Rule of Wolves
by Leigh Bardugo
Published by Imprint
Book 2 in the King of Scars duology
Set in the Grishaverse
The Demon King.
As Fjerda's massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm—and even the monster within—to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king's gift for the impossible.
Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.
The Queen of Mourning.
Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.
King. General. Spy.
Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.
RATED: 14+ CATEGORY: MOOD:
Violence Young Adult Exciting
Rule of Wolves is the second book in Leigh Bardugo's King of Scars duology, and while centering on King Nikolai Lansov, and the war with Fjerda, Rule of Wolves continues to be written in multiple POV's. We have, of course, Nikolai, our young king with a country depending on him. Zoya Nazyalensky, the Stormwitch, and Nikolai's General, who refuses to lose anyone else to war. Nina Zenik, the Corpsewitch, the Queen of Mourning, who is deep behind enemy lines as a spy. Mayu Kir-Katt, a member of Princess Ehri's tavgharad, and is on a personal mission. Lastly, the Monk - aka The Darkling - who has been resurrected, and is sharing the body of Yuri, a monk who wants to see the Darkling a Saint, and is on a mission to get his powers back.
Woah. What? Just ... Leigh Bardugo, how could you? Okay ... lets do a quick recap on my thoughts on the Grishaverse to date. Shadow & Bone trilogy - good idea, too drawn out, zero character development. Six of Crows duology - mixed POV's made plot much more interesting, characters were richer, and was exciting. King of Scars brought us back to Ravka (Shadow & Bone territory), but with Leigh's growth as a writer, we get well thought out characters, mixed POV's again, an interesting plot that shows character growth, more diversity, and a pretty great story arc, which leads us here; to the second book in Nikolai's duology. And it was awesome. In fact - I think it's my favorite in the whole Grishaverse. Rule of Wolves was ACTION PACKED. It's the first book in the Grishaverse I couldn't put down, and I was equally enthralled with each storyline. It concludes some story lines, and leaves some open, for what I am imagining to be a pretty epic next storyline. That ending ... I CAN'T WAIT!
Because I don't want to spoiler too much (and when I can't help myself, I promise I will hide them between my trusty arrows), I really want to look at how Leigh Bardugo has grown as an author from her first books. Let me be clear - her Grishaverse has always been solid, even in Shadow & Bone. The idea of the Grisha, and the surrounding countries, and their different cultures - and basing Ravka around Russia instead of England, which many fantasy authors tend to do - is brilliant. Chef's kiss. Her biggest problems in Shadow & Bone were her one dimensional protagonist characters. At the end of the trilogy I found myself bummed out, because the only interesting character in the books - The Darkling - was killed off. I don't think it was ever Leigh's intention for us to, ugh - simp - over the bad guy. And there was hardly ANY diversity. She improved though, and wrote something in the same world, but so incredibly different with Six of Crows. Multi-POV's, with morally grey characters, and tragic back stories. Some are Grisha. They are all from different places. They are racially diverse, and it has a LGB+ storyline. But she does even better with this duology. Everything that was great about Six of Crows, she did with Nikolai's duology, and built on it. We see more of the world in this book, get a deeper look into the cultures of these people - and -----------> another homosexual relationship with a character who is trans, <----------- I mean, do you know how wonderful that is to any young adult who identifies with this character? And it didn't feel like a gimmick - it felt natural to the story.
For anyone who loved Nikolai in Shadow & Bone, you will fucking LOVVVVVE him in his duology. ------------> his acceptance of his "demons", his unselfish love for his country, and his love for Zoya was awesome. Their chemistry didn't feel forced. As a romance reader, they are right beside Kaz and Inej for favorite Grishaverse couple. <-----------. Zoya's character has had the most growth in the entire series. I hated her in Shadow & Bone, but learning her back story, and her natural progression to "opening the door" was a beautiful arc. And Nina. I'm not going to lie, at first, I really hated where her story was going. I loved Matthias and Nina's relationship, and her saying goodbye to him was hard. I didn't want to see her move on, because I was scared it would ruin the magic of their relationship in Six of Crows. Leigh did an amazing job though. I didn't feel like he was forgotten. She is with the wolves. She is continuing to honor Matthias, and she is happy. What more could I want? And the Darkling ... well, I found myself confused over his storyline, and a bit - sad. Which I think is the point. He wants to be loved. It will be interesting to see if --------------> he gets redemption, or if he truly goes off the rails <------------.
