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Read a full summary of King of Scars, book #1 of Leigh Bardugo’s King of Scars Duology, right here. This page is full of spoilers, so beware! If you are wondering what happened in King of Scars, then you are in the right place!

Leigh Bardugo

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The King of Scar Duology
#1 King of Scars
#2 Rule of Wolves

***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****

What happened in King of Scars?

A young boy named Dima is sent outside on a windy night to close barn doors which have banged open. A monstrous creature lurks inside, and what Dima thinks is a saint rescues him. It’s actually a Grisha Squaller. He thinks he hears a nearby footman call the monster Your Highness as he tucks it into the nearby coach.

Zoya is the Grisha who saved the boy from Nikolai. As they ride back to the palace and he transforms back into his human form, Zoya thinks about the past six months since his battle with the Darkling. So far he’s only killed livestock, but they’re afraid it’s only a matter of time before he unknowingly attacks a human.

The coach travels over a bridge made of bone and tendons that recently appeared to rescue a village that needed to flee when they came under attack. There are other supernatural things like earthquakes that have occurred recently, all beginning around the time of Nikolai’s transformations. They wonder if it’s the work of Grisha using jurda parem or something else entirely.

Zoya wants to set Nikolai up with one of the daughters of Schenk. He doesn’t think it’s a good time to get married. They need to get his transformations under control first. The two of them act like they’re having a tryst to throw suspicion off what these late night escapades actually are.

Nina’s working at a fish processing plant in Fjerda. It’s a cover for Grisha work she’s doing. Her boss comes to transfer her to another unit as a punishment, but he actually lets her out the back door of his office. She whisks away to act as the wife of a family hoping to leave to look for work. They’re posing as prospective indentured farm hands but are actually Grisha trying to escape Fjerdan persecution.


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The parem has changed Nina’s Heartrender power. The men at the docks suspect something’s off. She has to use her power to throw bone spikes into some of the guards standing in their way. They take their bodies aboard the ship to dump them into the sea during their journey. Nina ignores Matthias’s scolding in her head.

Nikolai goes to visit Gilded Bog, his undercover agent Kirigin’s place that doubles as a weapons testing and development site. They have to try to keep up with the Fjerdan’s ever-changing technology. Nikolai visits David and Nadia in the lab first. They work hard and get little sleep. He asks them to get some rest and then be ready to attend a meeting he’s calling with the Triumvirate to talk about a new weapon he wants designed to fail.

Nina, Adrik, and Leoni explore in the woods and find a fort of some sort. They hear a scuffle and see a group of women masquerading as soldiers. A horse was spooked and fell on top of one of them. Leoni helps her out. Nina makes threats to ensure the group won’t tell who they saw. The girls mention the large building is a factory instead of a fort. The soft chorus of voices in Nina’s head tell her to go explore it. After parem, it seems Nina can now manipulate the dead instead of the living.

Nikolai meets privately with Tamar, Tolya, David, Zoya, and Genya at the Little Palace. They discuss how their underwater fleet was discovered. They debate whether they need Kerch money or the Zemeni ships more in the upcoming battles. Which country should they choose as their closest ally? They’ll certainly lose the other when they choose. And they have to keep jurda out of the wrong hands.

Ravka needs Nikolai to go on a goodwill mission to both countries, but his inner monster makes travel hard. It seems to be growing in strength even though they can’t determine why or how the dark magic can do so. Nikolai wants to throw a party in six weeks’ time and invite the leaders of all nations to reestablish their relationships as well as eavesdrop on their guests’ conversations.

Zoya approaches Nikolai with a list of prospects in his search for a bride. She’s convinced he must marry to solidify an ally. He tells her about his true father. She tosses the picture into the fire so his identity is never revealed. Nikolai’s furious, but Zoya says it could steal the throne from him. She straps Nikolai in to sleep at night.

