A Very Spoilery Chat: King of Scars Review

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The open inside map page of King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo, showing the entire Grishaverse: Ravka, Fjerda, Novyi Zem, & Shu Han

Okay, so I bought my copy of King of Scars in England, and I hadn’t finished it until now — I was savoring, all right?  But lemme tell you something: I’ve been reading Leigh’s books since I was like thirteen — that was MIDDLE SCHOOL for me.  And here I am in my final year of college.  She and her stories have, quite literally, been with me through most of my childhood and young adulthood.  So forgive me if this post is less critical than usual and a little more fangirly — I just needed somewhere to let it all out.  So here we go!

Predictions I Had

 

  • Zoya and Nikolai getting together.

    • Fine — this one hasn’t happened yet.  And honestly, I’m a little shaken over it.  But you know what, the more I think about it the more I admire Leigh for it because it just shows how dedicated and wonderful both Zoya and Nikolai are.  Usually, in YA, the love and lust trumps everything, which is a frustrating message to read sometimes.  But nah, Zoya and Nikolai both got the greater good on their minds.

  • The Darkling will return.

    • Um, excuse me?  The cult of the starless saint? Helllll yeah baby.  As a lifelong supporter of the Darkling, I wanted to weep tears of joy at the first mention that he might come back.  And then when Leigh pulled that whole Sebastian Morgenstern move there at the end?  (Speaking of Cassandra Clare, I also have a Very Spoilery Chat on Queen of Air and Darkness.) I was so pleased, both plot-wise and in the sense that I would follow that boy anywhere.  Sorry, Yuri. I know that I should probably be ashamed at this, but I am overjoyed at the fact that the Darkling is still alive. We need our favorite villain back.

  • Speaking of returns, I want Alina back (and clearly, Leigh knows it).

    • Too bad this one didn’t happen! Alina did not return in King of Scars, but there are several sneaky (and-not-so-sneaky) references to her presence in the Grishas’ world.

    • Okay, this was probably my least likely prediction, because Alina truly does deserve to stay gone and “dead”.  But let’s just take a minute to appreciate those Sun Summoner moments, okay?

    • Like for instance, I was so fascinated at seeing how the rest of the characters from the original trilogy, now that we are finally focusing on them after the Dregs duology, react, since we haven’t really seen them since Ruin & Rising.  How Nikolai still calls Alina the Sun Summoner despite personally knowing her? Heartbreaking.  

. . . the cuffs and hem of Genya’s kefta were also detailed with golden thread to match the sun emblazoned over her eyepatch in remembrance of Alina Starkov. Nikolai had added the sun in ascendance to his own Lantsov heraldry, a gesture he could admit had been driven by the need to court public opinion as much as by personal sentiment. Still, it sometimes felt like Alina was trailing them from room to room, her presence as tangible as the heat of a summer sun, though the girl was long gone.

– p. 84

It had taken a long time for Zoya to think of Alina as anything other than a rival. She’d resented the orphan girl’s gifts, envied her position with the Darkling. She hadn’t understood what power meant then or the price that any of then would be forced to pay for it. After the war, Alina had chosen a life of peace and anonymity, bought with the charade of her death, but her name and her legend had only grown. Zoya was surprised to find she liked seeing Alina’s name on churches, liked hearing it spoken in prayers. Ravka had given too much of its love to men like the Darkling, the Apparat, even the Lantsov kings. They owed a little of it to an orphan girl with no dress sense.

– p. 239

They’d sent the great golden coach and its glittering outriders to Keramzin. There, the party would be welcomed by the couple who ran the orphanage and who they knew could be trusted with the secrets of the crown. *

– p. 241

* I nearly had a heart attack here because I thought we were gonna see Alina. (And then we didn’t.)

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo sits on a pillow next to a window with stones sitting on the windowsill.

Things I Loved

 

  • I didn’t forget about Genya and David — because who could? — but I did forget exactly how much I loved them.