Don't think I forgot that we get to revisit our favorite crows. We get Kaz in all his bad boy glory, and Jesper and Wylan again. We even get a tiny bit of Inej. And that ending means -----------> we are getting another Kaz story! <--------------
Here are some of my predictions for the series going forward. And yes, they will be hidden to avoid spoilers.
Nikolai and Zoya -------------> I honestly thought that it would end with a royal wedding, and it didn't. Nikolai wants to court her, and I am all for it. That being said, I think they are going to go through a lot before they marry. And I hope, somehow, that demon in Nikolai keeps him alive for a long time with Zoya. Which, now that I think about it, I don't know how that will happen if the Darkling gets a true death, and the demon dies with him. Fuck. Will mull over that one. <------------
Kaz and Inej --------------> I didn't miss that Leigh Bardugo kept the fans FAVORITE couple separated in this book. I think these two still have a lot to work through still, and I hope we get them both working together again, and maybe something more eventually. After all, their personal goals - Kaz taking over the Barrel and Inej stopping slavers - are working out in their favor. <-------------
The Darkling ------------> I think he will be redeemed. As much as he can be anyway. There is obviously something very broken in him, and I wonder if holding the fold together will make him see things in a new light. Then again, I could be wrong, and things just go batshit crazy again. <-------------.
I think if you loved Six of Crows, you will love this duology as well. I just hope we don't have to wait too long for the next book(s).
Ehri saying she wouldn't be captive no longer, and Zoya's quip about the courtship going well
Zoya staying with Nikolai while he was being healed, and kissing his forehead before she left.
The conversation between Nikolai, Zoya and the Darkling.
Zoya telling Nikolai about her parents
Nina using the queen's dead maid to make the queen second guess her actions
The meeting between zoya, alina, mal and the darkling
Genya kissing David's notebook of notes on how to make Genya happy, so he can remember it for the next world
Zoya's garden for each grisha lost
KAZ! JESPER! WYLAN! And the little tidbit of Inej stopping slavers
Nikolai telling Zoya how he feels while they laid on the floor together
Nikolai meeting his father
Zoya rescuing Nina
Nikolai on the battlefield
Zoya transforming for the first time
Nikolai passing the kingdom to Zoya
The Darkling helping have the apparat arrested
Zoya telling Nikolai she loves him
Hanne getting the body she should have been born in
Makhi: "Men who see too much have a way of losing their eyes."
Yerwei: "And queen who trust too little have a way of losing their thrones."
Nikolai: "Tell me I'm not seeing what I think I'm seeing."
Tamar: "What do you think you're seeing?"
Nikolai: "Mass destruction. Certain doom."
Zoya: "Not entirely certain."
Nikolai: "Do I detect optimism in my most pessimistic general?"
Zoya: "Likely doom."
Nikolai: "Be charming."
She flashed him a warm smile and a wink.
Zoya: "I will."
Nikolai: "That was very convincing."
The smile vanished in an instant.
Zoya: "I've had to watch you smarm all over Ravka for years. I've learned a few tricks."
Nikolai: "I don't smarm."
Tolya: "Occasionally you smarm."
Nikolai: "Yes. But it's endearing."
Nikolai watched Zoya's face. He couldn't help watching. Her glance at him was so swift he might have imagined it, a flash of blue, the sky glimpsed through the trees. And the meaning of that glance? Something. Nothing. He'd have more luck trying to tell his fortune in the clouds.
Hanne: "Couldn't we just ... well, couldn't you just eliminate him?"
Nina: "Easy now. I'm the ruthless assassin and you're the voice of reason, remember?"
Ylva: "That's unkind, Mila."
Nina: "You're right. But it's also accurate."
Tamar: "Your heart is in your eyes, Your Highness."
Tolya: "Tamar knows because that's the way she looks at her wife."
Tamar: "I am free to look at my wide any which way I please."
Tolya: "But Zoya is not Nikolai's wife."
