Posted in Book Review

Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

Read Dates: April 19, 2021 – June 26, 2021
Date Published: March 30, 2021
Source: Owned Hardback

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

The wolves are circling and a young king will face his greatest challenge in the explosive finale of the instant #1 New York Times-bestselling King of Scars Duology.

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.

The Stormwitch. 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.

First of all, that synopsis gave me chills when I first read it. How could you possibly read that and not want to dive right into this book!? Ughh.
Secondly, that cover art. Especially after reading the book and understanding why the image made the cover. *More chills*
And lastly, *sigh* Leigh Bardugo, you little minx. You have a large piece of my literary heart. I can’t imagine life on a planet without this woman’s books.

So this is the second in the King of Scars series by Bardugo. We’re still very much in the Grisha universe, we’re just quite a ways down the line book-wise. Ya know, like 8 books down the line. (Holy moly. I just turned to look at my bookshelf where Bardugo’s books sit and counted the 7 books before this one. Am I really that deep into this!?) Anyway, King of Scars follows Nikolai’s story. In King of Scars we met the privateer/prince of Ravka become King. He’s witty, he’s full of jokes, and he can’t take many things seriously. From the beginning, he became one of my all time favorites in the Grisha universe. Though, I was just a little sad as to where I felt his storyline would end up. Boy was I wrong. YOU. LITTLE. MINX.

“Men who see too much have a way of losing their eyes.” “And queens who trust too little have a way of losing their thrones.”

Ravka isn’t doing too hot in the military area and they’re not very plentiful when it comes to friends either. The Shu-Han Queen, Makhi plots against Ravka as do the Fjerdans and their brutal general, Jarl Brum. But with a super witty King and a relentlessly powerful Grisha Squaller general at his side, what could go wrong? Right?

Again, and I feel like I always say this but… Leigh Bardugo does not romanticize war. War is war. She understands that and she writes it as such. I went into this book knowing that good and well from the previous 7. We’ve lost many characters along the way and I knew this book would be no exception. It wasn’t. I found myself shedding actual tears for these characters I’ve known for so long who ended up hurt or worse, killed. But I can appreciate this kind of writing because she’s not pulling punches. She’s giving us the reality of the situation and we sort of have to live with it. I think that’s beautiful. Sad, but beautiful.

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 king 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.

Zoya has also grown to be one of my favorite characters. I really wanted to choke her out the first few times we meet her and deal with her but she’s grown so much. Her character, I think, is one of the biggest character builds in the entire series. I love her strength and her honesty. Then there’s also the bit of her vulnerability that we get to see. She’s come so far and she’s finally developed friendships and opened herself up a bit to love. We also finally get to learn about her roots in this book which was incredibly moving for me.

Ahhhh. The Queen of Mourning. When I saw that in the synopsis, it gave me chills. Nina truly has gone through so much pain and what a title that absolutely fits her just right. Nina is undercover in Fjerda trying to gain access to their military strategies and secrets so that she might send the information back to Nikolai so he can prepare. She’s living under the roof of the man she hates the most, Jarl Brum. Along with his wife and his daughter, Hanne who Nina has come to be close with. Nina is always so much fun to read. Her quick wit and sharp tongue make for some fun chapters. I have to say, hers was one of the storylines that ripped me apart in previous books. I felt like *I* was the Queen of Mourning reading about her life and all the tragedies that befall her.

I just can’t get enough of the Grishaverse. There are so many elements that come into play that make me so excited. I think I mentioned in one of my previous reviews how the possibilities are absolutely endless and they still are! Bardugo knows that and she makes these possibilities come to life. Giant war machines, altered Grisha, monsters, flying contraptions, and secret underwater weapons. It just never ends and I am here for it!

I thought I had this book figured out. And I guess I did for some of it but about 60% of the way through the book, I found I was wrong. So very, very wrong. I didn’t see any of it coming but now that it’s happened and it’s over, I can’t imagine it happening any other way. Bardugo does it again. She took a situation where there was seemingly only two ways out and added a third option that was soooo much better than either of the other possibilities. This really was a pleasure to read.

