Following a long reading slump, what better way to get back into the reading world than the latest Leigh Bardugo novel, Rule of Wolves.
Taking place straight after the events of King of Scars, ruler of Ravka, Nikolai Lantsov, is on the verge of war with Fjerda. His political marriage to the princess of Shu Han is hanging by a thread, and it will take all of his wit and charm to convince the country that he is the ruler they need. He continues to battle against the monster within, not to mention his feelings for a certain general who has been by his side through thick and thin.
General Zoya Nazyalensky will stand by Nikolai’s side no matter what, but even she is finding it difficult to see a way for Ravka to emerge triumphant. The impending royal nuptials are difficult for her to bear, and she throws herself into her duties as general, determined to lose herself in her work and forget about the losses she has suffered through the years. There is a part of her that doubts the responsibility that rests on her shoulders, leading to a desire to prove herself and her worth to the country.
While Nikolai and Zoya are our main protagonists in Ravka, Nina Zenik is our undercover spy in Fjerda. She has infiltrated the home of the highest ranking military commander and is passing information on military operations back to Ravka. She has formed a close bond with the commander’s daughter, Hanne, who is a secret Grisha, and is navigating the highest reaches of Fjerdan society, including the royal family. She is hoping that success in Fjerda will alleviate her grief and help to heal her broken heart.
Returning to the Grishaverse was like pulling on a comfy jumper, with the characters falling into place and each perspective feeling familiar but still offering something new. Nikolai’s wit is always a pleasure to read, with his inimitable charm leaping off the page and always surprising you with the turn a conversation will take or the angle with which he views a battlefield. He has always been a favourite of mine since his introduction in the main Grisha trilogy, and this book allows him to grow further as both a man and a king, as he tries to define himself as a ruler and control his feelings for Zoya. He knows that a relationship with her would do him no favours politically, but he allows himself the comfort of dreaming and indulges in what could be if he wasn’t the ruler Ravka needs.
Zoya has similar emotions but buries them down so that she can continue in her role as general. She knows that Ravka will need them both at their best if they are to survive the war, and she is determined not to let her King and her country down. We learn more about Zoya’s past in this book, seeing past the hard shell and learning how she became so hard and unwilling to trust in others. She has always had a strength tinged with vulnerability, and after she gained a new power in the previous book it was important to see how she would cope with the increased reliance on her abilities. I have grown to love her as a character and I think each book adds a new depth to her, which is part of what makes this series so compelling to read.
Each new addition to the series adds more to each character, as well as developing the Grisha world that we have come to know and love. Via Nina’s perspective we got to learn significantly more about the country of Fjerda and how their customs differ to Ravka. There is inherent corruption at court that Nina is determined to bring down, but is conflicted by her friendship with Hanne and the feelings stirring within her. She doesn’t want to put Hanne in danger, but her subterfuge is becoming increasingly risky and there is an element of her that doesn’t care what happens as long as she gets justice. Nina has always been a favourite of mine but I thought there were some big changes to her character in this book that I wasn’t completely sure about. She is still as headstrong as ever, and I enjoyed her chapters, but I could see where things were headed from the early pages of the book.
I always adore Leigh’s novels and am very much hoping that there will be a follow up to this one. My only slight qualm with this book was the fact that some events were very predictable and I could see how some things were going to end. I did find myself surprised during the ending scenes, but I was hoping for more shocks to keep me guessing. Nevertheless, I loved this instalment to the Grishaverse and always love Leigh’s writing and characterisation. Wit flows throughout and the sassy dialogue is sure to put a smile on your face.