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King of Scars (King of Scars Duology) by…
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King of Scars (King of Scars Duology) (edition 2019)

by Leigh Bardugo (Author)

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4881533,752 (4.08)11
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, the young king 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 Squaller, 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.… (more)
Member:Letora
Title:King of Scars (King of Scars Duology)
Authors:Leigh Bardugo (Author)
Info:Imprint (2019), 528 pages
Collections:Fantasy, Young Adult
Rating:*****
Tags:#youngadult #grisha #grishaverse #fantasy #magic

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King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

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This is the first of a new fantasy duology taking place in the author’s “Grishaverse.” [Grisha are gifted people who can manipulate matter at its most fundamental levels. They mainly employ their extraordinary abilities to help people, but their talents can be used for ill as well as good.] I don’t think it should be read apart from the author’s previous books set in this world; there is too much unexplained backstory that would be confusing to new readers.

In this book, three years have passed since the end of the last story set in the Grishaverse, Ruin and Rising. The focus is now on Nikolai Lantsov, the rakish and irresistibly charming King of Ravka. During the Civil War, he was tortured by the Darkling, a powerful Grisha who used his skill for evil purposes. Nikolai was “infected” by the Darkling’s creature, a monster that has subsequently grown in strength inside Nikolai. Now, Zoya Nazyalensky, head of the Grisha army and Nikolai's general, must lock him up every night so the creature doesn’t overtake Nikolai and drive him to go out seeking blood. Both Nikolai and Zoya are dedicated to restoring stability to the Kingdom after the devastation of war, but Nikolai’s condition imperils that goal.

Zoya is lobbying for Nikolai to take a bride, so that someone else can take over making sure that Nikolai’s beast is at bay. Nikolai is not so sure: “Zoya, I can’t very well court a bride if there’s a chance I may turn her into dinner.”

Simmering under the surface are the feelings that Nikolai and Zoya have for one another, but neither will admit to them, fearing their professional relationship would be jeopardized.

Meanwhile, a number of “miracles” have been reported throughout the Kingdom, and Nikolai and Zoya need to investigate them. Could these strange happenings, they wonder, be tied to the dark being that lives inside Nikolai? One thing is certain: the miracles are empowering the religious element in the Kingdom, and both the Apparat, or chief priest, and a man called Yuri who is heading a movement worshipping the Darkling, are gaining followers and influence because of these supernatural occurrences.

Nikolai and Zoya want to keep an eye on Yuri, so they bring him along to visit the site of the miracles. Thus the three of them enter the Fold, the dreaded area full of horrors created by the Darkling. With the Darkling dead, they assume it is now safe to enter, but other forces in the Fold overpower them. As far as the Kingdom of Ravka knows, they have disappeared.

Alternate chapters relate what is happening to Nina Zenik. Nikolai sent her, along with two other Grisha, on a secret mission to Fjerda to help endangered Grisha escape that country. The Fjerdans have been capturing Grisha and experimenting on them with Jurda parem. This drug can transform and enhance a Grisha’s power into something new and dangerous so the Grisha could be used as “weapons.” But the price for the Grisha was addiction and after a short time, death.

Nina is also trying to overcome the loss of her love Matthias, but her heart has so far refused to let him go. In addition, since her own bout with Jurda parem, she hears the whisperings of the dead, and those voices are pulling her east to the river cities. She insists her two companions go with her to Kejerut, from whence the dead are calling her. They sojourn at a nearby convent, where Nina forges a bond with Hanne, one of the novitiates with secrets of her own.

As the story builds to its dénouement, all of the main characters are confronted with life-and-death choices that will change their very natures. Moreover, the lives of many others depend on what they choose to do. These factors add monumental gravitas to the decisions they need to make

In the process of weighing their options, we learn a great deal about how and why they became who they are. Each of them has scars from pain earlier in life, and each endeavors to forget them, deny them, or hide them from view. But the memories won’t always stay buried, and the resulting vulnerability weakens them.

There is a huge build-up of tension at the end, and a number of unresolved issues that will make readers eager for the second installment.

Evaluation: Bardugo makes human passions come alive on the page. You can feel and taste the hungers of her characters, and experience the pain of loss and thrill of young love as if you were going through those emotions yourself. I also appreciate the fact that Bardugo's characters are so idealistic and noble. We need that so much right now in the world! The dialogue is intelligent and emotionally resonant, and the political intrigue and challenges seem realistic and significant. This is an engaging book that gives you a lot to think about, as well as a lot to savor. ( )
  nbmars | Oct 21, 2019 |
have come to except nothing but great stories for Ms. Bardugo and King Os Scars did not disappoint me. Great cast of characters. I loved that she had characters from both the Six of Crows duology as well as her triliogy. She tied everything together nicely.

