So I recently read two books that were pretty high on my anticipation list: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo and Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan.
I’m a huge long-standing fan of Leigh Bardugo, and I was so excited when I heard she was writing an entire duology about one of my favourite characters, Nikolai Lantsov. Meanwhile, Girls of Paper and Fire is a book that I first heard about on the 88 Cups of Tea podcast, and have since been seeing quite a lot on book blogs.
Whilst I enjoyed both of these books, I didn’t love one of them as much as I’d hoped, which was a little disappointing. Read on for my full thoughts on these two books!
King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
“Nikolai had been told that hope was dangerous, had been warned of it many times. But he’d never believed that. Hope was the wind that came from nowhere to fill your sails and carry you home.”
– King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
Since the end of the Ravkan Civil War, Nikolai Lantsov has been fighting to rebuild Ravka as enemies flock to the countries weakened borders. He desperately needs allies and resources to help rebuild the once-Great Grisha army, yet his mind is occupied by much bigger worries. Because a dark force is growing within him, remnants of the Darklings terrible curse, and if he isn’t careful, it will take over him completely…
King of Scars was easily one of my most anticipated books of the year, and I was expecting big things. I adore Leigh Bardugo’s writing, and especially her characterisation, and one of my all-time favourite characters she has written is Nikolai Lantsov. He was easily the best thing about the original Grisha trilogy, and so I was unbelievably excited to find out she was writing a duology purely based around him.
And perhaps it was these enormous expectations, plus the collective excitement of the blogosphere that led to me feeling a little disappointed in this book. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I didn’t hate it or anything. I just wasn’t 100% in love with it, which I expected to be.
But first, let’s talk about the good stuff! Nikolai is still amazing! He remains one of my favourite characters with his hilarious banter and quick one-liners, and I especially liked his interactions with Zoya. I also liked getting to see more of the insecure, darker side of him in this book, and you really felt for him as he tries to bring Ravka back from a precarious position, and deal with all the terrible things that happened in the war.
I also loved the supporting characters of Zoya, Tamar and Tolya, Genya, David and the new addition of Isaak. I especially liked getting to know more about what lies beneath Zoya’s spiky exterior, and to get more of her backstory.
However, I was less keen on the Nina sections, which kind of surprised me. I adore Nina as a character and loved her so much in the Six of Crows duology, but I just don’t think her storyline in this book was overly interesting. I found I didn’t really care all that much about her quest to save Fjerdian Grisha, or about any of the secondary characters in her storyline, which was kind of a problem. I would have preferred her to have been part of the main storyline and interacting with Nikolai and Zoya etc. This is definitely a common problem I have with split narrative books though: there’s inevitably always one storyline I prefer.
On the whole, though, I did enjoy being back in the Grisha world and getting to catch up with the characters after the events of the Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows duology. In a way, I wonder if the problem was less with this book, and more with my own unrealistic expectations, which, quite frankly were never going to be met. I enjoyed the main plotline and continued to adore the characters, which is the main thing, and I will definitely be reading the second book in the duology when it comes out.
Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
“They can take and steal and break all they want, but there is one thing they have no control over. Our emotions. Our feelings. Our thoughts. None of them will ever be able to control the way we feel. Our minds and our hearts are our own. That is our power.”
– Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan
Paper castes are the lowest ranking citizens in
I first heard about this book through an interview with the author on a podcast I regularly listen to called 88 Cups of Tea (which I would highly recommend by the way!). I was really intrigued by the concept, and after seeing some good reviews around the blogosphere, I eagerly checked it out of the library.
And I was not disappointed!
The world of the book may be cruel and rife with injustice, but it was painted so beautifully, and I loved the style of writing and tone of the book right from the off. The way the beauty of the palace and the clothes everyone wears is offset by the horrors that take place there was very effective and definitely in keeping with Lei’s confused and horrified feelings as she is introduced to her lavish but cruel new life.
I really liked Lei as the main character, as she’s incredibly brave and strong but not physically very tough, which is quite different from a lot of other ‘strong heroine’ characters. Hers is a quiet strength, and I liked the twist of a secondary character actually being the badass.
I also liked the characters of the other Paper girls, particularly Wren and Aoki, who are closest to Lei. Whilst there was a still a ‘mean girls’ aspect of this book with characters like Blue and Mariko, it was nice to see a book that heavily features female friendships, and it was good to see them supporting each other through the horrible situation they’re in.
I also adored the romance in this book! Despite the huge
This book also tackles some serious issues such as oppression, rape and sexual assault, but it was very sensitively handled in my opinion. Yes, the scenes where Lei is chosen to go to the Demon King were a little hard to read, but not because they are overly graphic or anything. It really focuses in on Lei’s feelings after the event, and I think it’s good that a YA book is willing to discuss serious issues like this because these are things that, unfortunately, a lot of people suffer through in real life every day. The #MeToo movement might have opened the door to having more conversations about things like sexual assault, but I think there’s always room for more conversation.
On the whole, I felt that this was a great book on many levels: it combined beautiful writing and descriptions with amazing characters, a sweeping romance and some pretty serious topics. I would definitely recommend this book (although take note – there are trigger warnings!), and I really can’t wait for the next instalment, particularly after the explosive ending.
So have you read either of these books? What did you think?