Review: “Rule of Wolves” (King of Scars #2) by Leigh Bardugo

Rating

Synopsis

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.

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The more I think about this book, the less I like it. The first third of the book was good, things were heating up, we got some nice Nicolai and Zoya moments. But as the plot progresses, it becomes more and more of a mess. There were a lot of situations added in merely for plot convenience, new POVs that we did not need and also a lot of unnecessary cameos (and I say this as someone whose favorite book is Six of Crows). And overall, I am most disappointed for and in behalf of Nina, she was not done justice in this book.

Okay, let me start with the positives before I start complaining.

The best parts of the book were hands down the interactions between Nicolai and Zoya. I love them both as individuals but also as a couple. I think they have really good chemistry together, love the banter (makes me miss Matthias and Nina). And you can just tell the amount of trust they have for each other’s abilities.

Zoya. Honestly just Zoya, two of my stars are solely for her. We find our more about her Suli heritage and what exactly happened with her parents. My favorite scene was the scene with her in the garden where we find out she planted flowers for every fallen Grisha, it made me tear up.

Other than those two, and a few scenes here and there, no other parts seemed that great. Although I thought the cameos were unnecessary to the plot of the book, I did enjoy seeing the crows again. I wish they were incorporated into the story better and not as a side plot that didn’t make sense.

Okay, now to talk about all the things I thought were off. There are going to be spoilers so don’t read on if you don’t want spoilers.

NINA ZENIK

The biggest complaint I have about Rule of Wolves is how Nina was handled. I understand Nina is not the same Nina we meet in Six of Crows and that she’s still grieving and is in the heart of what she considers enemy territory, but RoW Nina still felt so out of character to me. The ending especially with her agreeing to be with Hanne wearing Mila’s face for who knows how long didn’t sit right. I felt like Bardugo was trying to make the readers believe that it was a happy ending because Nina was “happy” but I don’t buy it. Nina being in a position to basically rule Fjerda side-by-side with Hanne seems less than ideal.

Speaking of Fjerda, I wish we got to see more of the good in Fjerda that didn’t just have to do with the people converting away from Djel and to the religion of the Saints. Where are the good Fjerdans who remain a devotee of Djel but figure out that they need to treat everyone with kindness and respect? I understand that a large part of us not seeing the more common Fjerdans have to do with the fact that Nina is in the Ice Court which is where the most extremist Fjerdans are so that’s all she’s exposed to, but I would have liked to see more diversity when it came to the Fjerdans we do get to see. Leigh almost villainizes most of Fjerda and puts Nina in a position to “save” them when she doesn’t really care for Fjerdan people.

There were also so many little side plots thrown in the book that didn’t make sense. Nina sneaks in and out of the Ice Court multiple times in this book when SoC established how hard it was to do just that. This especially didn’t make any sense since I would assume they umped the security even more after the crows sneaked in and out last year. And not only did she sneak into the court, she sneaked into Jarl Brum’s office??? TWICE?! AND to top that off, we hear that Magnus Opjer sneaks out of his prison by himself?? Make it make sense. The only explanation we got about that was, oh he’s Nicolai’s father, so he must be smart and sneaky.

Also to talk more about that ending, another reason I don’t think Nina would actually be okay with it is because how patriotic she is and how much she loves fighting for Ravka. Being in a ruling position in Fjerda, again, just doesn’t make sense for her. Being an ambassador between the two countries where she tries to make changes to Fjerda to become more accepting to Grisha? Something like that would make perfect sense. Living as a native Fjerdan and ruling alongside Hanne? No. There’s no way. Especially when she doesn’t know how long she would have to live as Mila.

And overall, though Leigh tried to tie Nina’s story with what was happening with Nicolai and them in Ravka, her side of things still felt too separate from the Ravkan gang, almost like we were reading two different books. I got so used to Leigh’s books being multiple POVs of people who are in the same place, Nina being so far and hers being the only POV in Fjerda felt off at times.

THE SHU HAN STORYLINE

This whole storyline where we spend so much time in Shu Han with Mayu’s POV was also not necessary. I think the book would have been stronger if we got rid of all of the side plot with the Shu and gave more time to Nicolai and Zoya. And if we really did need to go explore the Shu more, why couldn’t we have the POVs be from Tamar’s perspective instead of Mayu, a character that we don’t care too much about.

The whole side plot with Queen Makhi and Ehri felt rushed. I didn’t want to get into Shu Han politics in this book when we already focus so much on Ravkan and Fjerdan politics and the conflict between those two countries. I think we should have been introduced to the Shu Han characters in King of Scars so we could ease into it more.

That being said though, I did like the dynamic between Mayu and Princess Ehri and how Mayu was slowly starting to realize Ehri is much smarter than she gave her credit for.

the darkling’s return

What exactly was the point of this? What did he add to the story? Was he resurrected just so we see Alina and Mal again? There was no need. We have the whole side plot of the Starless Saint gathering followers for his little cult and it just felt so unnecessary to the bigger plot.

And he now decided to sacrifice himself and hold down the fold for the rest of eternity? How did we get here? I am confusion.

Crows cameos

Please note that the Six of Crows duology is my favorite fantasy series. I adore those books, I’ve read them multiple times, I love all the characters with all my heart. So when I say that we really did not need to see the crows in this, I say this with a heavy heart. Not to say that I didn’t want a crows cameo because I really did, I WANTED the crows to show up in this book, that was part of the reason I picked this series up in the first place. But I wanted them to show up in a way that made sense.

So Fjerda just bombed Ravka, we lost David, Ravka is in shambles and could be attacked any minute. And what does the king of Ravka and the general of their army decide to do? Go to Ketterdam to get some Titanium for bombs.

… okay fine, they really needed some titanium and Nicolai doesn’t trust anyone else to go get Titanium and he wants to be super discreet about it. And there’s also just absolutely no titanium in Ravka. Sigh.

Did I still immensely enjoy seeing Kaj, Jesper and Wylan though? Yes, yes I did. Wesper has my whole heart and Kaz is a big simp for Inej and I love them all.

David kostyck

Why? Just why?? Killing David off purely for shock value is awful, and not only that but a few hours after his wedding?? Genya has been through enough and then you take her person away. I hated it, I wanted her to be happy. David’s death was completely unnecessary and only put on there to add a shock value. Which, admittedly was effective because I definitely was shocked, but not at all in a good way.

So my final verdict is that this book would have been much stronger if the main focus was just on Nicolai and Zoya and we didn’t have so many side plots. I would even be okay with one or two of the side plots we got but not all of them.

I hope this isn’t the last time we see these characters because I don’t want to leave the Grishaverse in a disappointed note. The ending makes me feel like there will be a third Six of Crows book so that makes me hopeful (but also scared because this woman better not kill of one of the crows, I will never read again).

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