As a loyal reader of all the stories set in the Grishaverse I’m a bit disappointed with Rule of Wolves. This duology was supposed to be Nikolai’s time to shine but sadly it never felt like his story.
From the Blurb:
The Demon King. As Fjerda’s massive army prepares to invade, Nikolai Lantsov will summon every bit of his ingenuity and charm — and even the monster within — to win this fight. But a dark threat looms that cannot be defeated by a young king’s gift for the impossible.
The Stormwitch. Zoya Nazyalensky has lost too much to war. She saw her mentor die and her worst enemy resurrected, and she refuses to bury another friend. Now duty demands she embrace her powers to become the weapon her country needs. No matter the cost.
The Queen of Mourning. Deep undercover, Nina Zenik risks discovery and death as she wages war on Fjerda from inside its capital. But her desire for revenge may cost her country its chance at freedom and Nina the chance to heal her grieving heart.
King. General. Spy. Together they must find a way to forge a future in the darkness. Or watch a nation fall.
Since this book picks up right where King of Scars ended there will be spoilers from the previous book in this review.
In Rule of Wolves, Nikolai, Zoya and Nina remain our three main POVs. Nina continues to work as a spy in Fjerda for Nikolai and she’s a big help in preparing for war against the Fjerdans. Nikolai and Zoya are working alongside one another as a king and his general. Besides worrying over the Fjerdans starting a war with Ravka they also have to figure out why it seems as if the Fold is reappearing. Is it because the Darkling has returned?
He’s back. When King of Scars ended with the Darkling I was in shock. My mind was blown! I wasn’t sure what would happen next or what I hoped would. I was excited about the possibilities, though. Sadly, my feelings shifted towards wondering what exactly he was doing in this series.
My main complaint about this book is that it does too much. Nikolai, Zoya and Nina may be the main POVs but along with the Darkling, there are others added to the mix. Unlike in Six of Crows where Leigh Bardugo handled multiple POVs with grace, here it felt confusing and overwhelming. It made it hard for me to connect with characters or care about their arc.
With so many different POVs the plot dragged. There was a lot happening at the same time which made for a fun adventure but at times was too much. I’m a fan of Bardugo’s writing and that’s why I continue to pick up every book from the Grishaverse. She writes some of my favorite plot twists and continued to keep me in love with the characters in this book.
The characters are the reason why I finished Rule of Wolves. This duology is more character-driven, which I didn’t mind. All of them are dealing with inner struggles and Bardugo does a wonderful job exploring the question of if they are truly monsters. Even with the demons inside of them, are they so far gone that they can’t be saved?
Being inside both Nikolai and Zoya’s heads were my favorite parts. I found that the two of them struggled the most with being a good person even with such dark secrets. They both tried their best to hide their true selves from the world. I enjoyed seeing their transformation throughout this series.
Both of them, along with Nina, found a beautiful ending and I appreciated this, though I wish Nikolai found more closure in a series that was supposed to be his. This is why I’m so disappointed after finishing Rule of Wolves. He’s been my favorite character since he was first introduced. The reason why I was ecstatic about him getting his own series was that I felt like his story wasn’t over. I hoped I would feel satisfied by the end of this but I’m left with more questions.
Although this review might have come off as me not enjoying the book, there were a lot of things I did enjoy, such as Nikolai and Zoya’s banter, seeing how strong Nina has become after so much heartbreak, and the intriguing politics. On every page, I felt the love Bardugo has for this series and its characters. There is a lot of fan service. Seeing old characters from other series reminded me of why I loved both Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows so much. If you’re a fan of the Grishaverse then I think you’ll appreciate the love Bardugo has poured into showing respect to the past books.
Overall, I found Rule of Wolves to be a nostalgic read. I may have been disappointed for the most part but there were emotional moments in this series that made it enjoyable for me. I think for a beloved series that so many readers are invested in there are always going to be people who completely love it or ones who needed more. I happen to fall under someone who wanted more from this duology, but I’m still happy to see Nikolai having some recognition of his own.