Rating: 4/5 stars
Leigh Bardugo does this thing, especially with the King of Scars duology, where 80% of the book is simply tolerable and it takes some energy to trudge through it– but then, the last 20% of the book is a wild ride and an absolute thrill to read. And then I’m forced to increase my rating because the ending always blows me out of the water. It’s kind of annoying. Rule of Wolves followed this pattern. But, alas. I rated this book 4 stars, just like King of Scars, and I have MANY thoughts.
If you thought King of Scars had a lot of POVS, you better think again. RoW had, like, 5 different storylines and perspectives going at the same time. Bardugo does a great job of tying them all together at the end, but for most of the book all I could think was that this book was extremely dense. There was a lot going on at once, and I didn’t care much about most of the POVs. I don’t think the plot was necessarily sluggish, but it was definitely hard to get through at times. I think I physically got tired at some points of the story.
Onto the romance(s)! A main criticism I had of King of Scars was the lack of relationship building for Zoya and Nikolai. The slow burn was extremely slow. But I guess I should praise Leigh Bardugo for making that choice, because it all paid off in RoW- I was SCREAMING my head off in all of the Zoyalai scenes. After getting only crumbs of them in KoS, I was very satisfied with the meal that I received in KoS (that was a really bad analogy, I know). Hanne and Nina’s story ended in a very strange place, but nonetheless I also loved the culmination of their romance.
Like I said, the ending was action-packed and super easy to get through. It had me emotional, it had me engrossed, and it had me very attached. It’s weird how I have so many complaints, yet I gave this book 4 stars.
I had already known that the Crows would make a cameo in this book, but that didn’t quell any of the pure joy that I received when reading their part. The Kaz and Nikolai interactions were hilarious, and it was just so nice to see everyone again. It was a nice little palate cleanser in between the heavy politics and war-making which I was barely interested in for most of the book.
I’m just going to come out with it. The Darkling was done a huge disservice in this book. I was so excited to see what kind of a role he would play, but his whole POV was a disappointment. His characterization was so dull and boring, he was basically reduced to a stereotypical villain. I liked the complexities of his personality which were shown in the Shadow and Bone trilogy, but here they were completely thrown away and he was given absolutely no personality. All he did was walk around forests with his cult. Even his scene with Alina, which I was so hyped for, was the most uninteresting thing ever.
Finally, the thing I least saw coming in the whole book for some reason: Zoya becoming queen of Ravka. Don’t get me wrong, I was and still am completely onboard with it. I was just surprised. The whole duology is called the Nikolai duology for a reason. Nikolai is the main character, and we’re lead to believe that his main motivation and character arc revolves around being a worthy king for Ravka. And suddenly, he just… gives up the throne? It feels like the whole point of his story was missed. Either that, or the whole point of his story is that he was never meant to be king- but I find that hard to believe.