king of scars – leigh bardugo | review

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Series: King of Scars #1
Published January 29th 2019 by Imprint
Age Range: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy


Rating: 5 out of 5.


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 and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried––and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.


leigh barudgo never fails to impress me with her storytelling skills. although six of crows might still be my favorite series in the grishaverse, i don’t see why this isn’t a close contender. it’s filled with adventure and mysteries and schemes and plotting. though the darkling defeated and the fold destroyed, unexplainable things are happening in ravka. as enchanted as i was by the world building, the gripping storyline of each individual character attracted my attention the most.

nikolai as the main character in this series is amazing. ever since he was introduced in siege and storm, i was intrigued by his humor and privateer ways. he’s still extremely funny and serving sassy remarks. in king of scars, we actually witness how he deals with people around him. he’s diplomatic with the politicians, relatable with his men, and grateful with his chosen family. years after the war, he’s trying to save everyone around him, and now, he has to try to save himself too.

korol rezni. king of scars.

while majority of the characters in king of scars are familiar, their appearance provided another experience for readers to know them in a more significant way. in this chosen family, they are fiercely protective and loyal to one another.

zoya’s an interesting character to revisit. i remember not having much fondness for her in shadow and bone but she definitely grew on me. she’s still prickly as ever on the outside but it’s obvious she isn’t bad. while she doesn’t show it much, she has an affectionate and caring side. zoya hides herself behind her tough exterior because she didn’t want to revisit her past again which was full of guilt, grief and pain.

“Most women suffer thorns for the sake of the flowers. But we who would wield power adorn ourselves in flowers to hide the sting of our thorns.” 

for the most part, other than focusing on nikolai’s issue, nina grieving and mourning for matthias was painful to read about. my heart goes out for her especially when she had those one-sided conversations with matthias in her mind. nina is on a mission to do right by matthias. i admire her strength and courage to go through each day knowing that he’s gone. when she discovered the condition some women were living in, nina is determined to do something about it.

She didn’t want to be the girl she’d been, the girl Matthias had loved. If Genya could make her someone new on the outside, maybe Nina’s heart would oblige and beat with a new rhythm too.

despite the devastation and horror brought upon to ravka by the darkling, there are still people who wants to worship him. this just shows the darkling’s vast influence even after his death.

overall, i adored the antics the gang find themselves in. every character has their own struggles to conquer and overcome. i’m both terrified but excited about what may come for these characters who i’ve mostly known since book one of the grishaverse.

♚ spoiler section ♚

moments that made me absolutely want to cry featuring nina and matthias:

I failed you, Matthias. I wasn’t strong enough to save you.
Little red bird, every day you choose the work of living. Every day you choose to go on. There is no failure here, Nina.

“I know you never cared for sweets.” Her voice wobbled as she let a handful of toffees fall from her hand. They made a hollow patter. “But this way I’m with you, and you can keep them for me when I see you next. I know you won’t eat them yourself.”

↳ i thought i was done crying over matthias’s death but nina sending him off and tossing toffees into his grave for him so that he has a part of her with him all the time made me cry like a fucking baby. & her speech after adrik walked off made me bawl even more.

There was only dark water beneath, the terrible pain of knowing he was truly gone, the awful understanding that she would never hear his voice again.


genya & david:

“Let him go on,” said Genya. “David never gives me pretty compliments.”
“Don’t I?” asked David. He patted his pocket absently. “I have the list of your good qualities you gave me somewhere.”
“You see what I endure.”

“Yuri Vendenen, 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.

the chosen family:

“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.”
“I’ve seen her do it,” said Nikolai. “Makes a funny sound.”
“Kind of a pop?” said Tamar.
“Wetter,” Nikolai said. “More of a squelch.”

Slowly, Genya stood, and silence fell around her. “How old are you, Yuri?”
“Eighteen, moi soverenyi.”
“When i was a year older than you, the Darkling set his mosnters on me, creatures born of the power you venerate so much. They had a taste for human flesh. He had to force them to stop.”
“Then he was not so cruel-“
Genya held up a hand, and Nikolai was glad to see Yuri shut is mouth. “The Darkling didn’t want me to die. He wante me to live–like this.”
“More fool of him,” said Nikolai quietly, “to let such soldier survive.” 


oh my god, zoya’s mother was willing to let 9 year-old zoya be a bride to a 63 year-old pedophile. disgusting. i always love a good backstory about a complex character and that’s what i got with zoya. knowing her past now made me empathise her a lot more, and admire her courage and bravery more than ever. from having a loveless childhood to learning that her aunt, who she cherished the most in the world, died must’ve broken her and harden her against anyone. although she’s stricter and more stoic than the others, she isn’t just an emotionless block of wood.

nina found out about the girls who were drugged at the factory. the scene when the dead girls spoke through nina was chilling. those girls deserve justice and the “wellmother” needs her comeuppance for killing so many people. NINA CAN CONTROL THE DEAD!! HOW POWERFUL!! a little morbid to fashion a tree out of dead human bones but i wouldn’t expect anything less of nina’s new powers.

isaak was an impeccable stand-in for nikolai. even though he wasn’t born and raised to be royalty, he really got into character pretty quickly. when “not ehri” plunged that knife into him and then her own heart, i was sad. HE DOESNT DESERVE TO DIE!

oh saints, the darkling’s back in grishaverse. alive and well in yuri’s body. i can’t believe he’s back. zoya, genya and the rest have to go through with the pain of seeing him alive once again. the torture and emotional hardship must be suffocating and unbearable. all of them sacrificed so much for his defeat yet he’s standing in front of them once again. shit.

nikolai marrying ehri? hell no, no way. he belongs with zoya and i’ll die on that hill. all these time, she had been forcing him to consider marrying and worrying about succession if anything were to happen to nikolai and now she’s feeling dejected about it? FINALLY, she’s feeling something. these two needs to talk.

the chemistry between zoya and nikolai:

“You’re late,” said Zoya.
“I’m the king,” said Nikolai. “That means you’re early.” 

“That squash is as wide as I am tall,” Nikolai said beneath his breath as he smiled and waved. 
“And twice as handsome.”
“Half as handsome,” he protested. 
“Ah, ” said Zoya, “but the squash doesn’t talk.” 

“Why do you never kiss me sweetly in the morning, Zoya?”
“I do nothing sweetly, Your Highness.” 

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.

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6 thoughts on “king of scars – leigh bardugo | review”

  1. before i start, i just want to say my comment has spoilers haha (just warning everyone who hasn’t read the book) ~

    omg yes this review and te quotes you’ve included bring back memories 🥺 nina burying matthias was so heartbreaking, and nikolai battling with the monster inside of him ahh 💔 also completely agree with sofii!!! i did NOT expect that plot twist at the end omg 🤩

    Liked by 1 person

    1. omg, the whole thing with nina and matthias broke my entire heart. i didn’t know how to handle his death after crooked kingdom but in king of scars, it’s even harder to comprehend that he’s gone. the grief and pain nina is feeling is unbearable.

      I DIDN’T AS WELL. what the effff. i thought it was over but WHUT.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve been on the fence about whether or not I should start this duology, but your review has pretty much convinced me I need to do so ASAP!! If only for that Nina x Matthias content, even if it does break my heart 🥺

    Lovely review Belle!

    Liked by 1 person

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