My Thoughts on King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

My Thoughts on King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

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.

 

Grisha Universe Announcement!

I’m so excited to hear the good news! The World of Grisha won’t be going anywhere soon because Leigh Bardugo announced a new series within the same universe!

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The book will be called The Language of Thorns:  Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic.

As described in the LA Times, “It’s a collection of stories,” Bardugo said. “The kind of stories that the characters in the books might have heard growing up. They’re basically the fairy tales and folk tales of the Grisha world.”

While you may know, I wasn’t a huge fan of the first trilogy but I loved Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. I have no doubts that this will be just as amazing.

Woot!

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo – Book Review

22299763Is it pessimistic to say that I wanted to hate this book? It’s a sequel, there’s a certain amount of expectation there knowing that it’s a sequel. It’s supposed to be bad. It’s supposed to try and wrap everything up in a neat little bow, but the bow is made from lion mane still attached to the lion. Most sequels are bad.

Crooked Kingdom is not.

Synopsis (from Goodreads.com) – Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world. 

Rating: 5/5

My thoughts – I am a huge fan of the Six of Crow series. My reaction to the end of the first novel made me want to throw a table. Cliffhangers are the worst and Leigh Bardugo gave us the worst cliffhanger of all; ending the first story where these band of misfits get swindled from their money and one of their own gets kidnapped.

I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!

I needed to know what happens to Inej and Kaz, and Matthias and Nina, and does Jesper and Wylan ever hook up because that would be so precious!

All these moments hanging on the balance for only a few months (because I read the book earlier this summer) and then culminated to this final book. When I opened my delivery box, all I can see is the cover. The color palette on the front of the book were these dusty sand and black with a huge crow trying to gain altitude almost reaching out above you.

Then, you see the red-stained edges. I’ve gotten books with deckled edges and I know the Bible comes with that special gold edge, but not red. Such a sexy book.

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I pushed all my books aside and made room for Crooked Kingdom to take me back to Ketterdam and fix all that is wrong in the world.

And wow, did Leigh Bardugo deliver.

While I could complain that the story was a little too long for me, it’s negligible. I don’t think Leigh Bardugo could cut out any step within this process especially since she has the ability to reconnect those moments together at the end.

Maybe there were people who lived those lives. Maybe this girl was one of them. But what about the rest of us? What about the nobodies and the nothings, the invisible girls? We learn to hold our heads as if we wear crowns. We learn to wring magic from the ordinary. That was how you survived when you weren’t chosen, when there was no royal blood in your veins. When the world owed you nothing, you demanded something of it anyway.

Her style of writing is poetic. Each moment for the characters is representative of something in their lives. It could be an insecurity or it could be their greatest strength, but Leigh Bardugo doesn’t leave you in the dark about any of it. The best part is that she doesn’t take 5 books for you to find out. She’s upfront and genuine and actually somewhat like this crew of misfits she’s created.

You can also always expect a surprise from her at the end of the novel. While things did work out for everyone in the end (sorry about that little spoiler), it’s the journey to the end that really matters. You see that these aren’t just some ordinary thieves, that there’s a small ounce of humanitarian-ism in each of them and despite the world dealing them a pretty nasty hand, they’re able to smile with each other and commiserate together.

No mourners, no funerals. Another way of saying good luck. But it was something more. A dark wink to the fact that there would be no expensive burials for people like them, no marble markers to remember their names, no wreaths of myrtle and rose.

 

Book Review – Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

A gambler, a convict, a wayward son, a lost Grisha, a Suli girl who had become a killer, a boy from the Barrel who had become something worse.

I have so many feelings about this book that I can’t even.

Rating – 5/5 (NO DOUBTS ABOUT IT)

Plot Summary – If you took The Breakfast Club gang and put them in Ocean’s Eleven, then you basically have Six of Crows.

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The story follows Kaz and his crew to kidnap someone who’d created a powerful drug that can amplify Grisha power a hundredfold. Who wouldn’t love a drug like that? Oh, perhaps it’s the fact that you get instantly addicted to it and it drives you insane before you die of withdrawal.

Each person on this “heist” has something to offer the crew. One is a Grisha, another is a bombs expert, a gun expert, and a spy. They all have one thing in common; they all work and live in the Barrel of Ketterdam. It sounds nice, but it’s supposed to be ruthless. Feel the ruthlessness!

My review – After reading The Grisha Trilogy, I was a little skeptic as to how this book would turn out. If you’ve read my review, you know that I didn’t really like that series. However, I didn’t want my feelings about the series to hinder the great reviews I was seeing online about Six of Crows. Also, I’m highly suggestible and that’s how I landed on reading this one.

