Title: Rule of Wolves
Series: King of Scars #2
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Published: March 30th, 2021 (Imprint)
Synopsis: 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.
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.
Ravka is at war. As Nikolai continues to deal with the demon within him, the Fjerdans prepare to invade, but the return of the Darkling poses an even larger threat. Deep undercover in the Fjerdan court, Nina is able to finally access information that could be vital to the war effort. With the spirit of Juris inside her, Zoya must accept her past to become the weapon Ravka needs to survive the war.
What did I just read? I am fully aware of just how heavily biased I am when it comes to Leigh Bardugo’s books, which is why it has taken me this long to post this review, after revising both the wording and the rating several times. Rule of Wolves was perhaps my most anticipated book this year, especially given the ending of King of Scars, and I practically had a place reserved on my best of year list for it, but this was a letdown to say the least. To be honest, the only reason I even gave it a 3.5 star rating was because despite the many problems this book had, I still enjoyed reading it – or atleast parts of it. Mild spoilers ahead because I am far too frustrated with this book to revise this any further.
“None of this had been fated; none of it foretold. There had been no prophecies of a demon king or a dragon queen, a one-eyed Tailor, Heartrender twins. They were just the people who had shown up and managed to survive.
But maybe that was the trick of it: to survive, to dare to stay alive, to forge your own hope when all hope had run out.”
Most of this review is going to be me complaining about how disappointed I am with this book, but before I start, let me talk about what I liked. The writing was as spectacular as ever and it did have some beautiful moments, including the long awaited Nikolai and Zoya pairing that finally happened. It’s always a pleasure to return to the world of the GrishaVerse, and I think Rule of Wolves is the book in the entire series where we get such an expansive view of both the world and the many different factions with something happening literally on every front. The ongoing politics, with Fjerdans looking to invade and the Shu Han plot that was revealed in the last book, plus Kerch and the Zemeni getting involved as well, was handled perfectly. Nikolai’s parentage is openly being called into question by multiple parties and being used as a justification for the invasion of Ravka and the war. Equally good, I felt, was Nina’s arc. Where her being undercover in Fjerda in King of Scars didn’t feel too important, it plays a major role this time as she has successfully made a place for herself in Brum’s own household, as a companion to his daughter Hanne, a Grisha herself. Now placed at the heart of the Fjerdan court, Nina is in a position to really help Ravka in the war.
“The world might crumble, but Nikolai Lantsov would be holding up the ceiling with one hand and plucking a speck of dirt from his lapel with the other when it all went to ruin.”
Here’s the thing though: this is supposed to be Nikolai’s series. But he gets so little time in this book that it makes it really hard to appreciate his political genius and ingenuity and he was completely overshadowed, which upsets me because he is hands down my favourite character. Zoya’s arc was fantastic and her character development from Shadow and Bone to this point has been so beautifully written. However, Zoya being Suli felt forced as there was no hint of it beforehand. Also, Zoya turning into a dragon was just taking things one step too far and it was an unnecessary deus ex machina that solved 90% of the conflict in a matter of minutes.
There were so many POVs in this book that it took away the focus from the main characters of this series – Nikolai and Zoya, who didn’t have nearly as many chapters of page time as they deserved. Mayu’s and the Monk’s chapters were interesting, but unnecessary. Bringing the Crows back in made for a couple of fun chapters with the crew, but with so much else going on, it felt like complete fan service, and it wasn’t even remotely subtle, seeing as nothing really came after that to make the entire sequence relevant at all.
Bringing back the Darkling at the end of King of Scars, was a masterstroke and I was so excited to see how it was going to play out. However, with how that unfolded in this book, it was such a waste of an amazing character. I kept waiting for something to happen that would justify his return, some major plot twist, but it never came and it felt like Leigh brought him back just to make a point. Watching the Shadow and Bone TV show was honestly like therapy after this book because it was so good to see the Darkling being…well, the Darkling and not this pale imitation that we were presented with in this book.
As for that ending…on one hand, Nikolai’s actions logically made sense, but on the other, he was so heroic in this book and led his army with courage and selflessness and he would make for an amazing king – and with all he has sacrificed for Ravka, it would make more sense for the people to accept him regardless of him not having Lantsov blood. Also, what happened to the demon? It’s still in Nikolai and it’s seemingly not going anywhere so how is that not a major problem? Either way, there should have been more of a build up to it rather than what amounted to a political summit that consisted all of a few chapters and a rushed conclusion. Nina’s ending on the other hand, was so out of character. Is she really just going to give up her appearance, identity, home and all her friends for the rest of her life just to be with Hanne, a relationship that was never properly developed in the first place?
Overall, this could have been a much stronger book if it had been stripped down to focus on a single plotline. Ravka being at war and Nikolai trying to handle conflicts on multiple fronts with both Fjerda and Shu Han up to their own schemes would have been more than enough for a stellar book. In the end, I felt that trying to include too much was what resulted in this rather disappointing read that was definitely not up to standard. There is a clear thread left open that could develop into a third Six of Crows novel – I really hope it doesn’t though, that series is perfect and with Matthias dead and Nina nowhere near Ketterdam as of the end of this book (plus Inej doing her own thing), it’ll be quite the feat to recreate the magic again. But for fans of the Grishaverse, I would still say it’s a must read, if only to say goodbye to some beloved characters.
Have you read this book? Let me know in the comments below!
Other reviews in this series: