King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) Book Review

King of Scars (Nikolai Duology #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Publication: January 29th, 2019
Genre: YA Fantasy


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. 

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King of Scars was a really good book and I enjoyed it a lot but it was missing the spark that the Six of Crows duology had. It was miles better than the Grisha trilogy (if you remember my reviews I really did not like them) and the King of Scars was much more enjoyable. King of Scars takes place sometime after the ending of Ruin and Rising and closely after the ending of Crooked Kingdom. Nikolai is the king of Ravka but he still has the monster in him that the Darkling put inside of him. People are still fearful of the Grisha and they are still being killed. And also the Grisha are still being injected with jurda parem and other variations of it. The story follows those two different stories. Nikolai and others from the Grisha trilogy (Zoya, Genya, David, Tomar, Toyla, etc) are at the kingdom and working to rid him of the evil inside of him. Nina is dealing with the death of Matthias and traveling with two Zemeni people (Adrik from the Grisha trilogy) to save Grisha from Fjerda. The problem with both of these issues is they don’t do much until the end when things really go topsy turvy. Especially Nina. Her chapters are a bit of a snooze fest. I found myself groaning when we got to her which sucks so much because I LOVE her. And like another reviewer said the book didn’t even feel like Nikolai’s book because he has less P.O.V. chapters than the others. The ending was the best part, to be honest. Mostly, because it was such a shock and gives me hope that book two will have a bit more excitement.


Nikolai is still as clever and bad-ass. He was my favorite character in the trilogy so I was so happy that we got a book where we could be in his mind. This book gives readers a look inside his struggles with the beast inside him. I enjoyed that we get to see him after the fact because it gives the king more of a struggle to deal with on top of the impending war coming again to Ravka. He is very smart and it was cool seeing how he worked his way out of situations.

Zoya is a complete badass and I loved learning about her past. Zoya is not just a pretty face or a warrior. She has a complicated history and it adds a lot to her story. I love how unapologetically herself she is. She doesn’t smile or bat her lashes just because different men think she has a nice interior under her icy exterior. It’s the best thing about her character because no one can change her and her true friends don’t want her to.

Nina is still flirtatious and humorous. I love how hard she is working to save the Grisha and seeing her struggle with Matthias’s death. Her new power is so cool and I love when she uses it unapologetically. The real world parallels of the racism that the Grisha face with the real world racism is what I enjoyed about Nina’s storyline. She works hard to protect people even those she does not know and she doesn’t stop when it gets tough.   


Leigh’s writing has only grown over the years. I do think her works are a hit or miss for me in regards to being a five star read or not. But that does not make it any less enjoyable. I will continue to read her books and loving them. 

Favorite Quotes
“Why do you never kiss me sweetly in the morning, Zoya?” “I do nothing sweetly, Your Highness.”
“A king cannot remain locked up in his own castle…”
“One risks looking less like a monarch and more like a hostage.”
“The public may forget how handsome I am.” “I doubt it. Your face is on the money.”
If men were ashamed when they should be, they’d have no time for anything else.
“Spare me your sermons,” she hissed. “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.”
“Yuri Vedenen, if you upset my wife again, I will kill you where you stand.” The monk swallowed. “Yes, moi soverenyi.” “Oh, David,” Genya said, taking his hand. “You’ve never threatened to murder anyone for me before.” “Haven’t I?” he murmured distractedly, placed a kiss on her knuckles, and continued reading. 
Nikolai snatched Vasily’s finger and twisted. His brother yelped and fell to the floor. He seemed impossibly small. “A king never kneels, brother.”
“I remember, Zoya, and I promise I won’t let the world forget. But I need you to come back to me. I need my general beside me now.”
“Careful, young Zoya. It is one thing to be looked at by a mere man, quite another thing to garner the attention of a king.”

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Kathryn Calderon | 24 | Artist of many trades | Villains are my soul

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