I am blown away with what Leigh Bardugo was able to do with this world. She’s like a baker. After building her Grisha cake of Alina and Mas, she expertly used the scraps of that world to create a more adventurous novel. By adventurous, I mean that it really took you a journey as a crew of misfits from the Barrel fight for their freedom, their dignity, and a shit ton of money. There’s this repeating idea of “ride or die” with this group that I found so appealing. They barely got along in this story and then by the end, they were best friends (ish? I mean, how friendly can you get with thieves).

Her character development has always been super strong and with the layout of this novel, Bardugo is able to paint a pretty decent picture of everyone in the crew without sacrificing the plot.

Also, there’s a plot! I think that was one of the pitfalls of why I didn’t like The Grisha Series. I always wanted to know what ultimately all that journeying through that world was going to lead to. However, it didn’t in this one. Every step made was intentional. Every journey made sense to build the characters and to build the tension of what’s going to happen next. It was like reading Pirates of the Caribbean, but you know, more fantastical.

The entire time reading this book, I could only imagine what this would look like in a movie. More accurately, I was thinking about how it would look as an anime where the boundaries of the fantastical world created here can be pushed and brought to reality. Honestly, make that happen. Just make it happen.

I think one question people might be asking is if this story is readable without having to read The Grisha Triology?

The quick answer is yes. There’s enough explanation and backstory as to how the Grisha came to be, who the Shu and the Fjerdan are and their stance about Grisha, and there isn’t any wild overly religious implications throughout it (which was one of the drawbacks I didn’t like about the trilogy). However, it isn’t too overbearing with information that if you’ve already read The Grisha Trilogy it won’t be page after painstaking page of explanation you already know.

No mourners.

No funerals.

What I love about this world is that it’s not pretty. You take a bunch of slumdogs from the shadows of Ketterdam and you made them heroes in their own right. It’s most definitely an underdog story and you sympathize with these characters. I don’t know if you’d want to date them, but hey, that’s your call. I can’t gush enough how much I loved this book.

The last thing I wanted to touch on and only slightly because I can’t stop thinking about it and that’s the good ship Kaz and Inej. I don’t know if there is a romantic notion between them, but there is love. I love that it’s subtle and quiet and I definitely love that you can’t feel the tension. They know what they want from each other. They know that it’s impossible to get with the ruthless lives that they lead. However, if that relationship moved forward, I would be clapping the loudest at their thieves wedding.

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Book Review – The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

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Ratings:

Shadow and Bone: 4/5

Siege and Storm: 3/5

Ruin and Rising: 3/5 (although, I would argue this was a 2/5)

Look, I’m not going to hate. I’m not going to hate because the Grisha fandom is very strong and I’m worried that a mob of fans will come to my house with pitchforks. They’d kidnap me and do an old fashioned hanging in the town square.

I wish I loved these books especially since I’ve been easing myself slowly into high fantasy. There were a few nuggets of good reading, but then there was a bunch of stuff that I couldn’t really stand. I will say that the final book did surprise me the most and I ended up hating it in a “I love it, but I hate it” sort of way.

To give you a brief synopsis, this is the story about a chick named Alina who has some magical power that no one else has and everyone wants to use for themselves. She gets involved with a bunch of dudes who all wanted her for different reasons while she spent her time trying to find herself.

I know I’m like years late to review this book and it’s probably been reviewed to death. So instead of doing a review, I’m just going to chat through it. I took a chance on this book because the book universe kept on talking about it and I needed to really see what it was about. I’m the type of girl that needs to find out on her own. Sadly, I didn’t think I would be completely disappointed. If you can imagine my disappointment after reading “Allegiant,” then I can feel it three-fold for this entire series and I will be using these novels as kindling (jk, it wasn’t that bad).

If you don’t want to be spoiled or hate me more, turn away now.

Book 1: Shadow and Bone

I can see how the first book can really pull a reader into the Grisha world. Every first book needs to explain the world they’re about to reveal before they dive into the drama. There’s always some big reveal and some action that causes the reader to continue with the series. This is what I call the “make or break” book. If I’m not captured by the story at the end of the novel, then I don’t want to waste my time continuing through the entire series.

For the most part, I’ve come across a lot of first novels that have really caught my attention and made me continue reading. This is definitely not an exception to the rule.

I went into this book with an open mind. You have to be open-minded when it comes to the first book. I found myself wrapped up in the story:

  • Who is the mysterious Darkling? Is he the good guy or the bad guy? Is he the bad guy that Alina will spend trying to make good? Oooh.
  • What about Alina? Will she be shy about her powers like Katniss and fight tooth and nail to deny herself the strength to be a leader?
  • Who is the mysterious Mal? Is he the lovable side kick or is he the love of her life?