  • The world-building, per usual. I mean, Leigh is not just a great storyteller — she’s a wonderful writer. That’s something you don’t always see in YA. Her prose is just so purposeful, so full of song. I was absolutely obsessed with the silver hummingbirds, and like always, her descriptions of architecture get me, y’all. I want her to plan out my underground bunker!

  • Zoya becoming a badass.

    • She’s just gotten so great. Like think of her back in the Shadow & Bone days, when she was a bit of a Lesser Villain. I’m not sure I ever thought I would like her, but here we are, and she’s my role model. That’s another thing to praise about Leigh: There’s rarely a set “bad guy” in her books. She shows so many different sides of her characters that it’s hard not to love them all, and the evolution of Zoya is no exception. If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, you’ll know that I absolutely hate the tendency in YA to vilify women the moment they clash. Leigh’s out here breakin’ the rules.

    • Also, going back to my prediction-that-didn’t-happen — Zoya is willing to be strong for her country over any man and is willing to sacrifice so much. She’s an absolute queen.

    • A prime Zoya moment:

‘Kirgin shuffled his feet like a schoolboy. “I just can’t help but feel that Commander Nazyalensky’s icy demeanor masks a tender spirit.”

Toyla snorted. “She’ll pulp your heart and drink it.”

Kirgin looked aghast, but Nikolai suspected Tolya was right. He’d come to recognize the bizarre phenomenon of Zoya’s beauty, the way men loved the create stories around it. They said she was cruel because she’d been harmed in the past. They claimed she was cold because she just hadn’t met the right fellow to warm her. Anything to soften her edges and sweeten her disposition—and what was the fun in that? Zoya’s company was like strong drink. Bracing—and best to abstain if you couldn’t handle the kick.’ – p. 57

  • Nina, also becoming a badass.

    • She was already on her own, but boy do I love seeing her out on her own outside the Dregs.

    • Also, Matthias’ burial took me out.

    • And did I say before that I ship Hanne and Nina? (It’s gonna happen, I swear.)

The spine of King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo against a mustard yellow throw.

 

Verbatim Notes from Me, Grace

There are, as usual, some verbatim quotes that I jotted down on my phone while reading, and I don’t feel that I could possibly rewrite them. So here.

  • OH FUCK YA BBY NIKOLAI GOT THE DARKLING INSIDE ugh i love him so much sorry i’m really excited for him to be back

  • omg i’m ded @ the saints appearing

  • oh fuuuuuck some handmaids tale shit

Actual Quotes from the Master, Leigh

And some more eloquent quotes from Leigh because I should try and redeem this post and also I needed to include them.

There had been a time when words had been the only place he could find solace. No book ever lost patience with him or told him to sit still. When his tutors had thrown up their hands in frustration, it was the library that had taught Nikolai military history, strategy, chemistry, astronomy. Each spine had been an open doorway whispering, Come in, come in. Here is a land you’ve never seen before. Here is a place to hide when you’re frightened, to play when you’re bored, to rest when the world seems unkind.

p. 154

“it’s not exciting if nothing can go wrong.”

– p. 159

“One eternity is enough,” said Juris. “I want to walk the world once more. Return to the shores of my homeland. Maybe fall in love again. I want to swim in the sea and lie in the sun. I want to age and die and pass into realms I have never explored.”

– p. 283

 

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

 

The End

Righty, some more quotes from my own notes because I think it sums it up pretty well.

  • darkling come home!!!! i totally saw elizawhatever turn on them yo

  • IMPOSSIBLE IMPROBABLE IM SCREAMING HOLY SHIT

Annnnnnnd that’s it, folks. Pretty much all the feelings I had for this guy, and obviously, can’t wait for book two. (Maybe I won’t take months to read it next time!). You have thoughts/opinions/disagreements? Just wanna scream? Please please please DM me on insta or something, because I wanna talk.

If you haven’t already, you can purchase the book below, although I’ve probably just spoiled a lot for you (or you have 0 idea of what is going on) considering this is a Very Spoilery Chat. But it’ll still be good!

Love, as always,

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