Book Review: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
Yall. Crooked Kingdom killed me. I wasn't sure if I could keep going... But, my love from Shadow & Bone, Nikolai, was calling, so continue I did!
Shadow & Bone didn't leave much that wasn't wrapped up at the end. But King of Scars brought about a whole new level of problems that needed resolving.
Years after the events of Shadow & Bone, we find Nikolai and a familiar cast of Grisha faces doing their best to run the kingdom. With the question of Nikolai's parentage, strange happenings around the world, and the mysterious shadow monster that didn't quite disappear whenever the Darkling was killed, there is plenty to explore in the next chapter of Bardugo's Grishaverse.
Nikolai is, as always, charming as hell. I adore him. He was the second son of the king, so he has a lot of worldly experience. He isn't a stranger to hard work, and that's what makes him such a likeable character. From the start when we met him in S&B, he showed that he's able to get a seemingly ragtag group of different people together to work toward a common goal. That theme continued in King of Scars.
Along with Genya, Zoya, and David from S&B, Nikolai has managed to stabilize Ravka. But there are some problems. There's a question of jurda parem, which was introduced in the Six of Crows series, and its long term effects. They are working toward an antidote, but until they get it, all Grisha are susceptible to its effects.
Then there's a side story. My darling Nina Zenik is in Fjerda. She's been toting Matthia's corpse (JUSTICE FOR MATTHIAS) around for months, delaying the inevitable burial she will have to go through. She's been working undercover to smuggle Grisha out of Fjerda. Meanwhile, after her recovery from parem, her powers have changed. Instead of sensing and controlling the living, she can control the dead. While I loved seeing Nina working toward the cause, saving Grisha like her who are being persecuted, I knew exactly where Bardugo was going when she introduced a new character named Hanne. I held out hope that we would someday get Matthias back, but all of that ended pretty quickly.
So while Nikolai and Zoya play politics, Nina is playing revolutionary, and there's a shadow monster that could attack at any time. Add in strange blights that are killing everything in its path, and you have a recipe for destruction. Meanwhile, foreign dignitaries have been invited so Nikolai can choose a wife and secure the throne by producing an heir. There's just one problem: he's in love with Zoya.
There are a lot of things I loved about King of Scars, but the ending was not one of them. After Zoya and Nikolai come face to face with literal saints, the Darkling has returned. I was torn. I loved the Darkling in the original series. But how was bringing him back as the villain serving anything? It's sort of like the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Can't we get a new villain?
BUT... it gave me hope that maybe we'd get Matthias back. I had to read the next one to find out...