A zealot worshipper of the Darkling leads his group to the capitol. Nikolai rides out to meet him and surprises everyone by inviting the young man to the palace for breakfast. He quietly shows the boy the assassin with an arrow aimed at him and how Nikolai could easily swing the boy’s death away from martyrdom. The Apparat is not happy with Nikolai’s arrangement, but Nikolai appeases him by granting a couple new churches he requested.

Nikolai gets away in monster form that night because someone unlocked his chains and windows to allow him to escape. Zoya finds him on a rooftop and uses her wind power to lift near his level. She can’t believe the familiar voice that the monster uses when it speaks: the Darkling’s. He seizes her and is going to slit her throat. She hears someone below them. Tolya uses his power to slow its heart and send it into unconsciousness.

Once asleep, the monster shifts back to Nikolai. They decide the palace is no longer safe, yet they just invited guests from all nations to join them there. Zoya says they’ll find a cure for him so Ravka doesn’t fall.

Nina and Adrik carry Matthias’s body to bury it. Adrik leaves Nina so she can say some final words alone. In her head, Matthias tells her to let him go. Then the voices of the dead women and girls she heard at the fort start drowning out Matthias’s voice. She doesn’t want them to. She realizes he was never speaking to her at all; it was her own manifestation of what he would say or do. She created it to fill the silence and the whole in her heart. She never hears him again.

Nikolai calls a meeting with his Triumvirate and the zealot, Yuri. They mark the miraculous occurrences on a map and realize the place the Shadow Fold used to be is at the center of it all. The instances are occurring more frequently now and are working their way toward the former Shadow Fold. Yuri tells them of the war that created the first Apparat and the first Priestguard. But Yuri doesn’t have access to the old texts anymore since he’s no longer a part of the Guard. 

Nikolai realizes his monster has journeyed to the spot in the center of the Shadow Fold. He wonders if it’s trying to get back there to access some magic to be freed of him. He wants Tolya to study the Obisbaya (ancient text) to see if there’s any clues about the Darkling’s form of magic that could help them decipher what’s going on. Nikolai will be among his people searching for answers with a disguised Yuri. He says being out and about will build goodwill among his subjects before his marriage. 

Nina’s lost in a terrible snowstorm trying to make her way from Matthias’s grave back to Adrik. Wolves approach, and she fights them with her bone shards. The wolves move strangely. Matthias’s wolf comes to rescue her, and then a girl from the convent named Hanne approaches. Nina sees Hanne has Grisha Heartrender power. She uses it to help save Nina. They escape and ride off into the storm.

The girls arrive at a cabin Hanne’s familiar with only to find ten men also seeking shelter there. Nina acts like the girl is an heiress engaged to a wealthy man. Nina says the girl’s father and betrothed will reward the men handsomely for taking good care of them tonight. 

Zoya prepares for Nikolai’s grand tour of the miracle sites. They’re soon off on their journey with Yuri as well. They scour the ancient texts with him for answers as they travel. It’s also a goodwill tour for Nikolai, and it’s working because of his charm.

Genya’s new brew to keep Nikolai’s monster at bay each night is stronger. Zoya can’t believe how refreshed he always looks and acts despite their rigorous schedule and being knocked basically unconscious every night. Nikolai says he puts on a good show because he has to. He knows she does the same, displaying courage and bluster she can’t always feel. Zoya’s glad of how many of his subjects he’s winning over, even his former detractors. He’s whatever he needs to be in each town and village, and everyone loves him because of it. 

The closer they draw to the former Shadow Fold (aka the Unsea), the more Zoya worries that Nikolai might spontaneously transform into the monster. She even thinks she sees black blood in the veins at his wrist.

Zoya’s grabbed from behind by winged creature. It’s not Nikolai as she first feared. It’s a Shu Khergud soldier with mechanical wings attached to his back. Somehow Nikolai transforms on purpose to save Zoya. They both fall when he defeats the Khergud holding her. She blasts her power at Nikolai, and he transforms back into a man. She uses her Squaller power to summon wind to soften their fall. 

