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King of Scars (King of Scars #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Fantasy,  Review,  YA

King of Scars (King of Scars #1) by Leigh Bardugo

King of Scars is intense, emotive, and spectacularly written YA fantasy. I buddy read this with Toni and we both enjoyed this as we are forever fan of this world and characters.

King of Scars

King of Scars (King of Scars #1) by Leigh Bardugo

Publication Date : January 29, 2019

Publisher : Orion Children’s Books

Read Date : December 28, 2022 

Genre : YA / Fantasy

Pages : 514

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Other Books I have read by the same Author –

Shadow and Bone (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy, #1)
Siege and Storm (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy, #2)
Ruin and Rising (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy, #3)
Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)
Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2)


Face your demons… or feed them.

The dashing young king, 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, Nikolai 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 general, 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.


King of Scars is intense and spectacularly written YA fantasy that focuses on Ravka’s ongoing struggles where we don’t just see the Scars of King of Ravka, Nikolai, but also of king’s general, Zoya, and King’s spy, Nina. The story is about grief, political intrigue, inner turmoil, survival, slavery, exploitation, and power struggle. There is so many things in this book that I want to say but I’m not sure where to start so I will randomly dump my thoughts with positive and negative points-

+/- The story is multiple narrative from Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina’s POV that takes place in two different places making it two stories going parallel at the same time. Separate perspective takes us closer to the character and we see lots of change in them from what we read in grishverse and SOC duology and so we see how much characters have developed and they all have come so far which is a positive point. But as the story is switching between Zoya and Nikolai in Ravka and Nina in Fjerda, it breaks the pace of the story making distracting and even slows the pace that is a negative point.

Discussion – I can’t help but agree with what Toni said, “I complained about having only Alina’s POV in her trilogy and missing the Darkling’s? Well, now I appreciate its focus. It worked better in SOC because they were all in more or less the same place.”

+ Plot is really good. It takes place 2 or 3 yrs after the SOC duology. (now this can be debatable as I counted that through my logic but I might be wrong) While we see the mentions of characters from SOC duology and follow only Nina from that series, most of the book is extension of Grisha trilogy.

Ravka’s people are still recovering from the civil war of Grisha trilogy, Nikolai is still trying to make peace with people, slowly taking them in confidence and struggling to make Ravka strong with fast dwindling Kerch funds along with his own inner battle with monster living within him as a mark of Darkling and it’s getting worst day by day. He needs to get a cure for it before Ravka’s enemy discovers this secret.

Zoya has worked hard to make second army of Ravka strong and make Ravka safe haven for grisha but it all will be nothing if Nikolai isn’t the king of Ravka or if the monster in him takes over his conscience. She will do anything to keep Ravka and all grisha safe and so she decided to journey with Nikolai to the shadow fold that might make her confront her buried grief.

Nina is dealing with grief of losing Matthias but she has to deal with it in order to find out what Fjerdan are plotting against Ravka and what they are doing with grisha women in Gafvalle, small town of Fjerda.

It is much more complex than it seems in the beginning. I wouldn’t say it’s better than SOC but it sure is really really good than Grisha trilogy. Stakes are higher and it’s not just one thing like defeating Darkling or saving Grisha from parem or saving Grisha captured by other enemy countries but there is lot going on at the same time and Ravka and its king has lots of enemies. There is lots of tension throughout the book, it keeps you on the edge with no respite even in the end.

There are lots of turns and some surprising twists. Nina’s side of story didn’t surprise me much as I could see where it was going and also could easily guess who Hanne is but Nikolai’s side of story is full of surprise and uncertainty.

+ Characters are absolutely amazing. Author gave so much depth to all characters. It was amazing to know the characters more closely. There is a visible change in all of them. It amazed me how far they all have come. There are old main characters but this duology also introduced interesting new characters as well.

Nikolai – I almost didn’t recognize this version of Nikolai and it made me miss the old confident, charming, and witty Nikolai who knew how to outsmart every situation. He was hero before but now he has a monster in him. He is much more humbled by what happened in Ruin and Rising and everything happened ever since. Monster inside him made him lose the confidence he had. He is still smart, and ambitious, and spills wittiness whenever he opens his mouth but for the first time he is clueless how to outsmart the monster. It’s like a ticking bomb he cannot defuse or throw away. It hurt to see his constant inner battle with monster on the top of his struggle with Ravka.

