya strands are generally covering the same ground as each other, focused on Nikolai's attempts to get used to being a king, repair and modernise Ravka after the civil war, form alliances and see off threats from other countries, potentially find a wife - and defeat the demon that lives inside him thanks to one of the Darkling's last acts. So there's a lot of interesting stuff going on there, which made for some very interesting individual scenes. But until quite far into the book, there wasn't much urgency to any of it or any one aim that was really driving him. Towards the end, it's the demon aspect that starts to dominate proceedings, and this certainly leads to some real tension and high stakes as well as some intriguing revelations.
The Nina chapters are completely disconnected from the rest of the story. They could genuinely have been a separate book. She's in Fjerda, rather than Ravka, for a start, and no characters cross from one to the other. Her plot has more of a SoC feel, with scheming and trickery and what amounts to a mini heist, as opposed to the Shadow and Bone vibe of the other two thirds of the book, with its politics and magic and war. I can't decide whether this made for a great best of all worlds combination or too much of a disjointed feel. I'd have liked at least some crossover and ideally, for the two plots to affect each other and/or converge at the end, which wasn't really the case. Her story also took quite a while to get going, with no real sense of urgency or of what she was trying to achieve until quite close to the end, at which point it burst into life. Points to this segment too for introducing probably the one standout new character of the book, Hanne, who was great, both as an individual and in combination with Nina.
As I've said above, in the last third or so, the slightly meandering plots really burst into life on both sides. And then, in literally the last few chapters, some absolutely amazing elements were suddenly thrown into the mix, which made me simultaneously frustrated that there hadn't been more of either angle earlier on and unbearably impatient for the next instalment, which I suspect might just address most of my concerns above...
To be clear, I'd definitely recommend this to fans of either or both prior series. It's a great read, it just didn't, for me at least, hit quite the heights of either of its predecessors or my own high expectations. Depending on what you like about other Grisha books, you may enjoy this a lot more or a lot less than me, but either way, there's enough objectively good stuff that it's got to be worth picking up.
5 years have passed since the death of the Darkling, strange occurences are happening across Ravka and King Nikolai is struggling to hold onto his throne.
Ooh I really liked this. It was led by the best side characters from the previous series, Nikolai, Nina and Zoya. All hail Zoya, who is fierce and fabulous! Other favourites from the Grisha Trilogy make appearences too such as Adrik, Tamar, Tolya, Genya and David.
There's two main storylines, one in Fjerda, one in Ravka which meant the story never got stagnant. The writing is good as always. I really think Bardugo's books are getting better and better.
The only niggly point I have is that it is not believable that Nina is 18...after her appearence in Six of crows I had her pegged for at least mid twenties. When did she find the time to train as grisha... (oops almost put in a lot of spoilers for six of crows duology in here-trust me shes done a lot!) and still only be 18?!
I loved the six of crows series and this book did not disappoint. Just want more please!
Additional point I bought as soon as i saw the gorgeous golden cover but i think the cover underneath is even better !
On the whole, this book is incredible! Leigh Bardugo doesn't have to waste any time on world building, which means this book is more plot and character focused. Bardugo's writing is exquisite as always and the plot is full of unexpected twists and turns. I also loved how Bardugo delved deeper into the backstories and childhoods of Nikolai, Zoya and Nina to show how they became who they are now.
However, Nina's story felt very disjointed from Nikolai and Zoya's and like it should be in a separate book.
I am still very much looking forward to the next book!
There was not a moment I found myself become bored.
It was action packed and gripping!
And on my god that ending!!!!
I can not wait for the next book.
Nikolai is a very intriguing character to read. Sassier than ever, even when everything is getting out of control. Nina's POV is there to break your heart after the events of Crooked Kingdom. Zoya is fun to read. Love the banter between her and Nikolai 😂 The dialogues are killing it!
Fair warning, read the Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows duology before reading this book to understand it all better. There's a lot of throwbacks to the previous books since the story is intricately woven with them.
Also, the hardcover is damn gorgeous 🌟🥰 The map has been updated. You might get lost just admiring the book instead of actually reading it.
The condition of the book however was in much worse condition than described. So that's why the lower rating.
After reading the Six of Crows duology, I expected this to be better. But I completely discarded the fact that the Grisha Verse is the basis of King of Scars. And that was my doom.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Grisha trilogy. The first book was fairly entertaining. I gave it three stars. The second and the third book nearly killed me though. The only thing that kept me reading was Nikolai Lantsov. Still, I was so d*mn happy when I finally finished the trilogy.
Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom on the other hand are absolute masterpieces. I love them with all my heart. I suppose when King of Scars was announced, I kind of forgot all about the bad stuff and focused only on the good, meaning: Nikolai, Nina and Leigh Bardugo’s writing.
Speaking of the good stuff, let’s start with that, because there’s not a lot of that.
Leigh Bardugo’s writing is as lovely as always. Period.
Ravka was many things to him: a grand lady who required constant courting, a stubborn child unwilling to stand on its own, and most often, a drownin man – the more Nikolai struggled to save it, the harder it fought.
The dialogue was amazing. I mean, that was to be expected, considering that Nikolai is in this book but still. I loved all the banter and I marked over 20 passages. It really was that good.
"Don’t argue, David. Makes me want to blow something up to assert my authority."
Bardugo introduces a few new characters but there’s one that’s especially grown on me: Isaak. I can’t really go into his role in King of Scars because spoilers but believe me when I say that he’s the most adorable person on this planet. He’s awkward and anxious and so relatable. Some were bored by his chapters but I really enjoyed them!
"At night, Isaak fell into bed and lay staring at the ceiling, heart pounding, thinking of the many things he’d done wrong and the many things he was bound to do wrong tomorrow."
And yes…. that would be it. The parts that I enjoyed. Now we come to the not so good parts that are responsible for making me give this book only 2.5 stars.
This book was so d*mn slow! Most of the time nothing was happening and there was no reason to read on. That’s usually not Bardugo’s style. No idea what happened this time. And then it’s not like this is a short book. We get over 500 pages of basically nothing. I mean, after 250 pages something starts to happen but I couldn’t bring myself to care. It just didn’t feel very important or threatening to the characters and it’s oh so predictable.
"“Why do you never kiss me sweetly in the morning, Zoya?”
“I do nothing sweetly, Your Highness.”"
When it came out that Nina would be in this book, everyone lost their sh*t. Understandable. Nina is a queen. I really wanted to know how her life would look after Crooked Kingdom. But somehow, this was not as great as I hoped it would be. Nina’s story is kind of boring and doesn’t even have anything to do with Nikolai’s problem. Switching between these two stories was even worse. Just when you thought that maybe things were starting to look more interesting, you’d be dragged into the other story, and so on it goes, never being able to get invested in either of these storylines.
"“Of course,” she said. “Matthias, your country can kiss my fat Grisha ass.”"
There are a lot of things that don’t make any sense if you asked me. I can’t really elaborate on them because spoilers, but it’s sh*tty. And this book totally blows the magic system to bits! I was just like “What the ****, Leigh Bardugo? You really gonna do this?”
And lastly, the ending. Some people hate it, some love it. I definitely hate it. It was hinted at through the whole book, but I didn’t want to believe that Bardugo was really going to do it. She did, though, and that’s a tragedy.