• King of Scars

  • King of Scars Duology, Book 1
  • By: Leigh Bardugo
  • Narrated by: Lauren Fortgang
  • Length: 16 hrs and 13 mins
  • 4.6 out of 5 stars (5,914 ratings)

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King of Scars  By  cover art

King of Scars

By: Leigh Bardugo
Narrated by: Lauren Fortgang
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Publisher's summary

Face your demons...or feed them. 

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. 

Enter the Grishaverse with this new novel from number-one New York Times best-selling author Leigh Bardugo. 

"Deadly clever political intrigue, heart-stopping adventure, memorable characters, and several understated, hinted-at romances (how will we wait?!) come together in one glorious, Slavic-folklore infused package. Bardugo's star continues to rise." (Booklist, starred review)

©2019 Leigh Bardugo (P)2019 Audible, Inc.

Critic reviews

"Whether listeners are coming to this universe of demons and saints for the first time or the sixth, [narraotr Lauren] Fortgang is the perfect guide through a fictional countryside full of hard-to-pronounce places in the snowy north of some alternate version of Eastern Europe. The accents range from Russian to Czech to American. Fortgang's linguistic gifts trick listeners into thinking this book has multiple narrators. As the characters unearth their inner darkness and inner light, Fortgang's narration drips with both sorrow and love. The breathtaking ending begs those who are new to the universe to start at the beginning and those who have returned to start again." (AudioFile Magazine)

Featured Article: Mal Oretsev—A Shadow and Bone Character Guide


If you've listened to the Shadow and Bone series by Leigh Bardugo, you should be extremely familiar with Alina Starkov. Less is known about her childhood BFF and potential love interest, Malyen "Mal" Oretsev, a member of the First Army and a gifted tracker. With the release of the Netflix adaptation of the first novel, Shadow and Bone, viewers learned more about Mal than they did in the novels. So who is Mal Oretsev, and how does he fit in the Grishaverse?

What listeners say about King of Scars

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

She did it again!

Another great book! You MUST read both of her other series before this. You really need the back story to know who these people are and whats going on. Don't think that is super clear since its listed as a new series.
Loved this book, love everything she writes!! Alot of back story to help fill the holes, and understand characters better. Great plot, seemed a bit slow at times but worth the wait.
Goes through the different characters dealing with their own issues and really leaves you hanging in the end. Going to be really hard to wait for the next book!!
Great narrator as always!!

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117 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A great continuation of the Greisha-verse

A worthy continuation of the story of the Greisha, this time focusing on several of our favorite characters from the original Shadow & Bone series as well as the Six of Crows duo. You should definitely read these 5 before jumping in here (spoilers for several main characters dates and losses). you should also check out the short story collections as well to gain more insight on some references to universe lore, specifically the forest, thornwood and too-clever fox (as a bonus, these short story collections are amazing on their own!) There are several POVs in this book, and two (and a half) main story lines that will hopefully come together in the next book. Overall, wonderful performance by the narrator bringing life not just to characters but the books universe as well. as much as I enjoyed the story, there were parts that dragged a bit in the middle, and the twist at the end leaves me wondering how things will play out, and if I even liked it. I dont recommend this if you havent read at least the Shadow and Bone trilogy, it is not a "drop in" novel for the series. But, for those who are at least passing familiar, well worth the credit!

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43 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

like black velvet and dark chocolate

Listening to Lauren Fortgang read Leigh Bardugo's Grishaverse is like wrapping yourself in black velvet and eating dark chocolate on a bleak winter day. It's dark and luscious and bleak and magical, and requires one to take occasional breaks to shake off a bit of the darkness.

This latest installment makes Zoya a more sympathetic character (though not *too* sympathetic), gives insight into King Nikolai, and further explores Nina's life post-Matthias. There are lots of new friends and foes and some old ones too. It draws from both the original trilogy and the Six of Crows duology and ties them more solidly together. It's dark and terrible but has moments of joy. Highly recommend (but read the previous books first or you'll miss a lot of the backstory and implications of many of the reveals, as they're not spelled out again but merely alluded to.)

This novel wraps things up nicely, while still giving the impression that things are only beginning. I can't wait for more.

