King of Scars
***Description is spoiler for the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology***
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.
Author: Leigh Bardugo | Publisher: Imprint
“Stop punishing yourself for being someone with a heart. You cannot protect yourself from suffering. To live is to grieve. You are not protecting yourself by shutting yourself off from the world. You are limiting yourself.”
It's hard to write a review about this book without spoilers, because all I want to do is talk about my ~feelings.~ For those unfamiliar, King of Scars is book 1 of a new duology set in the Grishaverse, following the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology. I love these characters so much, and getting so many of them back into my life was a true delight.
I actually had the extreme pleasure (and luck?) of meeting Leigh Bardugo last week at BookCon as she signed my copies of Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. (Still squealing internally, btw.) The conversation went like this:
Leigh: Hi! How are you?
Me: Great, how are you?
Me: So I finished King of Scars, literally last week. So ... ouch.
Leigh: [laughs, looks devious] I mean I'm sorry ... but also, I'm not.
Then we took a pic and it was over. Amazing.
ANYWHOOO, quick spoiler-free synopsis (assuming you've read SaB and SoC): We're about one year out from the events of Crooked Kingdom, and Nikolai Lantsov is king of Ravka. The good news is that Zoya, Tolya and Tamar, and Genya and David are his close advisors and we get lots of these lovely characters. The bad news is that the dark creature he used to be is somehow back, coming out at night. They have to figure out how to get rid of the beast once and for all — oh, and keep the rest of Ravka from knowing that any of this is going on.
Meanwhile, Nina is in Fjerda on a secret mission to help Grisha escape persecution. She's also very lost in her grief. She and her two fellow soldiers find themselves in a small town with a mystery — poisoned water, missing girls, and an old ammunitions factory. I think you see where this is going.
All in all, this book was a fun one to read. Old characters are just as lovable ... and new characters are too. Nikolai's story moved faster than Nina's story, but it feels like Nina's story is going to be really important in book 2. It's a big-looking book, but it read quite quickly.
We got a much, much deeper look into Nikolai and Zoya's characters in this book, because both of them have POV chapters. Nikolai is wrestling with himself — his actual self, not the person he used to be or wishes he was — and Zoya is grappling with the fact that she was used, abused, and discarded by the Darkling, whom she completely revered. She's so angry with herself and him. I never knew I needed Zoya's backstory in my life, but now that I'm getting it, I can't believe I never had it before. And Nina — ugh, Nina. How my heart breaks for you, and how awestruck I am by your strength. And hopeful for your future.
These characters are round, and devastating, and hilarious, and crafted so lovingly. I can't help but root for them with my whole heart.
And the ending — OOF. Prepare yourself. Oh wait, you definitely can't. Well, mentally prepare yourself to be unprepared for your emotions at the end.