First off, before you budge your eyes an iota further…
SPOILERS GALORE. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS GALORE. IF YOU HAVEN’T FINISHED KoS OR THE ORIGINAL TRILOGY, THOU. SHALT. NOT. PASS.
(And before you fellow Grisha nuts go further on this article, check out the minor edits I made at the bottom of my last Grishaverse post! 😉 )
I know, I know, it HAS been a while. But between stuff, and getting a new job, I finally got my Illumicrate KoS box a couple weeks ago, and, let me tell you, that live video unboxing was simply glorious. And, due to nerves, I positively could not wait to delve into King of freaking Scars. Regardless of it being a “special limited edition” (It’s a book. Books are meant to be read. End of discussion.). I holed up myself in my room-cave like the hermit I am, made myself a blanket-fort out of chairs, extra blankets, my bed, dresser, desk, and clothespins. And holed myself inside with pillows, plushies of both Nik and the Darkling, chocolate, and of course MY PRECIOUS.
It should strike you by now that I’m no noob when it comes to this. (I mean, been anticipating this book, let alone the SERIES, for a year or so!)
I finished KoS in a mere two days.
And again, in case the first warning did not sink in, there WILL BE SPOILERS for it down below. Because REASONS.
Anyways. Ahem. *clears throat*
What Needed Work/Improvement, etc. in KoS:
- The whole political thingy. My acquaintance, Dani, thought Nik did not care about politics, unlike in R&R. My reaction? “Uh, EXCUSE ME, have you READ S&S? HALF of that was political, Alina doing politics with Nikolai!” We only get a glimpse of Nik’s political life and thoughts in the originals; KoS was much more in-depth about it (understandably so– he is basically a charismatic politician, a king). It was so much more deeply grounded in politics, I actually lost train of thought, at times— Nik is THAT brilliant when it comes to politics (whereas, Alina– she’s kind of a noob, lol.). I understood why Leigh did that, but it was trickier for me to follow, even though I did take PoliSci recently, my last semester in college. And where’s the backstory on the foul Nik poetry she promised us??? *chants* FOUL. NIK. POETRY. FOUL. NIK. POETRY.
2. The whole Saint thing. OK, so so-called “saints,” are actually real? And still living? AND you just kinda randomly plop some black-but-invisible castle WITH AN ACTUAL DRAGGO in the middle of the barren Fold to house them? I really, really don’t get that at all. Like, there was no real explanation for it, was just kinda sudden, unexpected (not all unexpected things are bad, but given no explanation for this, it kinda was), and random for me.
What I LOVED about KoS (least to most):
- The deeper insight to some characters’ backstories. We learn Nik is actually secretly insecure (very ENTP, might I add), often hiding behind a show of charisma and bravado, which was only hinted at in the original trilogy. (He also admitted to having a bit of feeling towards Alina, so we know that almost-kiss was NOT fake. We see a glimpse of this insecurity when he squirms uncomfortably at Alina initially calling his personality-shifting, “creepy.”) We find Zoya has some similar insecurities, but, contrary to what many men think of her, she does not have a hidden, “soft side.” However, she does have a strong sense of loyalty, duty, and justice, which drives her moral compass, and is something to admire. (I mean, at the beginning of the book she stands up to Vol-Nik and protects a lil kid against him, even giving the kid a few extra coins to keep silent about what he saw– VERY much an ESTJ’s Inferior Fi.) Additionally, I love the development between her and Nik. They are both used to charming (Nik) or physically attracting (Zoya) anyone they want, but with each other, it’s like a constant bantersome tug-of-war. They help each other, they want each other, but circumstances and other factors prevent them from getting what they REALLY want. I can’t help but think of that innocuous phrase by Zoya when discussing Nik back in Ruin and Rising, “I would make a magnificent queen.” I never would have thought of that as foreshadowing, but apparently so…