A local priest witnessed this whole exchange, so they knock him out, bring down a rafter, and then bring the man back to. They tell him the beam fell, knocking him out and damaging the Saint Lizabeta statue that was marred in the battle.

Yuri also witnessed the whole thing, but they don’t try to wipe his memory. At camp that night, Nikolai tells him the whole story. He tries to spin it such that Yuri can help the Darkling achieve full martyrdom if he helps them complete the cycle by drawing the evil creature out of Nikolai. Yuri thinks he can help. He thinks if they place Nikolai on a pyre, it might drive the creature away. Tolya and Tamar agree that this method might work based on the ancient texts they’ve been studying. Zoya is nervous, but Nikolai says they’ll try it.

Nikolai reminisces about his childhood friendship with a boy named Dominik. He started as a whipping boy of sorts for young Nikolai to try to keep him in line. It worked, and Nikolai learned a lot of honor from the relationship. The two were close for a long time until Dominik died on the battlefield fighting side by side with Nikolai.

When Nikolai comes out of his memory, Zoya is there waiting for an answer to why he sent Nina away. He said Zoya trained Nina as a warrior. She needed to go out on a mission so she didn’t go mad with grief and inaction back at the palace. The two of them worry whether the monster will eventually overtake Nikolai.

Nina and Hanne get to know each other by quietly whispering to each other to pass the time in the cabin. In the morning, they tell the men where to go to collect their (nonexistent) reward and take off in their own direction. Even though she likes her, Nina tries to milk Hanne for information about her life and the convent. She lets her know she realizes she’s Grisha.

When Nina makes it back to Adrik and Leoni, she finds the girl drained and sickly looking from studying the toxins in the poisoned lake. The girl injured on her fall from the horse washed in the water and later died. Leoni is convinced it’s from toxins in the water which infiltrated the girl’s open wound. They need to find out what the factory is dumping into the water so no one else dies. Nina needs to be treated, too, because she’s pretty sure the wolf that bit her the previous night had parem in its blood. It was acting strangely, and she’s pretty sure she felt parem’s effects after the bite even though it was a slight dose.

Nina approaches the headmistress at the convent, posing as someone who can teach the Zemeni language to the young women there. The headmistress agrees to let her. Nina works with Hanne teaching her Zemeni (officially) and how to wield and control her Grisha powers (actually). She likes the girl and wants to eventually help her escape to somewhere where it’s safe to be a Grisha. The girl has always wanted to escape Fjerdan traditions and expectations for women, so this might just be her chance.

Zoya, Nikolai, and the crew are stationed at Kribirsk, a town very close to the Unsea. As Zoya and Nikolai work together one morning in his room, she daydreams about what it would be like to be with him. But the Ravkans would never allow a Grisha queen, so she cuts the thoughts off abruptly.

Tamar, Tolya, and Yuri arrive. They’re going to dress as poor locals and head toward the Unsea today. They see a dark blot far ahead, almost like a shadow on the ground from a cloud above. But there’s no cloud. It’s a huge, gleaming black disc of stone. Many people are encamped around it, flying black flags with the Darkling’s symbol on them.

Suddenly, all others besides Nikolai, Zoya, and Yuri disappear. The three are left in an alternate dimension something like the Shadow Fold with a swarm of bees, a grotesque, and a dragon fast approaching. They fight them. It turns out they’re three of the Saints: Juris (the dragon), Grigori (the grotesque), and Elizaveta (the swarm).

Genya is tending to Isaak, a soldier who fought by Nikolai. He was later welcomed to be part of the Palace Guard, which he graciously accepted to earn money for his destitute family. Now Tamar has called him to pose as Nikolai because the king is missing. They will tailor him to look like Nikolai, and they will train him to act as much like the king as possible.

