This was actually a really great ending (for now?), except for this one thing that I hated. It also managed to change my mind about several things I thought I didn’t like about the last book, and several plot twists took me completely by surprise, both of which are quite the feats!
This review won’t make sense, and I’m not even going to try to make it make sense, if you haven’t read the previous books in this series and Six of Crows. Just a warning! Also, I’m going to spoil things (with spoiler tags, of course).
So first, the thing I hated! SPOILERS SHE FUCKING KILLED DAVID! AND IN THE MOST INSULTING WAY POSSIBLE! Ugh. I love Leigh Bardugo, I really do, but she does NOT know how to write death scenes for beloved characters. In fact, her entire impulse to kill these characters in the first place is something I take issue with. David didn’t need to die. And even though I like what has come out of it (more on this below), neither did Matthias. And David certainly didn’t need to die in a bombing attack in the middle of his wedding celebration. What the fuck, how manipulative can you get! Boooo. BOOOOOOOO END SPOILERS.
And now the things that surprised me, and managed to change my mind.
Firstly, the Darkling. SPOILERS I am (not so) famously un-fond of that character, and I was so happy when he died, and so very unhappy when he un-died last book. BUT! To my surprise, this is the first book where I have actually enjoyed him as a character, and I think that the ending Bardugo gives him here is a much more fitting and satisfying one than he got in the original trilogy. (Nobody deserves being killed by Book Mal; TV show Mal is charming and compelling, where book Mal has the texture and flavor of wet saltines.) END SPOILERS
Secondly, Zoya! SPOILERS Of course she is queen now. She’s a much better queen than Nikolai was a king, though I’m glad they end up together. They are the epitome of the grumpy person/sunshine person romance trope. END SPOILERS It’s been over a month now since I read this so my memory of the Zoya and Nikolai sections has faded a little, since they weren’t my favorite, but I remember liking them. I liked the whole book! Except for that one part I hated.
Thirdly! Nina. I know people are responding badly to her storyline, but I honestly can’t see it. I loved her storyline. SPOILERS Her espionage activity was exceedingly competent, and that alone is refreshing in a YA book, characters being politically competent. And I also really liked where she ended up. Her relationship with Hanne was interesting to me, although I never really shipped it, not even close to how I felt when Nina was with Matthias (I MISS HIM) but I liked so much about what her storyline was that it didn’t matter to me. (I did really like how Hanne’s gender fluidity, or transness, I think he’s a trans man? was portrayed. They don’t have the words for that in the Grishaverse, but that’s mostly how it comes across. Trans-masc at any rate, nonbinary at minimum.)
Mostly what I liked about Nina’s story is that it was a moving portrayal of what it’s like to move on after grieving for a lost partner. Everyone grieves differently, and Nina grieves by helping Fjerda; even if she can’t have Matthias himself, she can help his country to be better, which is what he wanted at the end. Nina is still mourning Matthias, and part of her always will be, but she can love Hanne, too, and in a different way. It did slightly bother me that she would have to be in disguise for the rest of her life, but that’s quibbles. I also really loved what Hanne ended up doing with the prince. I thought the prince was a thorny but interesting character, and he embodies what the restrictive, bigoted culture of Fjerda can turn a person into. What Hanne did was morally and ethically ambiguous at best, but in story terms, and in my terms, it’s great. What a sneaky, trickster, ironic way of dealing with that character, and turning everything he stood for on its head END SPOILERS.
The Shu plot was also interesting; we should have had more of that in the last book! But I appreciated what was here. I also for once really liked all the action and battle scenes. They were clearly written and had great emotionally stakes.
All in all, this book ended up being a success for me, and actually elevated my opinion of King of Scars. I have a lot more opinions, some of which I’ve forgotten, but this is a good stopping place.