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King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

King of Scars

by Leigh Bardugo

Published by Imprint

Book 1 in the King of Scars duology

Set in the Grishaverse

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


Violence Young Adult Intriguing

High Fantasy


King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo is the first book in her King of Scars duology, and while centered on King Nikolai Lantsov, is written from multiple POV's. Other than our favorite charming and witty young king Nikolai, whom many have fallen in love with in Shadow & Bone, we have: Zoya Nazyalensky, Nikolai's General, and one of the leaders of the second army (and yes, just as prickly as before), Nina Zenik, from the Six of Crows duology, and back in her role as a Ravkan soldier, and Isaak, a royal guard.

So I have mixed feelings about the Grishaverse. If you have read my thoughts on the Shadow & Bone trilogy, you know I was not a fan (and from what I gather, is the least liked books in the Grishaverse series.) I only read them because Netflix's adaption trailers look good, and I always want to read a book before seeing it on screen. Six of Crows was enjoyable, and I did like them, but wished the characters were a bit older. So I was hoping that King of Scars would lean more towards adult readers. The characters are all in their twenties, after all. But this is still just as much as a YA book as the previous books. It was enjoyable though. The Grishaverse universe is still very unique and fresh in the genre. Leigh Bardugo does still tend to spend too much time on things that really don't need a whole lots of attention, and not enough time developing others. Example -----------> Zoya ends up having a wonderful bond with Juros (sp?), but we barely get to see them interact. We just jump from their first training session, to Nikolai's session, to the conclusion. I would have wanted to see that relationship build. <----------.

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book were the characters. Leigh Bardugo has really upped her game on character development after Shadow and Bone. She found a formula with her Six of Crows duology, having mixed POV's and diverse, complicated, and unique characters, and it's working for her. Everyone who loves these books, loves Nikolai, and I enjoyed being in his mind. In the past books, it's obvious he is creative, and intelligent - and of course insanely charming and funny. But we get a closer look at his character - and how the trauma from what happened in Shadow & Bone changed him. With Zoya, it's so funny, because in Shadow & Bone I hated her, but now that she is older, and we get to learn WHY she is the way she is - I'm kinda in love with her. Yeah, she is still a huge bitch, but most of the time, it's justified. A General doing her duty. A friend who shows her love in sarcasim and honestly. A woman with her own trauma. She was truly a fascinating read, and unlike past characters *cough* Alina and Mal *cough* I felt the chemistry between Zoya and Nikolai. And we can't forget about Nina. We catch up with her a couple of months after the events of Crooked Kingdom, where she is is Fjerda, undercover to save hidden Grisha and help them escape to Ravka. She also is there to bury Matthias (I'm still upset that Leigh killed him off), who has been kept "fresh" for lack of better words by other Grisha. Nina, struggling with her grief was hard, especially when she was having conversations with him in her head. When she finally is able to fulfill his wishes, and say goodbye, I bawled. One of the things I appreciated was Leigh continuing Nina's story, her exploration with her new power, while not forgetting about the past. I loved when Nina used skills she learned from her time with the dregs, and especially Kaz. I loved with she used Matthias's memory to control her rash choices, and think before she acted. I loved that instead of picking the easy road, she chose to honor what Matthias and her were going to do together - which was try to enlighten Fjerdans. As for Isaak, I won't say much. His part was small in the story, and incredibly heartbreaking. Leigh Bardugo, why did you have to do that?!?!

Also ... spoiler ----------------> UM, THE DARKLING IS BACK? WHHHHHAAAAATTTTTTT?!?!?!? <-----------

King of Scars continues to show Leigh's growth as a writer. I found myself intrigued by the story, being immersed into action right away, and that ending? Love a good cliffhanger. I am glad I waited to read this book after finishing Six of Crows, so I didn't have to wait for the conclusion.

  1. Matthias' voice in Nina's head

  2. Zoya and Nikolai's conversation before bed

  3. As much as it broke my heart, and I bawled, when she said her final goodbye to Matthias will stand out to me


  5. Every time one of the crows is mentioned.

  6. Nikolai's memories of his friend Dominik

  7. Zoya training with Juris

  8. Nina telling Hanne about her fictional husband, but picturing Matthias and crying

  9. Zoya's memories of her aunt

  10. Nikolai making Zoya Ravka's Royal protector.

  11. Zoya's memories of how she got her amplifier

  12. Isaak dumping his jelly on the floor, and Ehri doing the same

  13. Nina, Leoni, and Adrik saving the women in the factory

  14. Juris telling Zoya to take his power

  15. I was cackling at Adrik's Saint name

  16. Zoya saving Nikolai's life

Nikolai: "The public may forget how handsome I am."