Nikolai, Zoya, and Yuri are being escorted by them to a sacred palace in the sand. Zoya is in her own little world, depressed because she lost her amplifier in the fight with the three Saints. They said this is where the Shadow Fold was created. Elizaveta and the others have been trapped in this purgatory of sorts since the Darkling was defeated. But he’s not totally gone; a part of him lives on inside Nikolai. They want to put him on a pyre to drive out the Darkling monster. If Nikolai can defeat him, they’ll all be released from this other world. The Saints will be reduced to humans, will love out a mortal life, and then will die.

Nina sneaks into the factory at night to try to investigate. She hears what sounds like a baby crying. She comes to a room full of pregnant women and new mothers who appear to be high on parem. A woman with a cart is bringing the substance around in syringes. They’re acting a little different than parem addicts. Had the drug been combined with a calming agent? Is it possibly something different entirely?

The guard that Nina duped to get into the factory comes searching for her because he’s a little suspicious. She runs back to the convent. An alarm sounds as they search for her. She tucks her soiled clothes into the trunk at the foot of her bed, throws on her nightclothes, and pretends she’s asleep.

Nina accidentally left a smudge of mud on the floor by the trunk. The headmistress finds it during her search. Hanne lies for Nina, pretending she went for an unscheduled ride and stashed her clothes in Nina’s trunk. The headmistress buys it, so Hanne’s the one in trouble. Nina knows she owes Hanne the truth for sticking her neck out for her like that; she sure wishes she could give it to her.

Juris comes to retrieve Zoya from debating their predicament with Nikolai. Juris wants to teach her the secrets of the past as well as how to be a more powerful Grisha. He proposes her as ruler of Ravka instead of Nikolai. Juris teaches Zoya she doesn’t need her amplifier because she absorbed part of the tiger she defeated so long ago. She merged just as he did with the dragon and Grigori did with the beast.

Nina argues with Adrik about whether they should stay. He says the addicted Grisha in the factory are as good as dead. They should burn it down and move on before they’re found out. He thinks everyone is suspicious after Nina’s stunt the previous night. Both Nina and Leoni disagree and win the argument.

Nina wonders whether Hanne will show up for her scheduled Zemeni lesson. She does but is angry at Nina. Nina lies and says she thinks her sister is one of the girls being held captive in the factory.

Isaak had Genya and crew worried at first, but he finally managed to pull off Nikolai’s bravado. He does a fine job in his first few interactions with the arriving royals and nobles. But then he makes a huge misstep when he enters a royal banquet: His old instincts kick in, and he steps the side to let others enter before him. Everyone in the room gasps. The rest of the evening passes without incident.

Nikolai knows after he’s wed and produced an heir that Zoya will have to be right by his side as Grisha general (her current position) and First Minister (her future one). He has come to trust her as has all of Ravka. 

Nikolai pulls Zoya from her sparring match with Juris because he wants her with him at his meeting with Elizaveta. She’s wanting to practice for the pyre event, which is coming soon. She wants to pull the monster out of Nikolai, so she traps Zoya. At first the monster doesn’t surface, but when Zoya’s cries die out, Nikolai’s worst fears surface as does the monster. He’s slowly able to rein it back in with deliberate thoughts about who he is and about good times with Zoya.

Isaak endures day two as Nikolai. He’s supposed to spend time with a Shu princess who’s a prospective bride. When a young woman falls into a nearby lake and is drowning, Isaak must jump in to rescue her even though he can’t swim because Nikolai can swim and always plays the hero. Genya and her crew are able to secretly help him out, so he ends up the hero.

Isaak needs some air before he turns for the night. His walk inadvertently leads him to Ehri, the Shu girl he was supposed to meet today before the rescue at the lake. They talk about her dreams. Isaak tries to give as Nikolai-ish answers as possible. He enjoys the conversation with this woman who’s interested in weapons and says she would be a guard if she wasn’t born a royal.

Nina wants Leoni to develop a sedative safe enough to use on all of the women (even the pregnant ones) once they rescue them from the factory so they can transport them quietly.

