Review: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

king of scars

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CW’s: Violence, Blood, Grief

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.

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“Stop punishing yourself for being someone with a heart. You cannot protect yourself from suffering. To live is to grieve. You are not protecting yourself by shutting yourself off from the world. You are limiting yourself.”

I think it’s worth mentioning that this Review contains spoilers for the Six of Crows Duology and the Grisha Trilogy!! I assume you’ve already read them beforehand (if not, I highly recommend it, as it will give a lot more insight), but not everyone might have, so here’s your warning!

This book made me really like Zoya by exploring her character a lot more 💕 I wasn’t a fan of Zoya in the first two books of the Grisha Trilogy, as I didn’t like the girl hate between her and Alina, but I began to like her and her cynicism a lot more in Ruin and Rising. But here is where Zoya shines, as the author gives her the spotlight to reveal her past and flaws. We learn so much more about Zoya’s life and why she acted the way she did, especially her devotion to the Darkling and how much she regretted that in the end, feeling very ashamed for following him. I like seeing how she tried to make up for her past mistakes and is trying to move on for all the grief and death that is present in her past, even though it is so hard to escape that. I feel like we got to see so much more of how she works and why she acts this way, that it made me love Zoya a lot more. I feel like she truly shines in this book and her cold, determined demeanor became very endearing, as became her being very outspoken. I basically want her to rule, especially as she constantly speaks up for Alina, showing that their relationship is so different now and that is how I want my character development! Also: Zoya for Queen 😉

Of course I was excited to see Nikolai and his struggles with the monster 💕 Of course I still like Nikolai, that shouldn’t come as a surprise 😂 He – as always – is incredibly charming, cocky and has the best comebacks, it was really good to see him again, as Nikolai is great! I cannot help but love every time we see him in past books and this one too, as he is such a complex, well-developed character that was one of the strongest characters in the Grisha Trilogy. I’m so so happy that he finally got his own Duology!! In King of Scars, we especially see him struggle with his inner monster (thanks to the Darkling), as it has awakened and is now causing a lot of trouble, as Nikolai is supposed to present the strong king. If anyone found out that he transforms into a monster at night, Ravka would be at risk, especially with other contestants for the Lantsov throne. It was very heartbreaking to see Nikolai’s struggle with this darkness inside him and his efforts to get rid of it at all costs, while trying to remain a good king. I love his dedication to his country and his tries to save it even with all the problems that cannot be avoided. I also high key ship Nikolai and Zoya, they have such contrasting personalities and Nikolai certainly needs someone to who can outwit him at times 😎

I really liked seeing Nina’ journey 💕 It took me a while to get into her POV because it wasn’t directly connected to the other perspectives, but then I really enjoyed seeing more of her undercover mission and quickly got invested in her storyline as well! We also see her grief over losing Matthias and my heart broke for her situation, as she is trying to give him a proper burial. Nina is on this special mission to save other Grishas in Fjerda, because she needed to keep herself busy, especially with this great loss. I just really, really felt for her situation and inner struggles! I also liked how she was trying to save so many Grisha, especially in the end, as it was important to her to try to help others. When Nina is set on something she won’t let go until it is done and I really liked her dedication to saving those in need. What she did in the end was truly brilliant and shows that resourceful she can be. What can I say? Nina is such a great character and I was really happy that she got her own perspective here and was included!

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I loved seeing all the old characters again, it really gave me some nostalgia for the Grisha Trilogy! 💗 As the focus is on Ravka again, we see what Genya and David have been up to. They truly have a special place in my heart and I’m happy that we saw more of them again, even though they were not the main characters like Nikolai and Zoya, but instead more secondary characters. Nevertheless, I still love them and really appreciated other characters to appear again, like Tamar and Tolya! Then there was Adrik, who got a much bigger role this time around, as he is leading the mission with Nina – I honestly loved his grumpiness, it made him a very endearing character. Reading King of Scars really reminded me how much I love the original Trilogy 💕 However, we also get lots of references to the Six of Crows characters, as Nina is often thinking about them, something that warmed my heart! (except for the fact that Wylan was not once mentioned … why would you do that to my precious son??)

