Goodreads: Rule of Wolves
Series: Nikolai Duology #2
Publication Date: 2021
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.
The ending of King of Scars left me disappointed, fearful that the sequel would retread old ground instead of moving forward with the story about a nation rebuilding. Few series seem to treat the aftermath of a war, preferring instead to close with the “happily ever after” of an enemy defeated. King of Scars feels novel in that it depicts a country unsure of the future after the collapse of the old regime. Though readers may be rooting for Nikolai to be king, the people of Ravka do not know him, nor are they sure they want the kind of future he represents. This uncertainty, this fragility is what makes the book so interesting. I was glad to discover that Rule of Wolves continues to explore the fraught relationships between people and nations, rather than trying to recreate the storyline of the Shadow and Bone trilogy.
Leigh Bardugo’s masterful storytelling is at its height here, as she weaves together the stories of several characters, each with their own hard choices to make. Nikolai is trying to keep a country together, even as he is torn apart by the monster instead. Zoya is trying to atone for following the Darkling by serving her country as its general. Nina is trying to lay her old lover to rest even as she glimpses the possibility of a future with another. Their stories intertwine along with several others, showing how the fate of a nation can rest in the hands of not only its leaders, but also the people who get swept up in events along the way. But, since this is Ravka, things only seem to get worse as the story progresses. The cliffhangers at the end of each chapter will lead readers breathless to know more, desperate to learn that everything turns out all right, after all.
Part of what I enjoy so much about Bardugo’s work is that is often offers the unexpected, upending tropes and refusing to fall into the patterns genre fiction so often embraces. Rule of Wolves is no different. While I predicted a few plot twists, others completely surprised me. This feels right, because leading a nation often means there are no easy answers. While the outcomes were largely satisfying, they did not feel trite. And they leave the door open for more exciting adventures to come.
My one main criticism of the work is one other fans may likely not share. I thought the cameos were overdone. While it is nice to see old favorites return, seeing them all in one book felt more than fan service than great storytelling, especially when some of these characters do not have a real reason to be mingling with each other. I understand, however, that many readers probably enjoyed these moments. And, really, they are too small a part of the book to really hinder my enjoyment.
Rule of Wolves is another stunning installment from Bardugo to the Grishaverse. Fans of Bardugo’s work will not want to miss out on this exciting adventure–especially as it seems to be setting up a future novel, maybe even the ones readers have been waiting for since Six of Crows.