Hanne’s father is Jarl Brum. He doesn’t seem to recognize Nina, and she knows which sensibilities of his to which to appeal to flatter him. Hanne tells Nina her father wants her to have a meal with them before he leaves. Nina says she will if Hanne will help her with something after he’s gone. 

Zoya is glad when Nikolai doesn’t show up for his practice. She didn’t feel like being drowned today. Elizaveta mentions the connection between the two of them. Something flares inside Zoya at the truth of it, but she tamps it back down because a warrior doesn’t think that way. 

Juris continues to train Zoya to tap into all Grisha powers. She still can’t quite believe it’s possible to control anything other than the wind. He sees her skepticism and wants to show her. He transforms into the dragon and asks her to hop onto his back. 

Zoya enjoys flying at first until she realizes where he’s taking her: the ruins of Novokribirsk. She doesn’t want to see the town her beloved Aunt Liliyana used to live in. Her aunt rescued her from marrying a 60-something man as a 9 year-old girl. She delivered her to the Little Palace to study as a Grisha instead. During the war, the Darkling destroyed the town, and her aunt perished.

Juris tells her she must get over the pain of her past to connect to her future. He says she’s the one who can bring the Grisha back to what they were meant to be if she’ll just let go and look forward. 

Isaak shares what he learned from Ehri (the Shu girl) with the crew. Then he’s off to Kirigin’s place to meet the Kerch leader, Hiram Schenk. Isaak takes Schenk out on the lake in a sailboat to show him their newest creation: a submarine-like vessel they call an izmars‘ya. They stage a demonstration, but then it seems to lose control, shooting missiles everywhere, including at the ship. The Squaller aboard fills the sails, and they rush back to shore. Isaak later discovers it was all a show to frighten Schenk. 

On the evening before the pyre, Nikolai gives Zoya a document with the royal seal decreeing she’s the leader of Ravka if he dies. She doesn’t want it. He asks her how she got her amplifier. She tells him about the trip with the Darkling and the other young Grisha. She earned it by killing a full-grown male tiger to save three tiger cubs. She shows Nikolai the scars on her back from the fight. He wants her and thinks about how even though he can’t have her, she’s already a queen. 

Nina sneaks away from a dinner with Jarl Brum and Hanne to search his coat pockets. She quickly scans a letter and commits its contents to memory. She uses wax she swiped from a candle to get an imprint of Jarl’s signet ring. She presses the warm wax on the ring when Jarl clasps her hands to bid her goodbye.

Nina and Hanne hole up in her room so she can use her Grisha powers to tailor herself to look like a boy. Nina finishes the job by cutting her hair. It’s hard for Hanne to see herself this way.

Isaak is nervous to pose as Nikolai in a trade meeting with several other nations. He puts one of his top advisors (Ulyashin) in charge of leading it. Isaak is just about to escape without any difficult encounters when Schenk corners him about the display the other night. He knows it was a ploy.

Isaak and Tamar stage a swordplay battle for fun, with Isaak sparring with Princess Ehri and Tamar sparring with Mayu, a Shu they’ve heard was interested in defecting. Tamar gets nothing out of her, but Isaak schedules a dinner with them where they’ll have more time to converse.

Genya and the others get word that Fjerda is marching on them soon. They’re led by a young man claiming to have rights to the Ravkan throne because he’s a long-lost Lantsov cousin. A man claiming to be Nikolai’s birth father is backing the “cousin.” Isaak’s getting nervous about his role and all of its complications and wants out. They say he needs to hold on just a little longer.

Isaak’s afraid Nikolai’s never going to return and he’s going to have to forsake his own identity forever. He has dinner with Princess Ehri and decides he likes her during their conversation. She’s nothing like the other girls. He asks her to secretly meet him in the conservatory during the ball. She agrees to.

The morning of Nikolai’s battle with himself arrives. The monster inside plays on his weaknesses, bringing all of his insecurities to mind: his parentage and right to the throne, his failure to win even a peasant girl’s (Alina’s) heart, and his skills as a king. Something suddenly feels wrong to Nikolai. Zoya is drowning in her trap, which is filling with amber. He’s eventually able to drive the Darkling out.