Zoya: "I doubt it. Your face is on the money."

Matthias: A man without honor. He should be ashamed.

Nina snorted.

Nina: If men were ashamed when they should be, they'd have no time for anything else.

Hilbrand: "Is something amusing?"

Nina: "Just fighting a cold."

she lied. But even Hilbrand's gruff manner put a pang in her heart. He was broad shouldered and humorless and reminded her painfully of Matthias.

Matthias: He is nothing like me. What a bigot you are, Nina Zenik. Not all Fjerdans look alike.

Matthias: You showed mercy, Nina. Never regret that.

But mercy was a luxury Matthias could afford. He was dead, after all.

Matthias: It seems rude to mention that, my love.

Birgir: "Drusje" Witch.

Nina: "I don't like that word. Call me Grisha. Call me zowa. Call me death, if you like."

Kirigin: "Is Commander Nazyalensky well?"

Nikolai: "Pretty as a picture and brimming with spite."

Kirigin: "She is lovely, isn't she? I'll leave you to it, then. And if you would ... send her my regards?"

Tolya: "All Saints. She'd have you for breakfast."

The count grinned.

Kirigin: "Might not be such a bad way to go, eh?"

Nikolai: "Don't argue, David. Makes me want to blow something up to assert my authority."

Matthias: Trassel didn't like following orders. I bribed him with bits of steak.

Nina: Really, Matthias? Should I just try biting Adrik the next time he annoys me? I am not a wolf. I am a gently bred lady ... though steak does sound good.

Zoya: "You're late."

Nikolai: "I'm the king. That means you're early."

Zoya: "She doesn't need your flattery. She already thinks enough of herself."

Genya: "Let him go on. David never gives me pretty compliments."

David: "Don't I?"

He patted his pocket absently.

David: "I have the list of your good qualities you gave me somewhere."

Nikolai: "Never had a gift for pining. Though I do like to show off my profile by staring mournfully out of windows."

Nikolai: "You could stay, Zoya. Entertain me with lively tales of your childhood. I find your spite very soothing."

Nikolai: "I need you calm, Zoya. The Apparat isn't fond of the Grisha Triumvirate to begin with -"

Zoya: "I weep."

Nikolai: "And outright hostility from you won't help. I know you don't approve of allowing the priest to remain in the capital."

Zoya: "Of course you should keep him here. Preferably stuffed above my mantel."

Zoya: "Spare me your sermons. It is only my loyalty to the king that keeps me from pulling the air from your chest and crushing your lungs like hollow gourds."

Nikolai: "I've seen her do it. Makes a funny sound."

Tamar: "Kind of a pop?"

Nikolai: "Wetter. More of a squelch."

Zoya: "Pray go on. I'd like to see if an excess of irony can actually kill a man."

Matthias: Little red bird, let me go.

Genya: "The Darkling didn't want me to die. He wanted me to live - like this."

Nikolai: "More fool him to let such a soldier survive."

David: "Just a moment. What was your name?"

Yuri: "Yuri Vedenen, moi soverenyi."

David: "Yuri Vedenen, if you upset my wife again, I will kill you where you stand."

The monk swallowed.

Yuri: "Yes, moi soverenyi."

Genya: "Oh, David. You've never threatened to murder anyone for me before."

Nina: "I ... overreacted."

Hanne: "Overreacting is throwing a tantrum when someone eats the last sweet roll. You were out for blood."

Nina: "To be fair, I've considered killing over the last sweet roll."

Zoya: "That sounds suspiciously like exile."

Nikolai: "You say exile, I say extended holiday."

Zoya: "We should send him to Ketterdam to preach to Kaz Brekker and the rest of those reprobates."

Nikolai winced.

Nikolai: "He'd certainly get his martyrdom."

Nikolai: "That squash is as wide as I am tall."

Zoya: "And twice as handsome."

Nikolai: "Half as handsome."

Zoya: "Ah, but the squash doesn't talk."

Zoya: "I hope there's a thorn wood waiting beneath the sands of the Fold. I hope all of this talk of magical rituals and warrior priests turns out to be more than just a fanciful tale. But if there is no cure and if this thing in you is more than just a curse the Darkling left behind, if he's trying to use you to find a way back to this world ..."

She looked at him, her blue eyes fierce in the lamplight. He sensed the deep well of loss inside her, the pain she worked so hard to hide.

Zoya: "I will put a bullet in your brain before I let that happen, Nikolai."

He took her hand, pressed a kiss to her knuckles.

Nikolai: "My ruthless Zoya, I'll load the gun myself."

The Grotesque: "Lay down your arms."

