The King of Scars by Leigh Bardough is the first book in what the author says will be a Nikolai duology. In this book it has been three years since Alina, the Sun Summoner, defeated the Darkling and a few months since Nikolai helped Kaz and his crew out in the Six of Crows duology. This book has two distinct story lines; one that follows mainly Nikolai and Zoya and another that follows Nina.
The Ravka civil war is over and Nikolai has been hard at work trying to rebuild his country, to bring more equality to Ravak, and to be a good king. However, that does not mean that all enemies of Ravka have been defeated. To the north, the Fjerdians are still bent on invading and killing Grisha. To the South, Shu Han still makes their plots and we are not sure where they are with the production of parem, Nikolai just knows that trouble will come from Shu Han eventually.
If you read the Shadow and Bone trilogy you know that the Darkling infected Nikolai with some of his power and turned him into a monster; a fate Nikolai was saved from when Alina killed the Darkling. The whole ordeal left scars both physical and mental. Now Nikolai thinks of himself as the King of Scars.
It turns out some of that power was dormant and hidden all this time. In recent months the monster has been manifesting at night. To protect king and country Zoya and Genya have been drugging and chaining Nikolai every night. Sadly, even that is not working anymore. The darkness is getting worse and harder to control. The king and his loyal grisha are very worried about this and how it will effect Ravka.
Also, strange miracles are happening all over Ravka but Nikolai and team do not believe that things are as they appear. They suspect that the strange happenings in the country are tied to the demon taking over the king. They better hurry and figure this out before the demon takes over completely.
Just in case Nikolai and team can’t figure out how to kill the demon before it takes him over, Zoya thinks it would be a good idea for the king to make a political marriage and have a child. He must secure the line of succession to avoid another civil war. To that end, Genya is tasked with putting together a big political event; ambassadors from all over will be invited and potential brides as well.
While Genya is putting together this event, Nikolai and Zoya head out of the capital to investigate the strange miracles as well as investigate a lead they have received on how to banish the demon lurking within the king.
Meanwhile, in Fjerda Nina is under cover as a spy and working with a team of Grisha to locate and rescue fellow Grisha in Fjerda. As you may recall the people of Fjerda believe Grisha are witches and evil. To be born Grisha in Fjerda is to be born to a life of hiding or face death.
It has only been a few months since Matthias was killed while Kaz and team faked the death of Kuwei to hide him from the Shu Han. Nina still mourns the death of Matthais and her second reason for being in Fjerda is to find a place to burry his body. Nina and her team have been dragging around the preserved body of Matthias, its time for Nina to find a good place to bury him. When Nina finally finds what she thinks is the perfect burial site she comes across a mystery. In this small town the dead are calling to Nina…this is a mystery she must solve.
The strange thing for me was how the two stories were put together. Honestly, they could have been two books because the story lines do not overlap. There was one small little line toward the end of Nina’s story where she sees a letter that has a hint that the Fjerdains are planning an assignation attempt, but really, when are they not.
Nina’s story is much smaller than the Nikolai story and the duology is billed as one dedicated to his character. This feels almost like the author has a short story about Nina and rather than publish it separately she inserted it into this book.
It was nice catching up with some of the characters from the previous books. It was nice to see different people take center stage in these books and learn more about what makes them tick. For me this was particularly true with Zoya. Yea she was in the other books but she was more of a person for Alina to compete with. In this book you will see Zoya stand on her own and grow into her role as leader.
Overall this was a good book and I am looking forward to the second installment.my read shelf: