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.
There was never any question that I was not gonna pick this up on the day of the release. Grishaverse is probably my favorite fictional world and I have waiting to jump back into it. The anticipation for the Netflix show in a couple of weeks only hyped me up more. To be honest, I don’t know what kind of expectations I had from this book – which is possibly the last one in this world – but it only left me happy, and I guess that’s enough.
If I am being truthful, this book is definitely not up to the same standard as some wonderful debuts I’ve read recently, but that is also not why I was looking forward to reading this one. After more than an year of feeling awful and sometimes wanting to give up, returning to this world was more of a comfort and I love it for reminding me so much of those better days from the past. I have always loved Leigh’s writing for making me feel thoroughly emotionally attached to the characters and it was no different this time around.
The plot itself may not be a strong point because there are too many POVs; a story spanning three kingdoms, their prejudices and their desire for world domination; too many political moves and countermoves where no one’s trust is confirmed – I think this would have made for a much more powerful story if we could spend enough time savoring and processing the various subplots, twists, and cons. It just felt very rushed at parts, some significant events happened off page which lessened my reactions to them, and because of all this, I will never stop wishing this was a trilogy instead so we could have gotten a more tight knit story. But I also have to commend the author for giving us a more detailed look into two more kingdoms and their cultures, and now I feel like I have a much more comprehensive appreciation for the Grishaverse. And despite whatever complaints I may have, I also didn’t wanna keep the book down and read almost three quarters of it in a single sitting. I also listened to the audiobook for a while and it was a good companion, the full cast of wonderful narrators reminding me how much I love the audios of the SOC duology.
But this review will be incomplete if I don’t talk about the characters because they have always been the strength of these books. My disappointment with the fact that this is called Nikolai’s duology when he is probably the one main character who gets the least POV chapters, will never leave me. But the author made me completely fall in love with Zoya who was definitely not someone I liked in the trilogy, and for that I will always be amazed at the writing skill. This is really her story – how a child abandoned by her family and taken in by the Darkling found refuge in the small science; how she learned to cultivate fear in others so that she would never feel powerless; how the betrayal by her trusted mentor traumatized her and hardened her heart to love forever; and how she emerges from all of this with a profound love for her friends and her people, and a desire to do anything possible to secure peace, even at the cost of her own heart.
Going hand in hand with her through this process is my beloved Nik, whose abiding love for his country and people and his desire to see a peaceful and prosperous Ravka, made me emotional so many times. Even with a monster inside him, and rumors about his parentage leading to many a disdainful exchanges with others, he remains steadfast in his goal, fighting against all odds, never abandoning hope. The Crows as an ensemble may be my favorites, but Nikolai will always have a special place in my heart. And his beautiful, angsty, full of yearning relationship with Zoya is my favorite part of this book. My only complaint is that there were so few scenes of them together.
Nina’s story felt quite disconnected to the main plot in King of Scars, but it was much more significant this time around and I liked how it connected to the overall war with Ravka. I was also finally able to feel engaged with her relationship with Hanne. Both of them had some of the riskiest tasks to accomplish in the story and while I was quite excited to see them be successful, it all did feel a tad bit too convenient at times.
The Darkling is obviously back but I don’t wanna talk much about him because I still don’t know how to feel about him. I absolutely adored his character in the trilogy and sobbed when he died, but I did realize over time with multiple rereads that he will always remain a gaslighting mass murderer despite all the love we readers have for him. And despite whatever happens to him in this story and his character arc, that truth never changes and he remains incapable of repenting.
And of course, I can’t not mention how much delight and comfort I found in meeting so many of favorite old characters, even if only for a short glimpse. I am very sure some readers will complain that this was unnecessary fanservice or set up for new books in the world, but I was literally giggling with happiness when each of them showed up and I’m glad the author did it.
I don’t know how to end this review, because much like the open ending of this book, I feel conflicted – happy because the endings for each of the characters was quite interesting and unexpected (even if a bit convenient); but also sad at the prospect that I may not meet them again. There was also one character death which I didn’t see coming at all and I still wish it hadn’t happened. In conclusion, I thought this was a good end point for the Grishaverse – each kingdom having a significant change in the mindset of the rulers, which leaves us with hope for peace in the future. And that is probably what I was looking for in this book. I know I will definitely revisit this world because that’s the power of nostalgia, but for now, all I can do is eagerly wait for April 23rd and a Shadow and Bone binge watch.