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.
The monster is me, I am the monster.
It has taken me about a week to gather all of my thoughts and feelings for this book so that I could write a review that actually made sense. Leigh Bardugo has done it again in regards to delivering a read that was almost impossible for me to put down. I took on this book as a buddy read over on my Instagram and it was the best choice I could have made for my first of many buddy reads I’ll be organizing. I am obsessed with the universe that Bardugo has created and with each book that she releases, I find myself becoming more and more immersed in all that it has to offer.
This book is written in the perspectives of multiple characters (like Bardugo did with Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom). I wasn’t sure if I would necessarily like this approach when I first picked this up because I was ready to read a book all about Nikolai (can you blame me?) But I am so glad that she wrote it this way. It drew me even further into the story, made me interested in all of the different plots that are going on and pulled on my heartstrings on so many occasions. There are plot twists after plot twists that left me on the edge of my seat. AND THAT ENDING THOUGH!!!!
Overall I think its safe for me to say that this book is my favorite out of the entire Grishaverse so far and I cannot wait for the next book to be announced and released!
And now I’m going to break down all of my thoughts, so if you don’t want spoilers – please turn back now!
I absolutely loved the fact that she had so many different plots going. In the beginning, I had a hard time figuring out how on Earth she was going to tie them together but by the end of the book it all started to make sense and only left me wanting more. Especially considering the freaking cliffhanger she left us on. THE DARKLING IS BACK?!?! I’m so interested in seeing where everything goes from here and how it effects everyone at the Little Palace and what that means for Nikolai.
I don’t even know where to start with all of the thoughts I’m having regarding this book. Nikolai has managed to steal my heart even more than he already had, with his witty banter and the struggle between him and his monster. I love that the phrase “The monster is me, I am the monster.” created this theme throughout the entire book and proved to be true by the end of it. I hope that in the next book we see Nikolai claim this part of himself and I hope that in the process some healing can be accomplished.
Zoya was an absolute Queen in this book and I’ll be upset if nothing comes out of the tension and flirtations between her and Nikolai (since he went all intelligent diplomat on us and got himself engaged to the Shu princess). I loved that we finally got to see a vulnerable side to her and that Juris had her work through everything in order to reach that full potential. I’m SUPER interested in seeing the conversation between her and Nikolai regarding the fact that she became the dragon and what that entails. Some of my favorite quotes for this book happened to be in Zoya’s chapters. Like: “Have I chosen a weakling?” and Zoya coming right back with: “Or maybe just a girl who knows how to look like one.” Honestly Zoya is freaking goals and I’m excited to see more from her as a character! Amazing General, I love.
And then my girl Nina. Her chapters broke my heart in the beginning because I jumped right into King of Scars after Crooked Kingdom with Matthias’ death still very fresh. I cried all over again multiple times because I loved him and the way that Bardugo writes grief is so raw and real and upsetting. I love that she has learned to own her power and she is a complete boss when it comes to using it. Like come one, getting called the Corpsewitch is awesome. Talk about one heck of a title! The only issues I really had with Nina’s chapters happened to be Hanne. I didn’t connect with her as much as I do most of the underlying characters and I hope that changes with the next book because I’m all about strong women. I also didn’t like the vibes of a relationship blossoming since she had literally just buried Matthias (but again, his death was super fresh for me so maybe if I had waited, I would have felt differently.) Although I absolutely loved the plot twist that Hanne was Brumm’s daughter and am stoked to see how they take on the Ice Court.
I also want to touch a little bit on Isaak. I predicted that the princess wasn’t actually the princess and I’m very upset how it ended up playing out (even if it made sense). Isaak deserved better and I wish he would have survived and could have had that happily ever after. Also have to note Isaak saying that Zoya “could wither a man’s balls just by raising a brow” because it was iconic.
And then just a few other notes: Nina hearing Matthias before she laid him to rest broke my heart. And the fact that she heard him calling her Little Red Bird had me in tears. Even if it wasn’t actually him speaking to her but her dealing with her grief. Elizaveta is a snake and I called it when she was first introduced. Buttering up Nikolai by constantly referring to him as her King. GET OUTTA HERE WITH THAT. Nine year old Zoya’s story was very sad but I enjoyed the fact that she hissed at the old man she was supposed to be married to and that her powers appeared during that awful wedding scene. The cult of the Starless are so not okay in my book considering what all the Darkling did (and before you come at me, I LOVE THE DARKLING but homeboy doesn’t deserve to become a Saint). David and Genya are freaking cuties. And last but definitely not least, Trassel coming to help Nina was the perfect touch.
A few quotes I loved:
“It’s not exciting if nothing can go wrong.” pg. 159
“Fear is a phoenix. You can watch it burn a thousand times and still it will return.” pg. 175
“You say exile, I say extended holiday.” pg. 180
“Desperation makes people do ugly things, and it is always the girls who suffer first.” pg. 186
“We hope or we falter.” pg. 188
“Hope was the wind that came from nowhere to fill your sails and carry you home.” pg. 206
“You do not use it. You are it. The storm is in your bones.” pg. 312
“Most women suffer thorns for the sake of the flowers. But we who would wield power adorn ourselves in flowers to hide the sting of our thorns.” pg. 387
“He left his mark on me and I on him. We did each other damage. It deserves to be remembered.” pg. 413
“One could plot violent espionage and still hope for dessert.” pg. 416
“Stop punishing yourself for being someone with a heart. You cannot protect yourself from suffering. To live is to grieve. You are not protecting yourself by shutting yourself off from the world.” pg. 464
“They would build a new world together. But first they had to burn the old one down.” pg. 500