In addition to my beloved old characters, we also have three great new characters, that stole my heart 💞 Nina’s perspective introduces us to Leoni and Hanne. Leoni is part of her team for the mission to free more Grisha and a Fabrikator, she is such a sunshine and a purely positive person that it melted my heart immediately! She is literally the personification of the sun and deserves only good things ☀️ Then we have Hanne, who is a Fjerdan girl in a convent, but isn’t happy to be molded into the ‘perfect housewife’ like her country demands, instead often sneaking out to be free and do what she wants. I really found her and Nina’s relationship to be very interesting, especially with what we learn about her in the end, that really is going to be intense in the next book! I cannot say too much about him, but in the second part of the book we get introduced to a guard named Isaak and he is such a precious cinnamon roll, I immediately got attached to him!

I think the expansion of the universe was so well done 🌸 The author managed to deepen the world building even further by introducing us to new problems and different viewpoints about Grisha power. I love that we still can learn more about the Grishaverse with each new book! A very interesting point was the Starless Saint cult, that worships the Darkling (and wants him recognized as a Saint), because it perfectly shows that some people worship him even after everything he did to Ravka. That is certainly a parallel to our world as well since there are always people who support corrupt leaders and try to excuse their actions by claiming it was for a good cause. In addition, I loved that the book showed the consequences and the impact of the Darkling and the end of the Grisha Trilogy on Ravka, as it is still struggling to recover. A lot of the characters are still haunted by what happened and it’s still impacting the country and all Grisha, which becomes apparent at several points in the book. Furthermore, we later on discuss the bounds of Grisha power and what this could mean for future books. I cannot go into it without spoiling things, but I like that Leigh Bardugo always has something new in store. I generally also liked the political intrigue that the book offered, because we see Nikolao struggling to keep his and his country’s position against a lot of powerful enemies, by trying to improve his inventions and strike up alliances.

I feel like I was the only one who liked the ending 😈 The ending was honestly a power move and I really think that it offers a lot of potential. However, I also see that not everyone is going to like what happened, especially as it’s an unloved trope for some people.


So I didn’t expect the Darkling to be back (I would have been fine with his ending in Ruin and Rising), but I honestly don’t mind, as I trust that Leigh has a plan for him and I think that he could prove to be a very interesting character in the next book. I always thought that the Darkling was one of the best, most well-written villains, so having him back was maybe a risky decision (in terms of people’s reactions), but it also makes sense as the Darkling is such a strong character and could really add a great element of conflict to the next book. I don’t think that Leigh is going to repeat the Grisha Trilogy here, as we see the Darkling in a lot less powerful situation, so I think there is great potential to explore him NOT being all-powerful and struggling to comprehend that after hundreds of years of being in control, he is not what he once was. That could be so very interesting, especially as it makes sense tat Nikolai would want to use him against the Lantsov contester, who is probably going to be the main villain along with the Fjerdans (and not the darkling). The Darkling could be a tool and add great tension, because he is not loyal and probably trying to get out of this. Plus he could shed some light on Nikolai’s monster maybe.

Basically, I see great potential in the Darkling’s return and I personally don’t think it undoes the ending of Ruin and Rising, as he was stopped back then when he was all-powerful and could have done a lot of horrible things, but now he is different from that and has been prevented from causing the same damage with the Fold as back then.


“Most of us can hide our greatest hurts and longings. It’s how we survive each day. We pretend the pain isn’t there, that we are made of scars instead of wounds.”

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Have you read King of Scars? Who is your favorite character from the Grishaverse? 💗

6 thoughts on “Review: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

  1. I agree with ALL of your thoughts! This book made me love Zoya and broke my heart with Nina mourning Matthias 💔 And I also thought the ending was such a power move! The Darkling is a terrible person but a GREAT villain and I’m so excited to see how things turn out in the next book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad to hear that!! I began to like Zoya in R&R but here I loved her, because we saw so much more of her background! Also Nina mourning broke my heart as well, the poor girl 😦 SAME! I think the ending has a lot of potential 😀


  2. Love your review…. your thoughts are so similar to mine and you aren’t alone… I completely adored that ending and can’t wait to see where the story goes next 😃😃😃

    Liked by 1 person

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