This book takes us past his charming demeanor to his real self, his insecurity, his childhood, how he joined the first army, earned his medals, chose life at sea, and what made him love Ravka and work harder to be better Lantsov king with not just what he gained everything after becoming king but also what he lost on the way and what he might lose if he let the monster win. Even though I missed old Nikolai, I admired the way author changed him. It made him much more realistic and I loved how Nikolai fought the demon in the climax. It was so bitter sweet when he said, “he would never, ever turn his back on a wounded man—even if that man was him”, and found strength with those words even though it was heart-shattering to see him realize he might never get rid of his demons, he might never be enough for Ravka, and he might not completely heal.

Zoya – She might not have been my favorite character in Grisha trilogy but she grew on me in the end of that series and in this I absolutely loved her. She is kind of kick-ass heroine I always enjoy. Like, Nikolai we get to see past her arrogant and cold demeanor. It was touching to see 9 yr old Zoya, her childhood, and how she came to her power and joined the school in Little Palace. It was poignant to read how she was burnt hard by people she loved and trust since her childhood and Darkling shattered what little love and trust she had in her heart. I admit I didn’t understand how she turned from admirer of Darkling to supporter of Alina completely in Ruin and Rising but here it was cleared well and I get her now. She is a fighter and surviver and I loved how she keeps fighting for what she love- Ravka, all Grisha, and Nikolai.

Nina – She is still same-reckless, fiercely alive, strong and dangerous- but at the same time she is different. She is dealing with grief. It touched my heart to see her struggle of letting Matthias go and navigate life and Matthias’ country without him. It was utterly devastating to read that chapter when she finally buried Matthias but this is Nina. It was amazing how meeting Hanne brought her back from her grief and finding out what is happening in Gafvalle turned her grief into purpose and determination. Her training as Grisha along with experience with Kaz mixed with grief and purpose, her new Deadly powers, makes her so strong and kick-ass, just like Zoya. What she did here with the factory is mindblowing and I can’t wait to see what other reckless act she will perform in the second book.

+ Nikolai-Zoya ship – Romance isn’t at the center of the book but we see many lovely fragile moments between these two. At first I wasn’t sure if there can be something between Nikolai and Zoya but as story progressed I could see how they are perfect for each other and even if there isn’t love between the two their love for Ravka would make them perfect companions. Even though Zoya carefully kept distance from Nikolai, it was hard not to see their undeclared feelings for each other, there is unspoken longings, the way they look at each other when the other isn’t looking, how protective they are for each other.. just made me want to have more moments between them. I look forward to how they are going to deal with their undeclared feeling after that end.

+ More of world – Author surprised me by including more histories and legends of Ravka. It was interesting to read how first Lentsov got his banner of double eagle and how there was story of saints fighting beside him who were first Grisha, how the word Grisha came in existence, the original power and how it was corrupted over the time, the thoery of amplifiers and what saints think about it. Even what happened in Shadow Fold and what the Darkling did to it and the saints in the Fold was all very interesting and surprising.

Along with main theme of what is a real monster and villain, we see the book dealing with lots of layers- zealots and their beliefs, addiction, torture, past trauma, and grief.

+/- End – It’s nothing how I imagined it will be. It is both tragic and shocking what happened in the end. I’m definitely excited to see what happens next but at the same time I don’t know how I feel about that cliffhanger too. It makes me worry for characters. They are just 18 and one more villain is brought in their life to deal with!

Overall, It was intense, emotive, and beautifully written, YA fantasy, another spin-off in my favorite world. Just pace and that end made me not count this the best like Six of Crows but it surely is much much better than Grisha Trilogy and here the strength lies in character depth which is different than both previous series.

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Hi, I'm Yesha, an Indian book blogger. Avid and eclectic reader who loves to read with a cup of tea. Not born reader but I don't think I’m going to stop reading books in this life. “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”


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