A Strategic, Political Fantasy with A Cliffhanger That Destroys You | Book Review: King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) by Leigh Bardugo

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.

I was introduced to Leigh Bardugo’s writing in the wrong order – I adored the Six of Crows Duology (Read Why!) but I found The Grisha Trilogy only passable (Read Why!) – in fact, I was glad that I read both the series in the wring order; because I wouldn’t have found myself a fan of the world Queen Bardugo created otherwise.

But more  than anyone else, I adored Nikolai Lantsov, the Pirate who spirited away my heart , who made others pale with his charmiing, endearing and brilliant mind, who made the journey of The Grisha Trilogy all the more worth it – I was so excited to find out we would be getting his journey, how he would fare as the King of Ravka, especially after the way the civil war ended. (Nikolai and his fate had me screaming in agony; he honestly did not deserve that!).

“Most of us can hide our greatest hurts and longings. It’s how we survive each day. We pretend the pain isn’t there, that we are made of scars instead of wounds.” 

I only picked up King of Scars this late because I was anxious about all the hype surrounding the book- and that just made my expectations all the more unreachable – and now that I actually read it two months after it’s release, I went into the book with an open mind and totally reachable expectations; which in foresight was a brilliant decision of mine, if I do say so myself.

Talking about the book itself, King of Scars starts off exactly where The Grisha Trilogy ended – with Nikolai now on the throne with Zoya Nazyalensky as his right hand woman; trying to put fragments of Ravka together; even with his own secrets ruling him. Yet he does his best to actually hold down the fort – and shows EXACTLY why he deserves all the applause and adulation he expects to be given. 

But what interested me the most was the “relationship” between Zoya and Nikolai – the seeds of this, very complicated “connection” have been sown in a way in King of Scars, that it could either grow into one of the strongest f***** tree in the history of Ravka OR it could end becoming the vine, both of them could end up hanging from. It would be VERY fascinating to see where Queen Bardugo takes it on a journey to conclusion.

“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.”

Coming to Nina Zenik’s role in the plot – I couldn’t reconcile her part in he story. Don’t get me wrong, it was like a hug from an oldest friend, having Nina back in my life; but her story ARC somehow felt disconnected with the rest of the plot. How would it ever intersect with Nikolai and Zoya, is again a mystery; though Nina does what she does in this book – use her brains, charm and sarcasm to get out of situations that wouldn’t have occurred without her in the first place. Nina saw most of the action of the plot; and it was amazing to see her survive & find a purpose after a loss that even I have not gotten over (and I probably never will!).

“Most women suffer thorns for the sake of the flowers, but we who wield power adorn ourselves with flowers to hide the sting of our thorns”

What Leigh Bardugo does, in her own very unique way, puts the plot on two strong female characters, who at times overshadow everyone around them (yes, even Nikolai!) – and does so in a very subtle way that almost seems like extension of the plot itself. 

And can we just take time to talk about THAT F****ING CLIFFHANAGER – I mean, WHHHYYYYYY? DID WE EVEN NEED THAT REVELATION RIGHT AT THE F****ING END? I don’t even know how I will survive knowing that there so much time till the next book comes out!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need a re – read of The Six of Crows Duology as a balm to my wounded heart!

“We hope or we falter.”

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ 


8 thoughts on “A Strategic, Political Fantasy with A Cliffhanger That Destroys You | Book Review: King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) by Leigh Bardugo

    1. Grisha Trilogy is also known as Shadow and Bone Trilogy – And yes, it would be preferable if you read it first before picking up King of scars; mostly because the foundation of this book is in that trilogy – you will be lost on a lot of things and characters otherwise! Hope this helps! ❤


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