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30 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

better than S&B, not quite Six of Crows

Performance, as usual with Lauren Fortgang, was excellent.

The story... it dragged. There's two completely different plots going on in this book, and while both of them were compelling, they were very long winded and took way too long to get going. The only reason I finished this book was because I love the characters and I love Grishaverse. This was really not a strong addition to the universe.

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29 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

So Bummed. Don't read if you love the GV

I am going to try and not be a huge troll right now, because I imagine, if I were the reader of this, I would be reading these comments and I just don't want to be overly offensive, but if I were the author, I would appreciate critical reviews. This book is over-read. There are inflections when the text does not indicate an inflection, there have been at least 2 mispronounced words (I can't remember them at the moment, but if I do I'll go back and edit this) and the accents are cringey. I have had to switch to just reading it several times, which, long story short, has made it nearly impossible to finish the book. The goal of a reader is to be invisible to the story and let the words of the author tell themselves. This reader did not get that memo. It sounds like she's auditioning for Broadway. Which is fine! Just, not in my earbuds. I don't want any acting of the book, just reading it. Maybe I'm alone on that one, but this is very obviously just my opinion so I'm giving it. I don't know how to explain it better than that, but a great example is listening to any of the Winter Night trilogy. The reader totally fades away and it's just words. So nice. Another example of some really bad reading is most of the Fever series.

That said, maybe I just had my expectations too high about the book. But I really, really loved everything else coming out of the Grishaverse. I mean, LOVED. 6 of crows was my literary soul mate. This one I have been dragging myself through. It's not nearly as clever, to the point of being clumsy in many interactions. There are a couple of new characters who are so laughably one dimensional, I have just been expecting them to be fodder for some fight that happens later. That is the only excuse for the level of over-obvious dialogue. How many times/ different ways can you say someone is an optimist? Or that another one is dour? We get it. At one point she literally says "But I'm not dead!" while smiling. Come on, man.

And even the descriptions, I'm just- okay, here is an example, that doesn't give anything away:
"...and, as a rule, if one had the opportunity to visit a pleasure palace, one should. Especially if said pleasure palace served as cover for a secret laboratory.". That is literally how the 'secret lab' is introduced. Now imagine listening to that with someone reading as if the notes for how it should be read say "Read Nikolai as though he is a Debonair Game Show Host". I honestly have become so obsessed with how disappointing this book is that I've decided to do a deep dive analysis into what has changed. Is it the editor? Beta readers? The thing with sequels or spin offs is that if they are not strong enough to stand alone, you risk tarnishing the whole series. It's a very risky undertaking. This book felt like "the fandom is so strong, they'll love anything we throw out there" which is an egregious abuse of pen power and straight up sullied the whole Grishaverse.

I'm sorry. I'm hurt and bummed out.
Sincerely
Dannivdunn@gmail.com
(because I don't believe in anonymous comments)

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28 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

its just ok

I've read everything in the Grishaverse including the novellas. This is probably the weakest story.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Ok if you read prior series but not an entry point

Audible is lacking accurate reviews on this. The 5-stars are from readers who've read the author's prior work. If you haven't, don't buy this.

I bought this as a Daily Deal. Audible is selling it as BOOK 1 in a fantasy series. There's even an Audible Editor review that raves about this book "whether you're a return visitor or it's your first time to [this universe]." Or something of that nature. That's 100% false. Unless you've read this author's prior series (in which I'm assuming she introduced the characters and setting), this book reads like a garbled mess rehashing prior events that are meaningless to you. It's an info dump x10, bc the 'info' is only understandable in reference to this author's past work.

If this is the first book you've read in this universe, it's opaque. No central narrative appears for much of the 'story' (and I use that term very loosely). The 1st chapter is the highlight, bc it's the only place we're introduced to a character and setting. Unfortunately, it's irrelevant and just a hook/ gimmick to start telling the 'story' of 'characters' who are much less interesting, at least as presented in this book. The writing in Chp 1 is SO MUCH BETTER than the rest of the book, it actually feels like it was written by a different author.

