by Leigh Bardugo
In King of Scars we follow the young prince we first met in the Grisha trilogy, only here, Nikolai has become king and has to work hard to keep the enemy from marching upon a much weakened Ravka. The only problem is that Nikolai carries a dark secret—the Darkling’s monster resides within him, and it’s fighting for control. Nikolai has to find a way to defeat the monster and keep his secret hidden while at the same time maintaining his image as a king in control. A task that gets harder by the minute.
I read this book in a fairly short amount of time, which is a sign that it’s an interesting book that was easy to read. And I did enjoy the book for the most part, but also not so much at all. I’m very conflicted about this book to say the least. As usual, I find Leigh Bardugo’s sense of characters and personality to be on point. Her characters are the most interesting part of her stories and she makes them feel so real, like old friends and family. And I really love that because I rarely get so attached to characters as I do with those in her books. So, a huge point for that. But what I often find myself struggling with when I’ve read her works is the lack of a plot, or rather that continuous thread that brings me through the story. And I think King of Scars suffers from that “problem” just as the Grisha trilogy did. It takes a long time to get to the point, and there’s a lot of unnecessary stuff going on that mostly just slows the pacing and sometimes makes a bit boring to read. I often found myself skimming through parts to get to the good stuff.
Another thing that I really didn’t like in this story was Nina’s parts. Not because they were uninteresting or bad, but because they had absolutely nothing to do with the story, with Nikolai or what happened in Ravka. Honestly, I don’t understand why she was even in the book. Or should I say, in this book. Her story is interesting, and I love Nina, but she should have gotten a story of her own, not sneak into Nikolai’s. Nikolai’s fate here was the main thing and instead of focusing on that and showing us what happened to him and his closest people, we got Nina and more Nina. At times it felt forced, like Nina was just in this book because people like her, not because she had any reason for being there. And I think that this approach made both Nina’s and Nikolai’s story worse. They would have been better as separate stories. Nina’s parts also had so many references to the Six of Crows duology that it would have been hard to understand parts without having read that series. Nikolai’s parts on the other hand was written in a way that enabled a new reader to understand and follow along. But Nina’s, she referenced things that had happened in Six of Crows, characters and traits that you wouldn’t have understood without having read the book, and I find that odd and unfortunate. It would have been rather easy to add a few explanations, some context to these instances instead of assuming that whoever read it already knew from previous books. I didn’t read all of the books in order (I started with Six of Crows) and up until this point, it haven’t mattered. I’ve never felt confused or like I missed out because I didn’t read in order, which I would have done had I started with this book instead.
But, nonetheless, my rating for this book is 3,5 stars. It’s a really well written book with great characters in true Bargudo style, and I can highly recommend this to those who love untraditional fantasy with awesome characters. Also the ending is the best part of the whole book, and I almost gave this 5 stars just because I enjoyed the final 15% so much. It’s not an annoying cliffhanger, or a definite end, it’s just the perfect blend between wrapping up the story and making sure you want to read more. So, I’m eager for the second book in this duology.