So here’s the thing about “King of Scars”, in order to really “get” it, and appreciate the book, and just know what the heck is happening or who is who, you HAVE to read all other books in the Grishaverse first. If you don’t, you won’t understand Nina and her new powers or her pain, you won’t know who Zoya is or why Zoya is, well, Zoya, or how Adrik lost an arm, or even why lovely Genya loves the booknerd David. You won’t know why Nikolai is plagued by a monster, or truly love him as much as you should because his real wit shines in Alina’s books. So, honestly, if you haven’t read all those other books, you shouldn’t really read this review, or even look at “King of Scars” synopsis. Don’t spoil yourself for this baby, you’ll be sad if you do. That being said, however, the Six of Crows duology remains my favorite of this universe even though I, like Zoya, will fight everyone and everything for my boy Nikolai.
I’ll be honest here: I HATED Zoya in the original trilogy. She bugged me to no end, so it took A LOT for me to like her. But that’s the beauty of Bardugo’s writing. Zoya’s arc was handled so well and I loved being able to get her POV and understand her more. She was the true revelation of this book, even if I thought her training “montage” was far too simplistic for what Zoya ultimately is able to do and the power she steps into. However, that appreciation came really late in the book for me, as did most things, let’s be honest. This story took a long time to really settle into the meat of things and get going.
Nina’s chapters were so far removed from what Nikolai and Zoya were doing that it felt like it almost belonged in a completely different book. I still liked her chapters, I thought it was fun to see how she brought her skills from the Crows into this new adventure, and loved seeing more of her new powers in action. But I didn’t care much for Adrik or Leoni, and I really did not care much for Hanne and the role she seems to be stepping into with Nina, especially following the events of Crooked Kingdom. Come the end, what Nina was doing did become tangentially connected to what was occurring back in Ravka, so at least that puts her storyline in a better place come the sequel.
But for a book that is supposed to be mainly about Nikolai (why else would it be called King of Scars, hmm?) you don’t get nearly enough of him. While I appreciated getting to know Zoya more, what made me super excited about this series from the onset was Nikolai. He was the best part of the original trilogy (I will fight you on this point) and yet he felt like a side character once again in his own books. That mainly could be because so much of the beginning of KoS is Zoya pressuring Nikolai to do kingly things and he doesn’t want to because of the demon in him, which is, you know, fair. But it never really felt like the same Nikolai that you first meet, which is, even with his demon, what I wanted more of. You do see flashes of it, Nikolai is charming as all hell and I LOVE his banter, I just never felt like I got enough of it. This is a very moody book for Nikolai, which is understandable, but since it’s a moody book for all the main characters, I needed him to be a bit more… Nikolai, I guess, to make this book more fun to read.
Don’t misunderstand me, I DID like this book a lot, this story may just be a victim of my own hype train more than anything else. But, for as long as it felt for things to start moving to an exciting and tense place, when things did start to go crazy, they went crazy FAST. But then it got wrapped up pretty fast too, and the reveals came hard and quick and then the book kind of ended on this cliffhanger which does make me really excited for the sequel, absolutely, but the overall pacing just felt off. The methodical building of who and where the danger to Nikolai and Ravka was coming from felt so plodding (like, honestly not much really happens for the first 200 pages, just lots of background and flashbacks) in comparison to the ultimate fight, and then wrap up, which was then over too quickly. While I enjoyed getting so much backstory of Grisha and the Saints, it almost felt like too much for too little pay off, if that makes sense. Which makes this book hard to rate for me. I always enjoy Bardugo’s books, but I was expecting more excitement from this story and don’t feel like I got that… Which is why I am giving it 3 stars, but am still SO PUMPED to get Rule of Wolves!
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