Bardugo should've taken 1 page for each POV character to simply tell us WHO the character is, WHAT his/her goal is, and WHY. Expecting a summary of the setting (where and when) might be too much to ask of her, but an author must at least give readers the who/ what/ why in order for us to care about the characters and be able to tell them apart. Also, why not just tell the reader what a grisha is and the significance. This book reads like each chapter is a short story, only vaguely connected to the other parts. Roughly 50% of the first few chapters (after chp 1 which is literally the best part of the book) are spent with the characters thinking about past events.

The author Bardugo jumps around to different POVs which adds to the problem, bc the characters don't feel different and (again) their motivations are unclear. I think the author should've focused on telling 1 story before trying to tell multiple stories simultaneously. You're given so many names, there's no way to keep track of everyone in audio format, much less figure out who they are and why they matter to the 'plot.' There's no sense of danger, no reason to care about what's happening. Even worse, the author tells you how a character used to look differently than they do now, due to being 'fabricated.' Ok... you're telling me this, why? That's one of many things that the author tells you that just don't matter. One of the main characters spends most of her time hearing voices of a past lover and imagining things that happened, or that she wishes would happen, or might've happened. Or something. It's boring, and what's worse, it creates more confusion bc there are already too many characters in this book. Bardugo clearly thinks very highly of her work, to spend 50% of this 'novel' rehashing other works, rather than telling a complete story as was advertised to us (and we paid for).

The 'plot' isn't the only issue. The similes, metaphors and other figurative language was frequently nonsensical and pulls you out of the narrative. What is "a muskrat colored cloak"? I've never seen a muskrat, so I don't know. That doesn't paint a picture in my mind. What are "eyes as bright as river stones"? I live in NYC, and the river stones are dull grey, so this is nonsensical. "Blue as a glacier." Uhm… glaciers are ice. Bardugo also writes about horses "cantering" in water. Sorry, Ms. Bardugo, but folks with equestrian experience can tell you that horses don't canter in the water. Horses swim slowly. Some of the nonspecific language is frustrating. The author constantly characterizes art, clothing, etc. as being in the "old style." Since we don't know what "old style" she's referring to, it's just a waste of words. Either describe the item or don't, but this is just lazy writing.

Another problem is you don't get a strong sense of place due to conflicting elements. For example, it seems like a medieval setting since there's a goose farm, villages, kings, etc. Yet, the author tells us about 'fabricators' making fake IDs on 'a molecular level.' Molecular? Even worse, there's magic like sun, wind and bone darts shooting out of people's hands, but there are GUNS. Maybe I'm nitpicking, but why would anyone cares about little magic tricks when there are guns? It doesn't make sense to have molecular technology and guns yet be living like medieval times. None of these problems destroys a book on its own, but when you encounter these every few minutes, it starts to seem silly.

The only reason I'm not giving this 1 star is bc I think maybe I'm not the right audience, if it's meant to be YA and for young girls who've read the prior series. If I were still a kid and had read all those books, maybe I'd like it more. Also, I get the impression that Bardugo is talented, has written good work in the past, and can probably do so again - but this ain't it. This is a hodge-podge of characters from other stories on quests that make no sense without further context. I found myself not caring about any of the characters bc their identities and motivations are unclear, and there's no sense of danger. The setting was a big letdown bc there's lots of magic, sun and wind and bone darts, but none of it feels meaningful. you know, since there are GUNS. I feel bad for not liking this more, and I do recommend it if you've read the author's prior works and liked this setting (since it seems like it's more of the same).

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15 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Expected more from the story.

The story was dragging at the beginning and, maybe, during the middle parts too.
But, lo and behold, that ending was redeeming.

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14 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Disappointed

Good performance! But that was the only good thing about this. It would have been better to skip this book.

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11 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great Addition to the Grisha Universe

King of Scars is exciting, amazing and scary. It's filled with suspense, adventure, emotion, danger, ancient magic, discoveries, secrets and shock. I loved seeing everyone again. I will admit that I wanted to read this because I like the universe but mostly because I love Nikolai. But also because this universe is great and I want to know what has happened to the characters and events from both Grisha and Six of Crows series. This book is amazing and I loved it. I love Lauren, she's a great narrator.

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