Spoiler warning! While this is the start of a new series, it does follow on directly from Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy and her Six of Crows duology. While you will understand the plot fine if you haven’t read the previous books, you WILL be spoiled for events in both series. Spoilers may also appear in this review. Proceed at your own risk.
From Goodreads, because I finished the audiobook two months ago (sigh):
Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.
Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.
Nikolai Lantsov is the young and struggling King of Ravka, a country still reeling from the effects of its brutal civil war. It’s clear that Ravka will need powerful allies to help rebuild the country and to protect it from possible invasion by other neighbouring countries, and the best way to do that would be for Nikolai to marry. However, kept secret from everyone but Nikolai’s most trusted advisors is the fact that since the end of the war, he’s been possessed by a darkness, that is now more and more often manifesting as a fierce and savage creature. It’s only a matter of time before the creature kills someone when it takes over and roams the countryside. Nikolai is determined to get rid of the possession and searches Ravka for a cure, accompanied only by his magically gifted general, the cynical Zoya Nazyalensky and a young monk who believes the Darkling is now a saint, whose miracles are appearing all over Ravka.
In another plot strand, we follow Nina Zenik, mourning the death of her beloved Mathias, on a deep cover mission for the king, trying to locate and rescue Grisha in the hostile Fjerda. She literally needs to lay her beloved to rest, while serving her king and homeland, and come to terms with the new abilities she appears to be developing.
Full review on my blog.