In an attempt to be completely prepared for King of Scars, I reread all the Grisha trilogy books. It’s a good thing I did because almost all of the characters are from this book and I’m pretty sure the ending wouldn’t make any sense if you don’t remember what happened. So even before I begin this review, I plead to you now to read The Grisha trilogy. They’re amazing, they’re quick, and you’ll definitely thank yourself for the preparation beforehand.
But let’s get into this review.
I’m trying to write this without being too spoilery, but if it does happen to spoil something I’m sorry ahead of time. The story follows along King Nikolai three years after The Darkling was destroyed by Alina in the Fold. For all intents and purposes, this is a brand new story. I love that we explore Nikolai especially since he’s been so elusive, daring, and pretty cute throughout the Grisha trilogy.
From what we left off about King Nikolai, he was consumed by a shadow demon created by The Darkling. It made him this giant monster warring inside for control of his body. When everyone thought it was safe and The Darkling been destroyed, suddenly you see Nikolai waking up in the middle of the night as the demon and attacking small animals. So you start off wondering what that is about. You’re already aware that The Darkling is dead, so how is Nikolai still turning into a demon? That’s what this story is about.
I really loved that he has these problems he’s facing. I love that Zoya, Tamar, Toliya, and others are still around to help him out. The character choices in this book were excellent and all of them play an important role or another in the story. There’s even room for a Nikolai doppleganger, which I thoroughly cried about too.
This is also about Nina, from Six of Crows/Crooked Kingdom. Her story in this book is completely different than what’s going on with Nikolai in Ravka. In fact, she’s still somewhere in Fjerdan land trying to bury Matthias with his God and people. Similarly to what she was doing in Six of Crows, Nina ends up finding some gruesome experiments happening with Grisha and parem. I love that this book doesn’t even take a breath. It follows the stories from its past books and continues them forward. It makes the stories consistent, creates new dramas, and I can’t wait for the next book to see what happens to Nina and her friends.
The book explores a few different perspectives. Similarly to her Six of Crows books, each chapter follows one particular story. There’s some overlap when using this method because she’ll start with Zoya’s point of view for one chapter and then she’ll repeat the whole chapter from a different perspective. I wouldn’t say that the overlap is bad. I think it’s good to see a story from two different perspectives, but if you’re not a fan of repetition it might get a little irritating to read the same scene over from another perspective.
I thought the book started a little bit slowly, but I feel like there’s no better way to start this book other than to go slow. First, Leigh Bardugo needs to reintroduce these characters so you’re not confused as to who they are. She’s given them new meaning especially since the end of her trilogy leaves Ravka and the Fold in disarray. Then, she’s sharing the plot of King of Scars because it is different to the rest of the story in many ways. Then, she’s got to introduce new characters that help with telling this part of the story. So all of it lends to a slow start, but unlike most first books in a series, this also gets right into the action.
Out of all the characters in this book, I wasn’t a fan of Zoya. If you recall, Zoya was kind of a bitch in the Grisha Trilogy. She was good at what she does, but she was super arrogant about it and wanted to harm Alina and whatever she was doing. She was also a devout follower of The Darkling before she switched sides and that gets called up a lot in this book. I really found her annoying in the first three books, but this showed a different side to her. While I wasn’t a fan, Leigh Bardugo did do this character justice and you learn a little more about why Zoya is the way she is.
There is also a lot of politics talking in this book. After the whole war between The Darkling and the rest of the country, the country is in dire need of repair. What gets mentioned a lot is Nikolai’s eligibility and his birthright. There’s discussion of him courting certain royals for a good match. There’s discussion on whether or not Nikolai is a legitimate son of the king. There also seems to be a lot of turmoil in the world between Ravka and the other territories in the novel. I have a feeling that all of that is going to lead to some bigger war in the next book.
Like all of Leigh Bardugo books, there’s always some pretty big surprises while you’re reading. I felt like some of the lulls were very slow, but the moment something big happened, then you got really interested and devour six pages at once. There’s a lot of that in this book especially right in the middle of the book and towards the end. The middle of the book are big surprises to help facilitate the rest of the stories and the ending leaves you with a cliffhanger so big you’ll be dying before the next book comes out.
I will admit the ending is my favorite part of this book. I’m always wary when a bad guy is easily defeated. If someone claims to be all-powerful and a ragtag team of kids is able to beat them, it feels unreal. So seeing this ending with the big surprise really got me excited and I can’t wait to read the next one.