2. The Cult of the Starless Saint. Admittedly, yes, I am a Christian. Admittedly, yes, it did bother me at Bardugo’s improper usage of the term “saints,” and what it actually means (it actually refers to Christians in general), while she emphasized a kind of martyrdom saint-worship in some of her books. (Guessing in her book, saints are good people who’re blessed miracle-workers and/or Grisha to be idolized…) But, if I was not a Christian (HAHAHAHAHAHA), and if this were an actual thing, I think, quite honestly, this would be one “saint cult,” I’d be TEMPTED to join (note: not ACTUALLY join, xD)– the Cult of the Starless one. Remember when, back in the SaB Trilogy, there was a Sun Summoner cult? Well, a parallel cult’s popped up here; they want to make THE DARKLING into an official, miracle-working saint. Nope. Not kidding. And their base is the former Unsea, where he first tampered with merzost, creating a literal place of darkness because HE TRIED TO GIVE HIMSELF MOROZOVA’S AMPLIFIERS. Hurrah. (LOL.) Truth be told, I’m actually theorizing that such a following was likely inspired by Darkling fangirls, at least in part. Even though I was unable to actually make the KoS tour, I would obsessively watch the FierceReads and Leigh’s Instagram Story snippets for even just a glimpse of what it was like. In one of the Q&A, it was entirely fan questions for Leigh to answer, which I loved; one of the questions videotaped that she answered was, “Did you ever picture a different ending for the Darkling [at the end of R&R]?” Her reply? “*awkward look* He was always gonna bite it, soooo… Next?” However, this leads into the next “I Loved KoS” point beautifully, becaaaaauuuuusssseee, as we ALL remember from the famous quote from Siege and Storm…
That’s right, y’all.
3. I. WAS. RIGHT. I cannot express enough how many times I theorized about this. About all the breadcrumbs Leigh left us– Baghra explicitly stating that the Darkling was an expert at faking his death and rising again, Leigh saying that there were a lot of uncertainties at the end of R&R (including certain deaths that were not necessarily forever), the Darkling making a prequel casual appearance as the half-brother of one of Leigh’s MCs from TLoT (HIS SYMBOL OUTRIGHT APPEARS ON SEVERAL PAGES), Leigh stating in another, more private interview, to answer the question of him faking his death at the end of R&R, just like Alina did, she would quote Nikolai and say, “When people say “impossible,” they usually mean, “improbable.”” (Btw, Leigh REFERENCED said interview at the end of the book by HAVING Nikolai say that!) Added to the fact that Leigh specifically directs our attentions TO the point when Alina takes notice of the Darkling’s corpse, wondering who tended it, who neatly combed his hair back, etc, before the pyre is set alight. Like the Zoya quote above, I do not believe she would lead us astray with a meaningless, innocuous gesture in her books. Additionally, I thought there was a connection with the shadow-beast inside Nikolai– because when the Darkling seemingly perished, Nik turned from beast back to man more permanently (for the time being), and the Fold was somewhat restored. But in KoS, he starts to SWITCH BETWEEN being a man and being a beast; I knew that much before I started reading, and thought, “If the Darkling DIED and Nik became a man again, but Nik is now starting to slowly turn back into a shadow beastie, there MUST be some connection with REVIVING the Darkling!” Some of my friends thought I was crazy. Some of them thought he wanted to die, because he was alone in the world, Alina no longer had her powers (and thus, was no longer like him), and because Baghra speculated that most Grisha of great power chose to end their own lives, because they would keep living with no end, while many friends and family members would die of old age. One rubbed this in my face, and another disowned the original trilogy in part because of his death. But still, I held out hope.
And guess what? That hope, towards the end and AT the end of KoS, was rewarded, tenfold.
I’m not going to say how, or why, or what happens. Just that I really, really, really, REALLY can’t wait for book 2. Even though, throughout KoS, Leigh tried to dampen my glee for his grand return with (albeit truthful) awful remarks and reminders from various characters on all the cruelty and damage the Darkling inflicted on them (Genya, Zoya and Nik were a couple of these); Nik even remembers him as being, “petty.”
But I will say this: At the end of KoS, it almost felt like one big, “happy” reunion of nearly the entire cast of the SaB trilogy (minus Alina and Mal-ware. Naturally.). I was basically rejoicing and fangirling. HARD. CORE.
If you’ve read King of Scars and been keeping up with the Grishaverse, what were some of your fave things about this story? What do you think could have been improved or clarified?
Oh, and here’s a little something extra for y’all that consistently made me think of KoS… In more than one way. 😉