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“King of Scars” by Leigh Bardugo

Leigh Bardugo’s King of Scars is the first installment of the Nikolai Duology, a series set in the world of Ravka from her popular Grisha Trilogy. It follows Nikolai Lantsov, the recently crowned king of Ravka, as he navigates the aftermath of a civil war and struggles with a dangerous magical affliction.

This fantasy novel delivers an interesting exploration of identity and power, as well as plenty of intense action and clever world-building.

Plot Summary

King of Scars centers on Nikolai Lantsov, a young king who has just won a civil war but is still struggling to come to terms with his role as ruler. On top of that, he must deal with an infestation of monsters known as Volcra that have been plaguing Ravka since his father’s reign and that have recently become even more powerful.

As if these problems weren’t enough to worry about, Nikolai has also been afflicted by a powerful magical entity called Morozova’s Stigma that is slowly consuming him from the inside out. To save himself and his kingdom, he must find a way to control this entity or else risk becoming consumed by it completely.

Along the way, he meets up with old friends and makes new ones, all while attempting to protect Ravka from internal threats as well as external ones.

Setting & Characters

King of Scars is set in the fictional kingdom of Ravka from Bardugo’s Grishaverse series. This world combines elements from Russian folklore and culture with traditional fantasy elements such as magic users, monsters, and mythical creatures.

The characters are all well-developed and unique in their own ways, particularly Nikolai Lantsov who is struggling with his newfound title and how it affects him personally. Other characters include:

  • Zoya Nazyalensky who is struggling to find her place in this new world
  • Nina Zenik who is determined to make her own path despite what others may think
  • Genya Safin who must choose between love and loyalty
  • Ivan Ellinikov who is trying to reclaim his family’s lost honor
  • Adrik Zhabynsky whose past holds secrets which could be both helpful and harmful
  • Kirigan (formerly known as The Darkling) whose mysterious presence brings danger everywhere he goes

and many more memorable characters who help make the story more engaging.

Theme & Writing Style

The central theme in King of Scars revolves around identity and power: Who are you really? And how can you use your power for good? This theme is explored through numerous characters and their respective storylines which intertwine together brilliantly throughout the course of the novel.

Bardugo’s writing style successfully captures this theme through vivid descriptions, engaging dialogue, intense action sequences, thought-provoking scenes regarding morality / ethics / politics / etc, intriguing plot twists / reveals which keep readers guessing until the very end.

All these elements combined create an intensely compelling story that pulls readers into its world like no other fantasy novel out there can claim to do.


Overall, King Of Scars by Leigh Bardugo provides readers with an exciting adventure full of fascinating characters and compelling themes that will stay with them long after they finish reading it. It’s an immensely enjoyable read for any fan of fantasy or anyone looking for something new to try out!

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