Like a lot of people, I was eagerly anticipating Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo, especially after that cliffhanger at the end of King of Scars.
So you can imagine my squealing excitement and how over the moon I was when Emily Thomas at Hachette Children’s sent me a copy in exchange for an honest review.
This review originally appeared on The Nerd Daily.
The wolves are circling and a young king will face his greatest challenge in the explosive finale of the instant #1 New York Times-bestselling King of Scars Duology.
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.
TW: blood, violence, racism, death, murder, suicide, war, grief
Rule of Wolves had a lot riding on its shoulders, as it brought together the Grishaverse once more and followed up the incredible King of Scars. Luckily, it more than lived up to expectations and provided a spell-binding, unforgettable story.
I am unsure as to what future plans Leigh has for the Grishaverse, but Rule of Wolves felt like it could be a cohesive ending, bringing together so many plot threads and weaving them together perfectly. The door is still left wide open and personally, a pay-off to that ending tease would be incredible. This book is packed full of jaw-dropping moments that fans will adore, as well as subtler callbacks to previous stories. A couple of moments had me punching the air in excitement. They also felt natural and really fit with the plot, rather than just randomly being thrown in.
What I deeply love about the Grishaverse is the strength of its characters. Here, they only grow and become more nuanced, continuing their individual explorations of trauma and grief and reconciling them with their own search for identity. There’s always been a focus on carving out your own path in life and surrounding yourself with a found family that you adore. Rule of Wolves is aware of where its strengths lie and massively leans into them. Similarly, the magic system in the series has always been a massive selling point for me. It only gets detailed and richer as the series goes on, bringing in a wider variety of experiences and cultures. Also, it is open to corruption and manipulation, showing how ambition and power can corrupt you or make you become a weapon, malleable and compliant to another force. In this book, we get a lot more insight into other kingdoms and cultures in the surrounding area. This really enhanced the book, allowing us to peek outside of the confines of Ravka and explore new lands. In particular, Nina’s story was really interesting and I adored the way her romance blossomed. There’s no doubt that she is forever changed by the events of Crooked Kingdom, but she has allowed herself the space to heal and to trust someone again. That’s hard to do in the atmosphere of the book, where allegiances are uncertain and secrets used as a potent currency. Rule of Wolves features plenty of political machinations and intrigue that gives it a different slant to previous books. It feels like a complex game of chess, with various betrayals thrown in. Despite all this, the story never loses its emotional core. It is safe to say that everything has been building up to this narrative. I liked the little moments of closure and how certain storylines were brought to a close, while some remained open for the reader’s imagination and potentially for new stories in the future.
Yet again, Bardugo’s writing completely drew me in and made the reading experience seamless. Time seemed to stand still for a while, allowing for the book to be devoured in one sitting. This is no mean feat considering its sheer size and scale. You can really see how Bardugo’s style has evolved over the series. She still has that unique touch to her creations and incredibly immersive world-building that seamlessly fits with the character arcs and ongoing plot. It just felt like a richer and deeper story, touching on themes of grief, trauma and learning to live with your experiences. In that way, it adds a touch of pathos and symbolism to each character that makes it feel that much more grounded and introspective. You just find yourself deeply caring for almost every character, as you’ve seen them grow and change. They’ve struggled but they’ve survived this far, leaving glimmers of hope for the future.
Rule of Wolves is a spectacular story that successfully brings the entire Grishaverse together with masterful storytelling and quieter exploration of deeper themes.