They grapple with the thorn in their hand, but Nikolai wins and drives it into the Darkling’s heart. He draws his sword to slay him once and for all, but Elizaveta throws thorns at Nikolai’s palms and legs, pinning him to the wall.

Yuri approaches the Darkling’s prone body. Elizaveta says the Darkling’s power is still alive. He only needs a vessel to rise again. Nikolai can’t believe the infantile body Yuri is ready to overtake is actually the Darkling. Nikolai is able to reach for his darkness within and overtake the Darkling’s being once again. He moves to attack Yuri.

Nina, Adrik, Leoni, and the disguised Hanne storm the factory to rescue the women and children. They can tell once again that they’re being dosed with something different than the normal drug.

Jarl Brum shows up and holds Leoni at gunpoint. He didn’t leave after all. They all manage to escape. The headmistress arrives to try to stop them. Then the voices of the dead she’s wronged over time begin to come out of Nina’s mouth. This scares and stuns everyone, allowing Nina and crew to flee.

Zoya uses her new Grisha powers Juris has taught her to tap into and eventually breaks the sphere surrounding her. She rushes to Juris’s room. He’s lying on his floor, nearly dead. Elizaveta brought some honey mead that she said they’d drink to celebrate their exoneration from captivity. But it was poisoned, causing his fire power to flare inside him.

Juris uses the last of his strength to take on his dragon form one last time so Zoya can slay him and assume his powers. She doesn’t want to but knows she has to. Then she takes some scales from his back to form two new amplifiers for her wrists. She grabs a dagger from the wall and rushes back to Nikolai.

Soldiers stop Nina’s procession at a checkpoint and are suspicious. Then several of them recognize women they know are missing among the group. They realize Nina’s crew has rescued them. Everyone hears the explosives they set up at the factory finally exploding. Leoni says it was a bigger blast than she’d intended. The blast breaks the dam on the nearby lake. A huge wave rushes toward them. Leoni pulls the poison from the infected water so it can’t reach anyone.

Nina forms an ash tree out of the bones of the girls who died in the factory. It’s visible once the waters recede, and everyone thinks it’s a sign from Djel. She doesn’t feel guilty about playing to their loyalty to their god, even though she knows Matthias wouldn’t approve.

When Zoya makes it back to the fight, Grigori has arrived and is trying to protect Nikolai. Elizaveta kills Grigori. She tries to lure Zoya to her side, saying they can share the power. Zoyz asks how the Darkling possibly survived. Elizaveta said she stole his body away before his soul was fully gone.

The two women battle. Zoya observes the Darkling’s face when the fight brings her closer to him. She remembers how he deceived her. She won’t allow him to do the same with Elizaveta and Yuri. She’s not precise with her new fire power, but she uses it to try to destroy him.

Zoya pulls the thorn from Nikolai’s chest, causing black blood to flow, and pushes it into the Darkling’s. Elizaveta sends branches from her thornwood tree to try to entangle Zoya. Zoya’s able to turn the tree against Elizaveta with the help of Juris’s new power. Both the Darkling and Elizaveta appear dead.

Hanne realizes who Nina truly is: The girl who maimed her father months ago. Nina admits she’s an agent of the Ravkan government working to free Fjerdans with Grisha power, just like Hanne. Hanne is frustrated that Nina used her. Nina’s somewhat sorry but says she did what had to be done, and there’s still work to be done. Hanne re-tailors herself back to her real look and decides to join Nina. Nina promises she won’t lie anymore.

Adrik tells Nina he knows the bigger-than-planned explosion wasn’t an accident. He’s mad that Nina put all of them, including innocent civilians, at risk when the dam broke. Nina doesn’t feel regret and says no one is innocent. Since it worked out fine, she said maybe the Fjerdans will see them as Saints now since they rescued so many from the factory and then from the flooding waters.

