The capital has fallen.
The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.
Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.
Deep in an ancient network of tunnels and caverns, a weakened Alina must submit to the dubious protection of the Apparat and the zealots who worship her as a Saint. Yet her plans lie elsewhere, with the hunt for the elusive firebird and the hope that an outlaw prince still survives.
Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.
“Na razrusha’ya. I am not ruined. E’ya razrushost. I am ruination.”
What a book this was!! I’m so happy that I finally read the Grisha trilogy, and I’ve already read Six of Crows, so now I can read King of Scars!! Also Nikolai is bae soooo I am excitement.
Ultimately, I think the way Leigh Bardugo writes characters and their interactions are a huge part of why I love her books so much. In this book, Alina and the reader become much more closely acquainted with a small group of characters, and I loved seeing their interactions, particularly as they all go out hunting the firebird together. Some of the characters that seemed pretty flat in the first book, particularly Zoya, Baghra, and Genya, are really fleshed out, and given redemption.
This book really dives into the lore and backstories of not just Ravka and the world, but also the characters and their pasts! I was absolutely transfixed reading about Baghra and the Darkling’s pasts, and how that’s brought them into the characters they are now. I loved reading about Morozova, and learning the personal connection he has to everything in the story, piecing together the snippets of information we see in the first two books and watching it all come together here.
And that brings me back to the love pyramid square thingie. The romance was definitely a weak point of the trilogy for me, and really bugged me at times, but I do think Alina spent less time angsting over romance in this book than the previous book and more time angsting over the fate of the world, so that was good.
Nikolai: Nikolai is such a great character ahh! Unfortunately, he wasn’t in this book as much as he was in the previous one, which was kind of annoying and I wish it had been explained better, but the moments that we got with him were precious! You can tell that he is so, so strongly devoted to his country, to doing what’s best and being a just ruler, and saving everyone from the horrors of the Darkling, but also he’s such a sweetheart and he wants to be with Alina and for them to be happy, and he’s still able to joke around the lighten the darkest mood!
The Darkling: I said it before, and I’ll say it again, but I still really don’t understand why people like the Darkling as a love interest. He caused so many horrors, so many needless innocent deaths, and as much as I love the darker aspects of Alina and this book, I think it would be too far to have her with him. However, aside from as a love interest, I loved reading about The Darkling in this book! Bardugo really fleshed out his backstory to the point where I almost felt sympathetic at times. The fact that he’s so, so cruel, yet also human with emotions, really makes him a complex character and incredible villain, and the way this entire trilogy was leading to Alina becoming powerful on her own and facing off the person she’s so similar yet so different to was fantastic!
Mal: Mal seems to be really hated on Goodreads but I really like him! Admitted, he was a jerk in the previous book, and could do some things I didn’t like, but overall it’s so clear that he loves Alina and is willing to do anything for her. And yeah there were moments where it seemed that he would have liked her powerless, I definitely didn’t feel that was the case at the end, and I think this change really showed amazing character growth in him.
As for the ending…I have mixed feelings. For certain the ending of this book was incredible to read: it was fast paced and suspenseful and I was turning pages as quickly as possible and dying to know what happened! I was overall mostly happy with the ending as it regarded Alina, her love interests, and Ravka, although I do wish a little that it could have been more.