As always her world building is spot on. I don't know if I can stand the wait for her next book. ( )
  purpledog | Jul 19, 2019 |
Literary Merit: Excellent
Characterization: Excellent
Recommended: Yes
Level: High School

From scrolling through Goodreads, it’s clear that this book got some pretty mixed reviews; some very high, and others mediocre. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect going into this novel, based on my relationship with the Grishaverse as a whole. I purchased this book the day it was released, because I love Leigh so much, but it wasn’t until I went to my book review group for work and saw this as a review option that I finally picked it up!

When I read the originally trilogy, I really enjoyed it, but more so for Leigh’s writing than the characters. Alina and Mal and the Darkling were fine. Nikolai was funny, but not a character I would die for. For me, Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom were where Leigh shined brightest and really solidified herself as one of my favorite authors. When I head there was going to be more Grishaverse with Nikolai as the main focus, I was intrigued because it’s Leigh, and at this point I’ll read anything she writes, but I remember around the same time of the duology’s announcement, there had also been an announcement for her adult debut, Ninth House, and I was clamoring for that book waaaaay more. Again, Nikolai was fine for me, but he was never a huge draw. But then there came the added information that this Nikolai centered book would also feature Nina Zenik, one of my most beloved Crows, and after her heartbreak at the end of Crooked Kingdom, I was officially in for whatever this book had in store.

For me, the first few chapters were a little bit of a drag. Nina was the only one doing anything interesting, and Nikolai and Zoya were playing a weird flirtatious-but-ignoring-it game in-between Nikolai turning into the monster the Darkling cursed him with. But then it just kind of picked up at part two and every story element captivated me for the rest of the book.

The indifference I used to feel for Nikolai and Zoya slowly turned to love. They’re both so good at hiding things and bearing the brunt of the damage so no one else has to. They felt like real people and the love they have for their friends and their country really showed. I feel like they became fully fleshed out characters in this book, which makes sense since they’re officially POV characters now and we as readers actually get to spend a good amount of time with them instead of solely seeing them through another character’s eyes.

The plot was fantastic! I’m not always captivated by the political side of fantasy, but this was done so well, which is just a testament of Leigh’s creativity and writing skills. She took something I find to be bland and punched it up with delicious deception and a tragic outcome. Seeing characters like Genya, David, Tolya, and Tamar again was really nice, and I loved getting to know them more as well.

Nina’s storyline was so good, it felt the most like a Crows-esque storyline this book could support. There was deception, and Grisha magic, and a tiny heist of sorts, I loved it all! Zoya and Nikolai and their adventure in the Fold…ohhhh man so many plot twists, it was INCREDIBLE.

And then the ending. What. The. Hell. I loved the shock factor of it, but also hoooooly crap, how are they gonna get out of this one?!? I definitely look forward to finding out, and I know I will be picking up the sequel as soon as it’s published! ( )
  SWONroyal | Jul 9, 2019 |
4.5
I truly cannot get enough of these characters. I went in to King of Scars thinking that Nikolai would continue to be my favourite character but boy oh boy did Zoya sweep me off my feet. Zoya is one of those incredibly well written, strong female characters that you cant help but respect and admire. Zoya and Nikolai have excellent chemistry and even better banter.

This is definitely more of a slow burn plot but i really appreciated that and enjoyed the deeper exploration of the magic system. I also really enjoyed that this story spanned more than one country, Fjerda is super interesting and whilst much of Nina's story is quite clearly a set up for what i imagine will be a much bigger plot point in the next story it was still a really good read.

The ending was at both shocking and frustrating. I'll have to see in the next book whether or not it was worth it but at present i much prefer the closure Ruin and Rising gave us, hence the slightly less than perfect rating. ( )
  SaraChook | Jun 19, 2019 |
In this return to the Grishaverse, Nikolai, King of Ravka, is inhabited by a demon. Trying to exorcise the demon, and preserve his nation's security leads to danger and the possible return of dark powers. ( )
  lilibrarian | Jun 13, 2019 |
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For Morgan Fahey-
wartime general
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Dima heard the barn doors slam before anyone else did.
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