All these questions sort of swirled around right until the final half of the book when the Darkling reveals that he really is the bad guy and places a collar around Alina’s neck like a wild animal. God, I really gripped the book right at this point. I really thought he liked her and I really thought he was the good guy, but he’s your classic villain. Chaos ensues and Alina escapes. What about that doesn’t make you reach out and want to read the next one? I fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

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Book 2: Siege and Storm

The second book. This is a tough one. In the usual 2nd book, there’s some more action where the first book left off. I thought that this was off to a good start when The Darkling kidnaps them again and forces the team to search for the second fetter for Alina. However, that whole thing was done 1/4 of the way through the novel.

By the end of the book, you’re so excited to find out what happens that you can’t wait to read the final book. Then you read the final book and you’re left thinking, wtf. That’s the formula.

I don’t think I’ve read a second book a series that wasn’t chock full of action and fun…until I came across this book.

But the pace of this book was so slow that it wasn’t until the final 30 pages of this book that it finally picked up. This book was over 400 pages and I was kind of bored. Here’s where I always get annoyed with high fantasy. Every time I try to read them, there’s always strategizing and planning and weapon making and traveling. SO MUCH TRAVELING. Is high fantasy just supposed to be a bunch of people who walk around everywhere? Like, with rings and orcs and a dude named Gollum?

I think the most dissatisfying part of this book was all of the prep for maybe a few quick minutes of fighting and running. People put a lot of energy and work into preparing for battle, and it really didn’t do them any good by the end of it. What a bummer.

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Book 3: Ruin and Rising

After I finished Siege and Storm, I was not ready to read this final book. Honestly, I should have just read another book while I recharged from Siege and Storm because then I felt a little bit of annoyance with Ruin and Rising. Instead of actually reading this book, I skimmed through it. I’m sorry, book readers, I couldn’t finish it in any other way.

The final book is where all the action happens. It’s also been known as the series killer because almost every single final book I’ve ever read has disappointed me to the point where I’ve sworn off watching the movies. I might have gotten violent with the book as well.

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But I found myself feeling a lot of feels. I can’t even talk about them because it’s just so confusing. I liked it, but I hated it. And then I hated it, but liked it. It was all over the place I felt like I had some personality disorder.

This book explains a little bit more about the story behind Morozova’s creations. We also finally get some backstory on The Darkling and his mom Baghra.

However, this didn’t turn out the way I thought it was and honestly, it was a little predictable. Finding out that The Darkling is the Black Heretic in the first novel is one thing, but then finding out that he’s the grandson of Morozova, the dude that made all the fetters that he’s currently looking for? It felt like Harry Potter when you find out that Voldemort is a descendent of one of the Three Brothers and had the Resurrection Stone the entire time (sorry if that’s a spoiler for you folks, but that book has been out for years! READ IT).

And then Mal is a descendent of Morozova as well and he’s like cousins with The Darkling? It’s like Alina loves the wrong men.

Uhh and what is with Nikolai becoming a nichevo’ya, but still having a small part of his conscience within him?

AND THEN ALINA KILLING MAL AND BECOMING A HUMAN?! WHAT?!

FINALLY, SHE JUST LIKE STABS THE DARKLING AND HE DEAD. Ugh, his death was probably the most disappointing in the entire book. He’s supposed to be this eternal creature that has lived hundreds of years, yet it takes Alina stabbing him to kill him. That’s it! Honestly, if it was that easy, I’m pretty sure he could have died in the first novel.

I love the small iota of humanness you feel for The Darkling when he asks Alina to say his real name to him as he dies. I LOVE IT. It’s that sneaky writer trick people use to try and make you feel a little bit of empathy for the bad guy. No bad guy has ever been a fully demonized being. Just check it out with every book you’ve ever read.

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Summary

Look, there are some merits to this story. For example, the characters are well written out and I feel like I know more about everyone before the end. But I came to the realization that there were a few themes that I couldn’t really get behind and that ultimately brought me to my review:

  1. The religion – For some reason, the made up saints and the belief in them was kind of weird. I think this was achievable without having to have some strange religious affiliation. Calling someone a saint because they have the power of the sun feels strange for a universe that have powers to heal people or bring darkness. It just felt like a device used to move the story along.
  2. The traveling – I mention this in the Siege and Storm section and the Ruin and Rising section, but I didn’t know there was this much traveling in high fantasy. If this is something that typically happens with high fantasy books, then I guess I have to keep that in mind for the future.
  3. The predictability – I’m glad that Alina didn’t turn out to be the descendent of Morozova’s zombie kid, but I’m not happy that I was able to predict that somehow Mal has some magical power. I didn’t like how predictable The Darkling’s intentions were.

I would definitely recommend this book to someone else. It wasn’t for me, that’s for sure, but I know that there’s a whole fandom who would disagree with me. I know Leigh Bardugo also wrote Six of Crows, which takes place in the same universe, so maybe I’ll enjoy that more than I did this one. :/