“I have a surplus of bad ideas,” said Nikolai. “I have to spend them somewhere.”

At this point I am definitely invested in these characters. There is very obviously going to be a third book in this series. The end left things wide open so I’m super excited to see how this plays out in the end. Though part of me is kind of like, “No! Leave things how they are. We don’t need to go out and risk our lives anymore for that stupid Darkling!” But I must admit, I’m excited for book three! I’d love to know when it’s coming out at the least! Ughh..

I know it took me a while to read this one and I’ll tell you why in just three words. Elder Scrolls Online. I’ve gotten back into it and I’m a bit obsessed. I bought Blackwood and I’ve been tearing through all the DLC’s content. It’s been so much fun but it hasn’t left me much reading time. I’ve recently found some balance though. I’ve got a lot of books in my queue that I’m dying to read so ESO is just going to have to be content with only having me for maybe 2 hours a day. Ideally, anyway.

If you haven’t already, check out the Shadow and Bone series on Netflix! Shadow and Bone was the first book in the first series Bardugo wrote in the Grisha universe and it is sooo good. Mind you, the show is soooo different from the books. There are some likenesses but ughh. Don’t get me started. The show still works though and it’s really good so go check it out!

Keep spreading kindness! ✌💛

Posted in Book Review

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Read dates: September 9, 2019 – September 25, 2019
Publication date: January 29, 2019
Source: Owned hardback

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King of Scars1

5 cats

The war is over.
The Darkling is dead.
Alina is gone.
Nikolai is King of Ravka.

Though Nikolai’s family were all casualties of the Darkling’s hunger for power and the decimation of Os Alta, Nikolai is not alone at the palace. He has his commander, Zoya, and nearly the entire gang of Alina’s followers, the Triumvirate, at his side. But none of them are able to vanquish the darkness within him, left there by the Darkling’s evil soul before he died. Nikolai just wants to rule Ravka in a way that would give his people peace and freedom, but how can he do that when he lives with the beast inside who enjoys showing up unannounced and wreaking havoc on everything around him? How long will his companions stand by his side and risk their lives to rein the beast? Can Nikolai be a good king while this darkness looms within him?

Meanwhile, Nina is on a secret mission to gain intelligence for Ravka. But what she finds when she arrives to Fjerda is much worse than she could have ever imagined. Can she put her grieving aside to do what is necessary? Can she show the Fjerdans mercy as Matthias has always wished of her? Will she ever be able to forgive the entire race of Fjerdans for the shortcomings and loss in her life?

“Call me Grisha. Call me zowa. Call me death, if you like.”

First of all, let me start by saying, “WHAT THE WHAT?!”
Does Bardugo have a voodoo doll of me that she’s using as a pin cushion? Because that’s what it feels like.

What a ride that was. I’m still reeling. So many unanswered questions and new revelations to chew on until the second book comes out WHENEVER THAT MAY BE.
Dear lord… how am I going to make it? I’ll tell ya how… I’m NOT. I can’t wait that long! I need to know the answers to my questions! I need to know what’s going to happen now that… those… things… have happened! Ughh…

So, the book starts off strong with the story of a boy named Dima. He is the youngest of his brothers and is sent out one night to close the barn doors as it seems the wind has blown them open. The boy is terrified but he wishes to earn the respect of his older brothers so he braves the storm and sets out. When he gets to the barn, he is met with a winged beast and narrowly escapes disaster when a beautiful grisha steps in to capture the beast. I loved reading this beginning piece. It sort of set the eerie mood of the book and amped you up for what was to come so I thought it was definitely worth mentioning.

“We are all connected, King Nikolai. The Grisha, the Fold, the power inside you. The Fold is a wound that may never heal. But perhaps it was not meant to.”

