4,0 av 5 stjärnor
Vintage Leigh Bardugo
Recenserad i Japan 🇯🇵 den 18 mars 2022
Rule of Wolves tells the story of Jarl Brum and Fjerda’s invasion of Ravka, and King Nikolai’s schemes to save Ravka.
Underneath that mien, however, we hear from a number of characters involved in the conflict, and their struggles to find meaning and hope. Leigh Bardugo presents their stories from 3rd person omniscient perspective, so we enter their minds hear their reactions and emotional responses to the conflict.
・Nina Zenik, from Six of Crows, tells her story of espionage from the house of Jarl Brum. She and Hanne Brum, Grisha daughter of Grisha hunter Jarl Brum, plot to save Grisha as well as the crown prince of Fjerda.
・Zoya Nazyalensky, King Nikolai’s general, fights from Nikolai’s side as she struggles internally with the guilt of being unable to save all Grisha from death.
・Mayu Kir-Kaat, a new character, was an assassin from Shu Han sent to take King Nikolai’s life, but begins to soften to the king’s mercy, eventually converting and leading the Ravkans to Shu Han to secure help for the war, but also to find her brother, Reyem, a victim/subject of the kherguud program.
・The Monk, a body newly possessed by the Darkling, trying to round up his followers to make a comeback.
・King Nikolai Lantsov himself tells the story of his struggles to fight a war while winning Zoya’s heart and staving off whispers of his illegitimacy. He is not the rightful heir to the throne, but he wins the popular support through his bravery and love for country.
Nina’s chapters are by far the strongest, both in terms of the tension and her character transformation. Her chapters are full of tension: she is constantly in risk of being found, and Bardugo does a masterful job introducing obstacles, from Prince Rasmus’ guard Joran to the new Wellmother to the queen of Ravka herself. Every chapter is full of suspense, and she also offers us a glimpse of the world in which Jarl Brum grew up, the culture that bred the monster commander. Old demons emerge; she finds Matthias’ killer, but also finds the mercy to spare him, leading to a remarkable transformation, and plot twist after plot twist. Through her eyes, we also witness Hanne Brum’s growth, from a rebellious tomboy to future leader and lover. Full disclosure: I couldn’t put down the book after each Nina chapter, and couldn’t help skipping the other character viewpoints so I could read her story uninterrupted, to the end. She was that good. Leigh Bardugo’s writing of how Nina overcomes her demons, mixed with reminders from Matthias’ last words — “Save some mercy for my people.” — is simply second to none. Every time Nina brings back Matthias’ reminder at some crucial decision point, chills ran through my body. Hanne is my new favorite character for her bravery, her struggle, and her ingenuity.
Mayu’s chapters on the mission to find Reyem also add depth to the world. Through her eyes, we learn about Ehri and see the Shu Han culture from a native. Unlike Fjerda and Ravka, the Shu Han have their own culture and demons, particularly under Queen Makhi’s rule. Whereas Leigh Bardugo’s masterful storytelling and character-writing came through in Nina’s chapters, Mayu’s chapters highlight the author’s worldbuilding. Shu Han’s culture reminded me of east Asian culture, with political intrigue and the notion of saving face: even when Makhi is outed, there is no trial, no upheaval, to save face and keep the surface peace. The chapters offering insight into the kherguud program also tugs at the heartstrings, as we witness the cold-blooded cost of creating human weapons, both from the soldier’s perspective, and the perspective of their creators and families. Mayu and Reyem’s kebben — twin — bond makes these chapters heartbreaking to read, but they showcase the depth of Bardugo’s world. The fictional foreign languages feel real: the Fjerdan proverbs sound like German, Ravkan names & politics resemble the Russian, and the Shu Han vocabulary feels believably Chinese. Bardugo weaves them in naturally, with definitions that never meander pedantically. It adds depth and believability to Bardugo’s Grishaverse, a testament to the research she conducted and the power of her imagination.
Other than true-to-life worldbuilding and masterful storytelling, Leigh Bardugo’s other superpower is witty dialogue, and nowhere does this shine more clearly than Nikolai’s chapters. He is not your typical politician, but rather a sarcastic, witty leader who cares about his people more than the throne. His exchanges with Zoya are a gem, always bringing a smile and a retort. I didn’t like Nikolai’s chapters because of all the politics and warmongering, but Nikolai’s humor and his dialogue are always sharp and well-written.
This is vintage Leigh Bardugo at her best:
- Multidimensional main characters struggling to overcome their inner demons.
- Witty dialogue and verbal jousting.
- Masterful worldbuilding with fictional customs & languages that mirror real-world nations.
- Plot twists, tension, and suspense throughout.
Weaknesses of the story:
1.) The long stretches in the middle focused on politics or war. War is nasty, both in real life and fiction, and still it felt contrived throughout portions of the book. Key sub-characters suddenly die without warning. Too much writing focuses on mourning the departed and assassinated, slowing down the plot.
2.) I never felt Fjerda’s motivations, and the start to war seems rushed and sudden at the end of Heartwood. We begin to understand the culture that made Jarl Brum, but he’s still as unlikable as any stereotypical archvillain, and he has survived way too long. Joran is a deep and intricate foil, but I would have liked to hear and see more of his own transformation, perhaps from his own perspective.
3.) Finally, I found the Monk chapters to be confusing and weirdly out-of-place; the Darkling’s immortality and brainwashing often felt unnatural and contrived, almost too easy compared to the struggles our other protagonists face. In terms of their internal dialogue, I couldn’t distinguish between the Darkling, Aleksander, Yuri, and the Monk, even though they occupied one body. This story could be just as good — maybe even better — without jumping into his/their head. The Darkling’s fate at the end doesn’t feel convincing or satisfying. I don’t think he’d resign himself to that.
Having said that, this was still an enjoyable read. I couldn’t put the book down going through Nina’s chapters, or even Mayu’s. I skipped Nikolai and Zoya at first, not so much an indicator of their ennui but more because Bardugo penned Nina, Hanne, Joran, Mayu, Makhi, and Ehri so masterfully.
As a bonus, the story even involves old friends Kaz Brekker, Jesper Fahey, Wylan van Eck, and Inej Ghafa, from the Six of Crows. In the grand scheme, they feel more like fan-serviced cameos, but they play their role well and offer more opportunities for clever dialogue and one-liners.