Nikolai: "In a moment. I'm finding them very reassuring right now."

Elizaveta: "Please stop that. And please, sit."

Juris: "Leave him be. He's abasing himself and enjoying it."

Nikolai: "You all look very much alive. Unless this is the afterlife, in which case I am sorely underdressed. Or overdressed. I suppose it depends on your idea of heaven."

Juris: "I can feel your anger, storm witch. It makes the air crackle."

Zoya: "That word is offensive."

Juris: "I can call you whatever you like. In my time, witch was the word men used for women they should steer clear of. I think that describes you very well."

Zoya: "Then perhaps you should take your own advice and avoid me."

Nikolai: "I'm fairly sure you're trying to frighten me. I'm not sure why, but may I suggest a spider wearing a suit?"

Zoya: "Why a suit? Why not just a spider?"

Nikolai: "Where did he get the suit? How did he fasten the buttons? Why does he feel the need to dress for the occasion?"

Hanne: "Have you always been this sure of yourself?"

Nina shrugged

Nina: "Yes."

Hanne: "And your husband didn't complain?"

Nina: "He complained. He complained all the time."

Hanne: "Was he quick to anger?"

Nina shook her head, and pressed her palms to her eyes, unable to stop the tears that came, not wanting to.

Nina: "No. We didn't always agree. In fact, we almost never agreed. But he loved me. And I loved him."

Hanne: "I've never met anyone life you."

Nina: "Of course you haven't. I'm spectacular."

Juris: You are the conduit, Zoya. You will bring the Grisha back to what they were meant to be before time and tragedy corrupted their power. But only if you can open the door.

Zoya: Why me?

Juris:; Because you chose this path. Because your kind trusts you. Because you are strong enough to survive the fall.

Nikolai: "I'm trying to do the responsible thing. I think it's giving me indigestion."

Zoya: "Every lover I've taken has asked about those scars. I make up a new story for each of them."

Nikolai: "And what did I do to earn the truth?"

Zoya: "Offered me a country and faced imminent death?"

Nikolai: "It's important to have standards, Nazyalensky."

Nikolai: "The more I know of you, the more I am sure you are exactly what Ravka needs.."

In that moment, he wished things might have been different. That he might not die tomorrow. That he could be led by his heart instead of duty.

Because Zoya was not kind and she was not easy.

But she was already a queen.

Zoya: "Promise you'll come back to us."

Because he was most likely about to die, he let himself cup his hand briefly to her extraordinary face. Her skin felt cool against his fingers.

Nikolai: "Of course I'll come back. I don't trust anyone else to deliver my eulogy."

A smile curled her lips

Zoya: "You've written it already?"

Nikolai: "It's very good. You'd be surprised how many synonyms there are for handsome."

Leoni: "Remind me to never make you mad, Zenik."

Nina shrugged

Nina: "Just don't do it by a graveyard."

Juris: "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, just as you did with your training."

Zoya: "Please. Don't leave me. Not you too."

Juris: "Zoya of the lost city. Zoya of the garden. Zoya bleeding in the snow. You are strong enough to survive the fall."

Juris: We are the dragon. We do not lie down to die.

Nikolai: "Are you all right?"

Zoya: "Fine."

Nikolai: "You're sure?"

Zoya: "Which one of us gets to kill the monk?"

Nikolai: "You're fine."

Boy: "I'm sorry, Your Highness. This will most likely leave a scar. I'm still training."

Nikolai: "A roguish scar?"

Boy: "Well ... a deep one?"

Nikolai: "Just as good."

Zoya: "I am weary and I have prisoners to present to the other members of the Triumvirate."

Guard: "Do they have papers?"

Zoya: "I will take responsibility for them. But if you make me wait any longer for a hot bath, I will also take responsibility for your slow death."

The guard cleared his throat and bowed.

Guard: "Welcome home, commander."

Ehri: "Am I to be your hostage?"

Nikolai: "I'm not much for pet names, but as you like."

Ehri: "You truly mean to keep me here?"

Nikolai: "Oh, indeed. Not as my prisoner but as my queen. Our engagement will earn me a glorious dowry, and your popularity among your people will keep your sister from harassing our borders."

Ehri: "I will not do it."

Nikolai: "It's that or execution, my dove. Think of it this way: You won't be hanged, but the price is a life of luxury and my sparkling company."

Ehri: "You truly mean to keep me here?"

Zoya: "You might consider the gallows. Quicker and less painful."

Genya: "He ... he didn't hesitate. When we told him what was at stake he ..."

Tolya lifted Isaak's body carefully in his huge arms.

Tolya: "He had the heart of a king."


Check out the second book in the King of Scars duology

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