Overall rating: 3/5
Genre: Fantasy, young-adult, LGBT
Read if you loved: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
Content warnings: Violence
It is currently 8pm PST as I draft this and I just finished Rule of Wolves. Typically, I take some time to really process the story and get my thoughts together before sitting down to write my review but this time, I couldn’t wait. There is so much to get into (some might say too much?) and I’m pretty sure my thoughts on any other day will be as messy as this book (am I giving my opinion away already?). Anyways, let’s take a short second to rejoice that after 1 month, 7 books, and 3,360 pages, I am *finally* done with the Grishaverse and ready to close that chapter of my life.
That is until the show comes out later this month, of course.
Oh, also, I normally keep these reviews spoiler-free but I’m feeling particularly expressive today and given that this is the last novel in the series, it feels fitting to really break down the different elements that went into making it what it is. So consider yourselves warned! Spoilers below!
First, a summary
We pick up where we left off at the end of King of Scars – the Darkling has returned, war is imminent, Nina is still Mila, Nikolai wants to marry the princess he’s holding captive, and Zoya might just be a dragon. Seems like a lot, huh? That’s not even the half of it. Rule of Wolves reads as a comprehensive farewell to the Grishaverse, and therein lies its flaw. There is too much happening and it’s all happening too fast. Long story short, it was a mess. My love for Zoya and Nina will not allow me to give it less than 3 stars because they continued to shine regardless of the chaos around them, but wow do I wish we just got more of them. Let’s break it all down.
Zoya and Nikolai
Zoya and Nikolai’s journeys – individually and as an eventual couple – were my favorite part of the book. I stan Zoya, so watching her come to terms with her identity, find acceptance within herself and with others, and truly flourish as the badass that she is was incredible to witness. There were so many tender moments that did not take away from her strong characterization, and I thought Nikolai served as a particularly effective foil in that respect. He was able to bring out so much in her that other characters have been unable to do. At the same time, she offered the same vulnerability to his character, and Bardugo did a good job of letting us into his internal conflicts both with self-doubt and with the demon.
My issue? We didn’t get enough of it, and because of everything else crammed into this book, it felt superficial and rushed. We never really went deep into their relationship and there was so much potential! I found myself impatiently reading through the other chapters (more on that in a moment) to get to these two and it would take forever.
Nina and Hanne
Ah, where to begin with these two? I adore Nina, but her time felt so misused in this book. She did not need a new love interest, and I’m not saying that because I’m not over Matthias (he was actually my least favorite Crow), but because it felt forced. She spent King of Scars mourning him so very deeply, and then there was suddenly zero mention of him in this book until much later! There was no guilt regarding her budding feelings for Hanne, no real introspection that you would expect to see, and it all just sort of neatly fell into place. She could have been doing so much more in this book, and all her scenes felt…meh.
Now for Hanne. I simply do not think this was a well developed character, which is a shame considering how much I have admired Bardugo’s character building skills. Given Hanne’s backstory, it was bizarre that she just jumped right in with Nina’s espionage work with hardly another question. I love the representation brought to the table, but their relationship was also not developed well at all. And don’t even get me started on how their story ends – they just live in disguise and rule Fjerda? Come on!
The return of the Darkling
I know this technically happens at the end of King of Scars, and I will confess, I didn’t hate it immediately. I was willing to give it a chance. And I was mistaken.
This was completely useless. There was no point in bringing him back, no impact of his role in this story, and this book could have easily stood without that plot and likely been better for it. It felt like a random attempt at giving him a redemption arc but, like, why? To satisfy everyone who loved the Darkling in Shadow and Bone? I just don’t get it.
Alina, Mal, and the Crows
Another topic I’m lukewarm about. Again, I didn’t hate the cameos from the protagonists in the other series. The Crows specifically, I really didn’t have an issue with. But I’m not quite sure about what happened with Alina and Mal. They just vanished? And then popped back up? It was weird, and I think all of their appearances could have been better fleshed out if some of the other fluff had been discarded.
Mayu, Ehri, and Makhi
This entire storyline was completely unnecessary. I said what I said. To bring in new characters this late in the game and then give them a POV and individual plot? Why?
I feel the same way about the Apparat as I do the Darkling. This man was unnecessary to this book and I personally thought/hoped that he would die but nooooo the creep continues to hang around and do nothing.
WHY KILL DAVID?! I don’t care if characters die, as long as it serves a purpose. This is why I didn’t hate Matthias dying, because it clearly opened up Nina’s future as an undercover agent and gave her the purpose and will that drives her journey from that point on. But David??? Was it just for shock??? Because I was shook but also confused! Genya has been through enough and we hardly even see her respond to his death. For that matter, we hardly see anyone respond to his death outside of a few lines.
Ugh, the ending. I loved what happened with Zoya, but that was about it. This ties back to the whole Darkling situation – it was not required. It was stretched on for far too long and I was so ridiculously underwhelmed by the situation.
Wow, that was cathartic. If you think I sound flustered and upset – it’s because I am. There was so much good quality fodder to end this series, and if more time had been taken to really trim down the plot and clean this up, it could have been excellent. I’m not quite sure what happened here, and since I avoid looking at other reviews before writing mine, maybe I’m the odd one out and everyone else loved it! So regardless of whether you agree or disagree with me, let me know what you think in the comments below!