The rest of the story is told primarily through three perspectives. Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina. That’s right. Nina is BACK. We learn a lot about the origins of Nikolai and Zoya in this story and Nina’s tale continues and nearly brought me to tears a few times. Nikolai is battling the beast within him. Zoya is battling her past. Nina is battling the future and moving on with her life after the end of Crooked Kingdom.

Though the Darkling is dead, he’s left his mark on the world. Strange things begin to happen and a monk appears claiming to be one of the people in charge of the Cult of the Starless. A group who ultimately worship the Darkling and wish him to be seen as a saint. He wishes to officially make the Darkling a saint with the help of the Apparat (gag me with a spoon) and King Nikolai. Now Nikolai and Zoya must figure out if the monk’s ramblings are just that or if there is some truth to the Darkling’s soul living on in the fold after his death. But there’s only one way to find out! That’s right! Go to the fold!! We’re on an adventure!! Honestly, this entire book is an adventure. Nikolai and Zoya are on an adventure, Nina is on an adventure with Leoni and Adrik. It’s just chock-full of adventure and I LOVE IT.

I will never be ready for the Grishaverse to come to an end. I’ve so enjoyed the world building and the character building and the constant changes and revelations the characters go through. I don’t think I will ever tire of reading about the Grisha. I even love the characters who aren’t Grisha. I wish I could say I had favorites but I really pretty much love them all!

I will say I really hope the next book doesn’t turn into a love triangle. I don’t know if my heart can take it and it would honestly just be a little weird but they sort of alluded to a future love triangle at the end of this book.

Also, JUST LOOK AT THAT COVER!

Bottom line: this book was everything a book should be. It kept my attention, it kept me guessing, it had me attached to the characters, and it had me hating life while I was too busy to pick it up and continue on to find out what happened next.

I was eager to read this book even before I got into the Grishaverse. When I read the synopsis on Goodreads, I was thinking to myself, “Oh this is going to be gooooood.” But then I did a little more research and found that there were quite a few books ahead of this one so I decided to do the right thing and start at the beginning.
I can tell you, my anticipation for this book did not go to waste. This book scratched the YA/fantasy itch I’ve been dealing with for some time now. Once again, Bardugo gives us multiple POVs and delivers them seamlessly. I’m still in awe of how she’s able to pace a book with multiple POVs and it not be a jumbled mess. She’s become one of my all-time favorite authors and I can’t wait to read Ninth House while I wait to read the fate of King Nikolai and his ruthless and powerful commander, Zoya, and the girl who became one of my favorite characters during Crooked Kingdom, Nina.

A few honorable mentions that I can’t leave out:

The story about Dominik and young Nikolai. Ughhh

“This country gets you in the end, brother. Don’t forget it.”
“Not us,” he said. But Dominik was already gone. “I’ll do better,” Nikolai promised, just as he had so many years ago in Mitkin’s classroom. “I’ll find a way.”

The story about Zoya’s past and the way the dragon (that’s right, there’s a dragon) cares for her. UGHHHHHH

“Stop punishing yourself for being someone with a heart. You cannot protect yourself from suffering. To live is to grieve. You are not protecting yourself by shutting yourself off from the world. You are limiting yourself…”
“Zoya of the lost city. Zoya of the garden. Zoya bleeding in the snow. You are strong enough to survive the fall.”

The part where Nina breaks down in front of Hanne talking about her “husband” and how he loved her and she loved him. WAHHHHHH

“Have you always been this sure of yourself?”
Nina shrugged. “Yes.”
“And your husband didn’t complain?”
“He complained,” Nina said – and suddenly she had to look away, because it was not some fictional merchant who had come to mind but Matthias with his strict propriety and his disapproving glower and his loving, generous heart. “He complained all the time.”
“Was he quick to anger?” Hanne asked.
Nina shook her head and pressed her palms to her eyes, unable to stop the tears that came, not wanting to… “No. We didn’t always agree.” She smiled. “In fact, we almost never agreed. But he loved me. And I loved him.”

Keri