by Leigh Bardugo.
This is a review I’ve been waiting a long time to write. I preordered this book and got it on launch day, but haven’t gotten to reading it until now. And boy have I missed Leigh Bardugo’s writing.
This is the sequel to King of Scars, which followes king Nikolai, Zoya and Nina on their journey to basically save their country Ravka.
As usual, Leigh Bardugo has a way with weaving multiple characters into a story in a compelling and interesting way. The plot is perhaps not anything groundbreaking and new, but it’s a solid story that leads our characters from one point to the other. But the brilliant thing about this book is its characters. They are well developed and lovable, and we get a few bonus appearances from old favorites.
The main romance in this book is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. It’s done well and for the first time in a long time I actually wanted and hoped that things would work out for the couple in question. I’m not going to spoil anything, so I won’t give away what I thought of the end result, but nevertheless, the journey towards the end was very well written.
I’m happy to see that the author has made an effort to diversify and be more inclusive. And there’s representation of LGBTQIA+ in this book. Especially where one of the characters seems to be trans, or at least Hanne expresses that she’s uncomfortable with her femininity and seems to identify as male. I adore Hanne as a character, and I really wish we’d gotten to know her a little better. This whole thing feels a little shallow, as if her gender identity was an afterthought that wasn’t fully developed. There were just the tiniest of hints to what the character was feeling, and by the end everything felt a little flat. In turn, it made Nina seem a little blind to what Hanne was going through, and I don’t think it felt quite right.
I would have loved more time developing their relationship and the trust between them. I think it all felt a bit rushed, and the ending too fell a bit flat for me because of how underdeveloped it was.
And there would have been room to develop the important stuff, because the book is, in I guess true Bargudo style, a big jampacked with everything and a little more. This book is attempting to pack a lot in a small box. A lot of the things in the book isn’t necessary, and it bogs down the reading experience and makes it hard to keep track and to focus. At the same time, a lot of things that seem important are just glazed over, like Nina and Hannes relationship.
There was this whole side quest with a random character that didn’t have anything to do with anything really, and then the Darklings few chapters and his journey, well, that didn’t do much either. The highlight of the story is as always Nikolai and Zoya. They are great. And unlike King of Scars, this time Nina’s chapters actually seemed relevant to the story that was being told.
So, what can I say. It’s a great book, a lot happens, it’s interesting, the plot works, but there’s a lot of unnecessary stuff here, and a lot of scenes that feel like they are just put in there for please fans with a glimpse of old favorites. Like a whole plotline where Nikolai travels to Ketterdam to meet Kaz and do a heist. All these little spin-offs feel rushed and flat instead of immersive and interesting.
I think Leigh wanted a little too much with this book, which with all that’s in here could (and should?) have been several separate stories instead.
I’m still giving this book five stars because it’s great and I love Nikolai and for the most part I found the ending satisfying.