I’ve been continuing on with the Grishaverse books to end June out. Last night, I finished King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo, published by ORION Children’s Books. It’s the first book in the latest duology of the universe. Unfortunately, I don’t have the next book, so finishing out the Grishaverse will have to wait.
King of Scars continues the stories of three beloved characters. Nikolai, King of Ravka, is wrestling with the demon the Darkling left him with during the Ravkan civil war. Zoya, general of the Second Army, has done and will do anything to rebuild the Ravkan armies and save the kingdom. Nina is on a mission in Fjerda, heart set on saving Grisha from the prejudiced country, and also on fulfilling a promise she made to Matthias. Above them all, they must deal with the threat of imminent war to Ravka from all sides, people experimenting with Grisha on a drug called Jurda Parem, and winged Shu coming out of the sky to steal Grisha.
Though I preferred the Six of Crows duology, I can admire how much Leigh Bardugo’s writing has strengthened since the original Shadow and Bone trilogy. I think for her writing in third person is much more of a strength.
Overall, I think the main theme of the book is about coming to terms with who you are, the good and the bad. Nikolai must conquer his literal demons. Zoya must accept her power. Nina must not let her grief or addiction consume her, and find a way to fulfill the promise and her dreams. This is a great theme that can be applied to everyday life and not just a fantasy world–we all have our own demons, even if they aren’t winged or crave human flesh. We must accept the good and bad of ourselves.
I was excited to read this book because it takes the point of view of my favorite characters. But I was also nervous–because returning to Ravka, I thought we might be returning to the writing style of the original style. While I was wrong about that, I found I was still more invested in Nina’s story. I don’t know if Nina is just more compelling or I felt more invested because of how much I loved Six of Crows, and she referenced her friends in Ketterdam occasionally.
Though I love Nikolai and his witty banter, I found his point of view the least compelling. I think I like observing him from another character instead of being trapped in his mind.
Zoya was a great counterpart and I liked being in her head. I always liked her, but it was eye-opening to see her past trauma and understand the way she acts and what she wanted.
Halfway through the book, we also take on another point of view–of Isaak. Isaak is adorable and cautious but eager to do anything for his country. I actually loved being in his head, and seeing how he reacted to the events that were happening in the capital.
Overall, I feel like we didn’t get enough time with the characters because of the switching point of views. Particularly Zoya. I would love to see more of her training with the dragon. I think her chapters might’ve been the least in the book, which is a shame because she was just understanding how Grisha power really works.
I also didn’t like the way the plot was going towards the end. Without spoilers, all I will say is that they are calling to something in the original trilogy instead of bringing in a unique roadblock. Also, I’m quite upset about how the romance is going–particularly if there is indeed a wedding in the next book.
Also, it seems like there are some inconsistencies with how the magic (or small science) works between the books. For instance, in the original trilogy, tailoring had to be done every day to keep up appearances. However, in King of Scars, we see Nina be tailored for months without need of upkeep. Also, there seems to be some confusion on amplifiers. As in I’m confused. But I can’t go in to how or why without spoilers.
Overall, I did like this book. It was much better than the original trilogy, but not as good as the Six of Crows duology. I think, indeed, that this puts it at four stars out of five.
Now I just need to get my hands on the next book. It’s not impossible, just improbable.
Leigh Bardugo’s Instagram here.
Trailer for the Shadow and Bone series here.