Here we are, back again in the Grishaverse where our Grisha favorites and their demon King are on the verge of all out war. “Rule of Wolves” picks up pretty much right where we left off in “King of Scars”, but Bardugo really understands that there are readers (like me) who take obscenely long to finish a series so she sprinkles subtle reminders of the big events throughout the first 30% of the book, so even though it’s been a while, very quickly I was immersed in the world again and head down in the story. Seriously, for this book being so intimidatingly long, it was a smooth and easy read; Bardugo is master of knowing when to switch POV’s so that I constantly want to keep reading to progress each individual character’s story lines! Plus, the way she handles the conflict between Ravka and Frejda and the horrors of escalating war with bigger and bigger weapons was perfectly done, and that’s on top of the smooth way the author is able to include a diverse cast and the prejudices those characters deal with. I was thoroughly impressed with both the story and the characters in this second book to say the least! In fact, there were only a few things that bothered me, which were made all the more frustrating because they were things I used to love in this universe.
Nikolai is still as charming as ever; he is a spark of levity (usually) in an otherwise very bleak story of a battle torn country on the brink of losing the war. I will forever wish to have more chapters solely with Nikolai, but I do feel that the transitions and the other characters chapters (Zoya and Nina mainly) were more exciting this time around. This, however, cannot be said for the Monk. Those were some of the most disappointing chapters, and if they hadn’t been included I don’t honestly think it’d make a difference to the story, except that the reader needs to know where the Monk is since none of the other main characters seem to and thus can’t report on him. But reading his chapters… It just wasn’t the same character that I had once known even though I can’t quite put my finger on why. There were a few other characters that felt like this to me too, but they played more of a cameo role so I didn’t mind it as much as the Monk. Then there were some emotionally charged moments (like a death) that didn’t feel as impactful to me as they perhaps could have been. Their deaths were more for drama and did not otherwise having much of an effect on the story. Which, in my opinion, kind of diminishes their death and therefore I wasn’t as gutted as I should have or would have liked to have been.
Regardless, those things are so small compared to how much I loved the commentary Bardugo was able to slip so seamlessly into her book about war and WMD’s. It was never preachy and it fit so perfectly with the world that Bardugo has been building over the course of her books that it was incredibly impressive to read, and very timely. That’s on top of how Bardugo was able to include so many different kinds of representation (including a trans character) without the story reading like she were merely checking off boxes on a rep sheet. This book was such a pleasure to read, and I loved the little crumbs of what may come next sprinkled into the ending! Was this book perfect? No, of course not. Did some things feel like they got wrapped up a bit too neatly and nicely? Yes, absolutely. But did I enjoy reading “Rule of Wolves” even more than “King of Scars”? You bet I did! So, this gets 5 stars from me and I’ll be side eyeing the Grishaverse to see if the hints at the end of this big boy come true!
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