Nina tells Adrik what she saw in Jarl Brum’s letter that she hasn’t shared with anyone: There’s going to be an assassination attempt on Nikolai. Adrik can’t believe Nina kept this information secret and says they have to leave immediately. Nina says she only kept it quiet for one day, and one day can’t hurt anything. Adrik strongly disagrees.

Nina says they can leave with this information, but she’s not going back to Ravka with them. Adrik knows what she’s going to do. He worries because she won’t have any allies or the means to reach any of them if she needs help.

The thornwood tree that was impaling Nikolai releases its hold on him when Elizaveta dies. He wonders how he and Zoya will escape this place. Will it all crumble to dust with its three long-time inhabitants gone? He thinks he sees the dragon’s eyes in Zoya’s for just a second. He wonders what Zoya had to do to free them.

Zoya wants to kill Yuri. Nikolai says they need him alive to find out everything they can about the Cult of the Starless one (the Darkling’s followers).

Zoya asks if Nikolai’s free of the Darkling. He lies. He doesn’t have the heart to tell her he can still feel the darkness deep inside him, waiting for the opportunity to rise again.

The two begin walking. Yuri‘s carried on Zoya’s wind behind them. Soon the gray sand of the Fold turns into a soft meadow. Somehow they’re back in the real world. Whatever happened at the Unsea was felt in this world, too, with earthquakes and such traveling far.

When they arrive in the capitol, they realize Genya and the others found a way to cover up Nikolai’s disappearance. Everything this group has accomplished in addition to what he and Zoya did gives Nikolai the confidence that together they can find a way to conquer anyone or anything, including the darkness still inside him.

The ball they had been planning is underway. The foreign ambassadors are all assembled. They drug and hide Yuri and split up to find a member of the Triumvirate.

Nikolai sees movement in the conservatory. He’s shocked to see a man who looks exactly like him. He appears to be in a clandestine meeting with a princess. As he moves to kiss her, she pulls a hidden knife and stabs him.

Isaak admires Ehri. He tells her he’s surprised she came. She said it was hard to escape her entourage. He declares his feelings to her. He thinks he sees sadness flit across her face for a moment and doesn’t understand it. He steps toward her, and she goes into his arms. Isaak asks if she could love him if he wasn’t a king. She has tears in her eyes when says she could. Then she stabs him. He’s confused when he looks down and sees a dagger in his chest.

Isaak asks why. Ehri says for her country. He laughs and tries to tell her she has the wrong man. He calls her by name, but she says she’s not Ehri. She’s an imposter just like him. She takes the dagger from his chest and drives it into her own heart.

Nina has at least partially won Hanne’s trust back. She fully earned Jarl’s trust back when they rescued his body from the factory following the explosion. They have invited Nina (as Hanne’s teacher) to join them in their home. They’re excited about the changes they’ve seen in Hanne. She carries herself better, has learned so much of the Zemeni language, and now even says she’d like to find a husband and settle down.

Nina’s ulterior motive for being with Hanne’s family is to learn what Fjerda hopes to do to attack Nikolai and Ravka. In fact, the first night with the Brum family at dinner, a group of generals are coming to discuss Fjerda’s plans. They want to align with the Lantsov pretender to plot their attack on Ravka. Nina and Hanne eavesdrop at dinner.

Zoya joins Nikolai, Genya, and the others in the conservatory. They’re going to try to make sense of what happened and do damage control. There’s a Shu girl there with a dagger in her chest. There’s a man who looks very much like Nikolai. The Triumvirate is visibly upset about his passing.

They say the dagger is of Fjerdan make even though the girl is a Shu. They try to piece together what happened since the people on the floor can’t speak for themselves. It looks like the Shu are trying to frame the Fjerdan people.

Nikolai discovers it’s Isaak who’s been impersonating him. He asks Genya to restore his features to his natural look before they take him his body to his family.

The girl’s actually still breathing. Nikolai realizes she’s not the Shu princess. He asks the group to quietly take her to get medical attention. He’s going to change into his royal clothes and go close out the ball.

