Review of King of Scars 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

Warning: There will be spoilers for the Shadow and Bone trilogy and Six of Crows Duology in this review.

King of scars had been placed upon the lofty pedestal of my most anticipated reads of 2019. I don’t think that was fair of me to do. Six of Crows is one of my favourite all time reads, the story is amazing jam packed with great characters and exciting situations – I will recommend it to everyone. Nina is a amazing character and I’m glad she was given the chance to shine again. The Shadow and Bone trilogy, however, I struggled with, the only saving grace for that series for me was Nikolai and other than Siege and Storm, he didn’t crop up a huge amount. Could the side characters of series books carry off a tale of their own? For me the answer is, mostly.

The start was so strong and properly had me in mouth drop mode in the first chapter, the tone was well and truly set. The writing immediately struck home as the more mature style from Six of Crows and I was pleased to see the multiple POV’s making a return too.  The story is an emotional one and I was in tears on several occasions whilst reading. Leigh Bardugo’s writing is powerful at times, Nina putting Matthias to finally to rest is a real tug on the heart and for me it brought back all the feels again. Zoya recounting her tale of how she came to the little palace is pretty shocking too and there is valuable backstory being laid.

The real star of this book though is Zoya, because of my feelings towards the Shadow and Bone trilogy, I didn’t really pay much mind to her character, but truly she is a force to be reckoned with. Strong and snarky, she has lost so much but comes back fighting and the dynamic between her and Nikolai is both joyful and heartbreaking. Nina’s story feels very much back in Six of Crows territory and I liked how the 2 tales were so different for each other whilst running along side. Matthias’s loss is pretty defining in her recklessness but as the story progressed, Nina felt like a crusader gathering strength from a tentative new partnership – which I admit has got me a slightly a flutter.

I feel though that I can’t just out of love for the characters justify more than 4 stars for this book. It often felt like it meandered, lots of dialogue that didn’t really take the story forward and there were scenes that a good edit should have removed. It didn’t need to be a 500 page book. Chapter length was pretty hefty too, if you’re trying to sneak in one more chapter – be sure to have around 40 minutes spare. Although as the pace geared up towards the end the chapters became more choppy and the chapters easier to fly through. I sadly felt that every time a character from Six of Crows was mentioned it felt cringy – like a forced name drop and it really stuck out, would their 2 worlds have collided outside of Nina? Maybe – but it just could have been done with a bit more finesse.

That ending? I’m sure it will continue to divide, but it wasn’t hard to see coming (and normally i’m terrible at spotting twists) and it was clearly designed from the start to be the cliff hanger point. It set’s it up for a very interesting concluding half though and it will be a great crowd pleaser, one things for certain, dynamics will certainly shift and things are going to get pretty explosive!

4*

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