Nikolai: "I'm standing right here."
Ehri: "Nikolai Lantsov, we will be your captives no longer."
Zoya: "So the courtship is going well?"
Tell me it's more than war and worry that makes you speak those words. Tell me what they would mean if you weren't a kind and I weren't a soldier.
But she didn't want to hear any of that, not really. Sweet words and grand declarations were for other people, other lives. She brushed the hair back from his face, placed a kiss on his forehead.
Zoya: "I would stay forever if I could."
she whispered. He wouldn't remember anyway.
Nikolai: "Are those the new calculations for our launch system?"
David nodded without looking up
Nikolai: "And how are they coming along?"
David: "They aren't."
David: "I keep getting interrupted."
Nikolai: "Splendid. Good to know I've done my part."
Nikolai: "Don't you enjoy a challenge?"
Zoya: "I enjoy a nap. I can't remember the last time I was allowed to sleep in."
Nikolai: "None of that. A full night's sleep might put you in a good mood, and I need you at your most disgruntled."
Zoya: "Keep speaking inanities and you may see me at my worst"
Nikolai: "All Saints, are you saying I haven't seen you at your worst?"
Zoya: "If you had, you'd be under the covers, gibbering prayers."
Nikolai: "A unique way of getting me into bed, but who am I to question your methods?"
Darkling: "When I look back on where things went wrong, where my plans all unraveled, I can trace the moment of disaster to the trust I placed in a pirate named Sturmhond."
Nikolai: "Privateer. And I wouldn't know, but if the privateer you've hired is entirely trustworthy, he's probably not much of a privateer."
Nikolai: "Zoya. War can make it hard to remember who you are. Let's not forget the human parts of ourselves."
Did she she want to forget? What a gift that would be. To never feel as humans did, to never grieve again. Then it wouldn't be so hard to leave this room. To shut the door on what might have been. To say goodbye.
Genya: "My love, there's ink all over your face."
David: "Does it matter?"
Genya: "The correct response is, 'Beautiful wife, won't you kiss it away?"
David nodded thoughtfully and drew out a journal to make note of this latest instruction.
David: "I'll be ready next time."
Genya: "It's technically later. Let's try again."
Nina: "Don't you worry, Hanne Brum. I have a gift for getting past Fjerdan defenses."
Mal: "It's amazing. You died."
He turned his gaze on Alina.
Mal: "And you pretended to die. But you both picked up right where you left off. Same argument, different day."
Alina jabbed him in the thigh
Alina: "It's very rude to make accurate observations."
Then David reached out and rubbed a piece of her silky red hair between his fingers. Genya blushed even more deeply.
Genya: "What are you doing?"
David: "Studying something beautiful."
Alina: "Did he seem different to you?"
Mal: "He seemed about the same. Gloomy and insufferable."
Alina: "What was the boys name? The monk?"
Zoya: "Yuri Vedenen. I never would have guessed that skinny little runt could cause so much trouble."
Alina: "I bet you said the same thing about me once."
Zoya: "You'd win that bet."
Alina: "Zoya, you know we're here if you need us."
Zoya: "But your power -"
Alina: "I can still pick up a rifle. I was a soldier before I was a Saint."
Joris: I like this one. She's unafraid.
Tolya: "I can't sleep."
Nikolai: "We could play cards."
Tolya: "I've been working on a new poem -"
Nikolai: "Or we could shoot ourselves out of a cannon."
Genya: "I cant do this."
Zoya: "You don't have to do anything. Just be here. Stay standing."
Genya: "Not even that."
Zoya: "I got you. I won't let you fall."
Genya: "I loved him. I loved him and he loved me. When I was ... when no one could reach me ... he saw me. He ... I loved him and he loved me."
Zoya: "David wasn't ... He wasn't an easy person. He didn't tell jokes or crack smiles or try to make you comfortable. He hated small talk and he could fall so deeply into his work, he forgot to eat or sleep. The only distraction he ever had was Genya. When he looked at her, you could see that he had found his perfect equation."
She pressed a kiss to the cover of the notebook.
Genya: "So you'll remember when I meet you in the next world."
She tossed the notebook onto the fire.