This blog post needs no introduction. I read King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo as soon as I possibly could, and I loved every dang minute of it. While I did have some misgivings about the pacing, it was a minor issue for me and did not detract from my enjoyment one little bit. I am going to talk about some of the things I enjoyed about the book in as broad of terms as possible. It’s hard to know what people consider to be spoilery so I would advise you proceed with caution if you have not yet read King of Scars.
I really don’t know where to start with this review, I just loved so much about the book thematically, narratively, and atmospherically. Of course, it took me back to the world of the Grishaverse that I love so dearly, but it also presented a fresh and eye-opening new view of Grisha power. It presented a new take on a lot of characters we know, but don’t always love. The primary character I was captivated by probably comes as no surprise.
Let’s just talk about Zoya for a minute. She is first introduced as a powerful Grisha who Alina assumed wants to get in Mal’s pants. First of all, Zoya is way too good for Mal (who is a tall drink of skim milk). Secondly, yes she is mad powerful and boy does it show in KoS. I loved getting to see more of Zoya effortlessly performing outrageous feats of magic with her Squaller abilities. It was enchanting and terrifying. Everything about her attitude toward Nikolai, and her devotion to her country was so moving for me. Zoya is not always the kindest person in the Grisha Trilogy. She made a few choices that I think most people agree were the wrong ones. In KoS, you get to see her ruminate on those mistakes and really grow from them. It makes her so much stronger as a character, and a soldier of Ravka to have had those experiences in her past. I can think of few characters in YA with this amount of depth and character development.
Nikolai & Nina
I could probably do an entire post just on the different ways established characters developed in this book, but I will just focus on two more before moving to the other elements I loved. Nikolai’s struggle is no surprise really. He too is dealing with the demons in his past, but in a far more dramatic fashion than Zoya. The Ravkan civil war cast a shadow he can’t escape, and he’s forced to place his trust in the most unlikely of places to seek out help.
Nina has been sent off to investigate some odd dealings in Fjerda. I loved seeing how the abilities she gained in Crooked Kingdom came into play and getting to watch her learn more about them. While her story was the least engaging for me, I was gobsmacked at the struggles she faced on her journey. It was also nice to get to spend time with her as she grieved her recent losses. That attention to reflecting on the past and moving toward a stronger future was a constant thread for all the major characters.
I won’t say who’s Cult because woo baby it’s a spoiler, but you know if you’ve read it. I can’t believe Bardugo went there! I was enthralled, and just so excited to watch her tackle the struggles inherent in a religious uprising. Doubts about the Ravkan leadership and beliefs were flying, ideological challenges were issued, and I was eating it up. I found it somewhat reminiscent of Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan (you can read my review of that here). Pretty much any time you have characters thoughtfully questioning a religious status quo, I am here for it.
As the book progresses we learn more and more how long-held beliefs about Grisha power may have been fabricated (heh). History is, after all, written by the winners. Watching a new generation of powerful Grisha learn more about those potential falsehoods was fascinating. Not only that, it corrected a lot of the plot elements of the Grisha trilogy that I have issues with. A lot of plot reveals in the trilogy bothered me because they directly contradicted the established magical system without any meaningful explanation. We finally got those explanations in KoS, and I couldn’t be happier about that.
In addition to addressing the plot weirdness in the Trilogy, I loved how this book continuously pokes fun at Alina, and also at people who idolized The Darkling. Over and over again, we are told how horrific his actions were, and how foolish you would have to be to fall for his mask of charm and seduction. I couldn’t help but think of the people who romanticise him in the fanbase, and I loved that Leigh pointed out his flaws so that readers might understand how dangerous loving a person like him can be.
Honestly, I don’t think I was prepared for this book. I don’t think you could ever adequately prepare yourself for this book. I am so glad I was able to read it right away because I also think it will be very very difficult to not be spoiled for it by fanart. That being said, I cannot wait to see lots of KoS fanart. Please let me know if you have read King of Scars and what you thought of it! In a lot of ways, it didn’t read like YA to me, and I loved that but let me know if you didn’t!
Long Live the King!