The monster is me and I am the monster.
What Ravka’s king – Nikolai Lantsov – has endured during the civil war and the repercussions of those events are a highly guarded secret, but it may not stay a secret for much longer. Because the monster doesn’t want to lay dormant anymore. It wants out.
I have always been a fan of Bardugo’s writing style. Yet she still, somehow, keeps on improving with every single novel. I honestly didn’t think that it was possible for this book to have even better writing than Six of Crows, but I was terribly wrong. Her style hasn’t changed, but I felt like in this book her ability to convey emotions has significantly improved. And since this book is so dark, it made it a little challenging to read. It was emotionally draining to experience so many dark feelings and heavy thoughts. But I can’t say that I didn’t love it. I love when the book is able to burrow itself so deep inside my soul. It’s a very unique experience.
It’s a book about Nikolai Lantsov aka the character that saved the entire Grisha trilogy. So I really have nothing bad to say. I loved seeing this more mature, grown-up version of Nikolai. He’s still his charming self, but he has definitely grown from his experiences and everything he went through had a huge impact on him. He’s certainly not a teenage boy anymore.
I wasn’t sure if I would like Zoya in this book, but I actually enjoyed her POV a lot. I think what made me like her in the first place was her banter with Nikolai. These two characters have amazing chemistry. But honestly, she turned out to be much more than just a sidekick with witty one-liners. Getting to know the real Zoya was a true pleasure and I ended up relating to her the most.
And Nina! Nina’s POV nearly broke me at the beginning of this novel. I was sobbing before I even reached page 150. She’s still struggling with everything that happened in Crooked Kingdom and it was really hard to witness. But she’s an incredibly strong and resilient person and I adore that about her. Also, I am not ashamed to admit that when she said “no mourners” I nearly burst into tears.
The truth is, Bardugo is able to make me care for someone before I even read 5 pages about them. She creates characters that feel incredibly real, even when we know close to nothing about them.
This book doesn’t have a steady pace, but it’s definitely on the slower side. It takes a lot of time for everything to be set into place, with only occassional bursts of action-packed moments. But the last 150-200 pages are absolutely insane.
Even though Nikolai’s story is the most important, after a while I started caring much more about what was happening to Nina. The factory plot was incredibly investing and it gave me all of the Six of Crows vibes. I loved it.
And the ending? Can we talk about the ending? I WOULD NEVER expect something like that to happen. But I can’t wait to see what is going to come out of it.
It’s an amazing book. It was everything I ever hoped it would be. But if you want to read it before finishing all of the previous Grishaverse books, I would strongly advise you to reconsider. This book’s whole foundation is based on the events of the previous novels and that means that a) you are going to have absolutely no context and b) it’s filled with spoilers.
But honestly, that’s also what I loved about his book. It brought up so many memories and feelings from the previous books. It made me feel incredibly nostalgic, in the best way possible.
Content warnings: substance use, addiction, pregnancy