Wednesday 6 October 2021
#CBR13 Book 40: "Rule of Wolves" by Leigh Bardugo
Page count: 598 pages
Audio book length: 17 hrs 44 mins
Rating: 4.5 stars
CBR13 Bingo: Fauna (dragon, wolf, falcon and fox on the cover)
In this second part of the King of Scars duology, the stakes are ridiculously high, pretty much as soon as we start off. The book starts pretty much immediately after the end of King of Scars, and if you're not caught up with all the books in the Grishaverse so far, this review will probably spoil things for you. Continue at your own risk.
Nikolai Lantsov has made some peace with the monster inside him, but one of his worst enemies just came back from the dead, the Shu empress wants him dead and is willing to sacrifice her own sister to ensure this goal, the Fjerdans are ready to declare war on him, and the woman he loves seems more out of reach than ever.
Zoya is mightily sick of war, and casualties, and losing loved ones to pointless conflicts. She will nevertheless fight until her last dying breath to defend Ravka, the Grisha, and her king. A king who will have to make a successful and strategic marriage alliance to help strengthen Ravka in the conflicts they are facing, both internal and external. She's also tormented by the return of someone she believed was dead and gone, and it's not helping her keep calm and rational, as appropriate for a general facing war on multiple fronts.
Nina is still wearing another woman's face and working with the daughter of her enemy to spy on the Fjerdans. She's trying to persuade the Fjerdan people that the Grisha are not the dangerous threats that the Witch-hunters paint them to be, and find out as many state secrets as possible to aid her king and general in the rapidly-approaching war. She's not at all happy when it seems like the best way to discover more of Fjerda's invasion plans involves her loyal friend Hanne Brum's prolonged flirtation with and possible betrothal to the spoiled and unstable Fjerdan crown prince.
I'm trying not to reveal too much of the plot here, and these books really have a lot going on. I love Nikolai, Zoya, Nina, and the rest of the numerous cast of these books so much and should probably go back and give the Shadow and Bone trilogy another chance. Now that I know where the story ends up going, I may have more patience for the setup and Bardugo learning her writing craft, which she is now excellent at. There is so much happening in this duology, and if it ever makes it to the screen (who knows how much money Netflix is willing to fork out for YA fantasy?) it's going to make for spectacular entertainment.
This book had me in parts laughing, crying, biting my nails (both figuratively and literally), and quietly sighing with relief. There are cameos from several of the gang from the Six of Crows duology, as well as more time spent with series favourites from Ravka. I've always been incredibly impressed with Bardugo's world-building, and now that the focus isn't on Alina and Mal (I just could not with those two drips) I pretty much adore everyone I'm reading about, while thoroughly loathing the villains.
Lauren Fortgang, who seems to be Bardugo's audiobook narrator of choice, continues to do an excellent job here, and while the audiobook is long, I kept finding new excuses to listen, even when I was at home. I don't know whether Bardugo has plans to continue writing in her wonderful Grishaverse, the ending of this book could suggest that, maybe, if we're lucky, there are more adventures to come at some point in the future.
Judging a book by its cover: While the cover for King of Scars was all golden, this one is all silver. The beautiful woodcut effect is continued here, with the big tree in the centre of the cover probably being one of the trees holy to the Fjerdans (the metaphorical wolves of the title). There's also a number of carved animals, all representing various characters or nations in the story, very cleverly done.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.