Nikolai thinks Hiram Schenk will be really pleased when he hears what he has to say. The groups warns he’s been really frustrated with the Nikolai imposter. Nikolai says he’s about to change his mind and make him happy with Ravka once again. Nikolai wants his Triumvirate to bring the Shu delegation to his father’s old chambers in one hour’s time.

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Two hours later, the group is reassembled. Nikolai comes in with the girl they thought was Mayu, the elite Shu warrior. She looks terrified when she sees Isaak’s body as well as Nikolai. She asks where the princess is. Nikolai says the time for these deceptions is over and reveals that this girl is actually the Shu princess.

Nikolai thinks they had her kill herself, or at least attempt to, to cast more suspicion on the Fjerdans since it was their style of knife she used. He thinks they were trying to do this to incite a war. He thinks the Shu will storm into Ravka and try to use it as a base to launch an attack on the southern border with Fjerda.

As soon as her stand-in was dead, the real princess Ehri was going to be allowed to retreat to the countryside to live a quiet life with her music. The girl wants to know if she will face trial for her crimes or will simply be executed. Nikolai wants to keep her in Ravka as his queen instead.

Zoya is surprised at how Nikolai’s words prick at her heart and at her pride even though she knew this was coming all along. Nikolai thinks this match will bring in a large dowry and help secure the borders from the Shu for a while. Ehri refuses to do it.

How did King of Scars end?

Nikolai asks Tamar and Tolya to keep a close eye on Ehri until the engagement is announced so she doesn’t try to run or kill herself. He says to keep the real Mayu under close guard at the Little Palace. He wants to question her on her intentions.

The Triumvirate asks what Nikolai told Schenk at the ball. He gave him the real plans for their submersibles so the Kerch can build them and use them to help Ravka in the war. Nikolai asks about the Lantsov pretender.

The group wants to hear where Nikolai has been and whether they’ve found a cure for his monster. He says they did find one, but it didn’t quite take. Then they bring Yuri in and show them what they discovered on their journey home: He began changing in visage and now looks just like the Darkling. When a fraction of his soul snapped back into Nikolai, the rest latched onto Yuri, his new vessel. Everyone in the room gasps at the familiar, despised face. He looks at those he knows gathered around him and says it’s good to be back.

There you go! That’s what happened in King of Scars. Hope you enjoyed this King of Scars summary with spoilers!

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16 thoughts on “What happened in King of Scars (King of Scars Duology #1)”

    1. Hmm…This isn’t something I gave much thought to as I read. I definitely think the power of true friendship is a message Bardugo is trying to send.

  1. Hi. I haven’t read “King of scars” yet, but I have some questions. Does Alina appear in “King of scars”? Is the Darkling really dead?

    1. It’s been a long time since I’ve read KofS, but…
      I believe Alina is only referenced in the book; I don’t think she actually makes an appearance. The Darkling is alive, and the recap above explains how and in what form.

  2. I’m a helpless romantic for some reason. But somewhere in the story does Nikolai ever try or kiss Zoya?
    (I know it’s an awkward question, I’m feeling awkward just writing this.)

    1. Ha!! 🙂 I think the answer is no?? I’m sorry I don’t remember for sure; it’s been quite a while since I read it.

    2. No, he never tries to kiss her, but there is a loooot of tension between them, and i think this story will be analyzed better in the second. (I’m a helpless romantic too).

    1. The Darkling is alive, and hopefully this recap does a decent job of explaining how and in what form. I’m ready for more details about this in the second book later this month! 🙂

  3. Thank you SO MUCH for this recap! I’m just starting Rule of Wolves and had forgotten much of the plot of King of Scars.

  4. Thank you so much for this recap! I have forgotten a great deal of it, and now with the second book on my to-read list, it was good to refresh it up a little.

    1. I’m so glad the recap was helpful, and I hope you enjoy book 2! 🙂

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