***Possible Spoilers from this book and the previous Grishaverse novels***
In King of Scars is the perfect mix of the previous two series in the Grishaverse. It has the mystery and court intrigue of Shadow and Bone and the caper mystery of Six of Crows. In a way it’s two different novels. You have King Nikolai who is trying to save Ravka from falling apart while trying to vanquish the monster from within. Left over power from the Darkling. Then you have Nina, who has returned to Ravka’s service by helping to smuggle Grisha from neighboring nation Fjerda. She is also there to bury Matthais. Nina is still dealing with the aftereffects of the Parem addiction and how it has changed her powers. While at the moment these two story lines don’t have a lot in common, you can bet it will all come together in the end. Nikolai is just as charming as he has always been, even with the world seemingly against him. His country is struggling financially and in between two powerful nations. He’s trying to do everything he can to keep them afloat while avoiding another war. To complicate things more, he’s turning into a monster, thanks to the power the Darkling put on him during the last war. Nikolai has always come off as flippant and care free but his love for his country has never been in doubt. More proof of that is the lengths he will go to keep it safe, even from him. A welcome character development is Zoya. The beautiful but hard as nail Grisha from Shadow and Bone. In the past series, she was nothing more then the mean girl who wanted to be the best, the favorite. She did come around to Alina’s sign when the Darkling finally revealed who he was. Here we finally get to know her better and why she is so stand offish. As always there’s more then meets the eye and I found myself liking her, which is something I never really thought I would before. Meanwhile, Nina’s new power takes her mission to horrifying places. They may have destroyed the Fjerdian’s research on Jurda Parem in Six of Crows but apparently that strain wasn’t the only one they were working on. Nina organizes her own heist-like rescue to save more Grisha’s from a truly terrifying fate. I like how Nina is dealing with her grief. I like how she admits that she is not always the noblest of people and has thoughts of lashing out and being rash. It’s real and despite the pain, she hasn’t stopped. She still is out there fighting for the good. There were a lot of twists and turns in this one as you would expect from Leigh Bardugo. It was truly enjoyable and I can’t wait for the next one.
There are more twists and turns in this book then most streets. While Six of Crows took us to Fjerda and back, Crooked Kingdom stays firmly in Ketterdam. After Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Nina, Matthias and Wylan were double-crossed after successfully completing their job at the Ice Court. They plan and scheme to take down Jan Van Eck and get the money they were promised, all while hiding Kuwei Yul-Bo from those who would want to use him for his knowledge of the drug Parem Jurdo, that could change the balance of power to whoever has it. Taking on Van Eck will be no easy task when they are the considered the worse of worst and Van Eck is a highly powerful member of the Merchant Council with the power of the city behind him. Then again, Kaz is never outdone and will not stop until he has his vengeance on everyone who has ever wronged him. Just like the first novel , this is a heist story more then anything else. It would fit in perfectly next to Oceans Eleven if it were a movie. There are so many cons and slight of hands going on that if you are not paying attention, you will miss it. That’s just part of the fun of the book is trying to see if you can figure out Kaz’s master plan before the big reveal. He is always two or three steps ahead. Even when it looks like he’s been bested he already has several cons waiting in the wings, just in case. Each of these characters are deeply flawed but each given time to grow. You may not agree with their decisions but at the same time you can’t really disagree with them either. They use the resources and the circumstances that they find themselves in to their advantage. They are just six teenagers from the barrel and they are going best the powerful merchants at their own gain. You can’t help but cheer. For fans of the Grisha Series will be happy to see some old friends make an appearance that is most welcomed but also made perfect sense to the plot. I recommend this duology to anyone who likes a good heist novel. You’ll be on the edge of your seat.
If you loved Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series and you love crime capers then you are going to love Six of Crows. Set after the events of her last series but this time in Kerch, a country not far from Ravka, six criminals are tasked with a suicide mission that has little to no chance of being accomplished but the pay out is good. Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Nina, Matthias and Wylan are all flawed and interesting characters with varying degrees of criminal presents or pasts. Each bring their own set of skills that are vital to the mission. Inej, aka the Wraith, is a trained trapeze artist who can scale walls and quietly gather information. Jesper is a sharpshooter with a gambling problem, Nina is a Heartrender, who can kill you without even touching you. Matthias is a convict who is part of a religious society that hunts down Grisha. Wylan is the son of a rich merchant who likes to blow things up and Kaz is their mysterious leader. He worked his way up in the Barrel to rule but it’s all to get revenge on the man he blames for the death of his brother.
A new drug called Jurda Panem has been developed and it strenghtens Grisha powers to impossible powers. This could change the whole balance of the world. How can people defend against the Grisha if they have unchecked powers? Kaz is hired by the Merchant Councils to rescue the man who created it from a Fjerdian prison that is inescapable. Kaz goes about to assemble his team who don’t exactly get along but must work together if they are going to succeed or just survive. This story has so many plot twists and misdirections it’s like Oceans 11. You have to question everything you read because what you think is happening is not all that is really happening. It’s not just all the action that makes this book a good read. It’s the characters. They are all compelling and interesting with full backstories. All with the exception of Wylan who is the only one not to have a chapter written from his point of view. Probably because out of all them he’s the outsider of the group. He’s not a criminal and he’s not from the barrel. Kaz says he’s only there as leverage against the council and he knows how to blow things up but I think it’s more than that. I look forward to knowing more about him.
Matthias is a warrior who’s goal is eradicate the Grisha as he feels they are unnatural. It’s one thing to arrest and execute Grisha in one’s own country but it takes balls to go other countries, tracking down Grisha, capturing them and bringing them back to Fjerdia and then putting them on trial and executing them. He captured Nina but thanks to a storm she rescued him. In attempt to save his life again, she accuses him of slave trading but things go south when he is actually thrown in jail for it. Nina befriends some people (for lack of better term) to help get him out as she feels responsible. Inej was captured and sold to a pleasure house until Kaz came and made her apart of his gang. Now she’s his spy, the Wraith, but all she wants to do is go home and find her family. Jesper, a former farm boy who came to Kerch as a student and found gambling instead. He’s also hiding things, one being that he is also Grisha. I’m pretty sure I know another one of his secrets too. Let’s just say, I ship Jesper and Wylan, if you get my gist. Kaz is the most intriguing. Coming out of nowhere to being a major player in the Barrel. He’s smart and ruthless and more of a mystery than everyone. He’s hellbent on revenge against the man he believes is responsible to the death of his brother but he’s also a 17 year old boy so well, he has those annoying feelings to deal with.
So for fans of the Grisha series and Oceans 11 type movies this is the book for you. It’s fun, lots of action, lots of double dealings, backstabbing, mystery and potential romance.