King of Scars Summary & Study Guide

Leigh Bardugo
This Study Guide consists of approximately 58 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of King of Scars.
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King of Scars Summary & Study Guide Description

King of Scars Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Quotes and a Free Quiz on King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo.

The following version of this book was used to create this lesson plan. Bardugo, Leigh. King of Scars. Macmillan Publishers. 2019. 1st Edition. Hardback.

The King of Scars is split into four separate points of view, and many of the characters have stories that are disconnected from each other. For simplicity’s sake, the plot summary is organized by section, then by narrator. The individual summaries will follow the chronological order of the book.

The Drowning Man

General Zoya, a Grish who can control air and lightning, saves a child, Dima, from a dangerous monster. It is revealed on the way back to the capital that this monster is the Ravka king, Nikolai. He has been transforming unwillingly in his sleep for the last six months, and nobody knows how to stop it. However, with miracles appearing all over the world and his country suffering after war with an entity known as the Darkling, Nikolai is determined to rule. Things are difficult for Ravka, as their closest allies - Zenemi and Kerch - may soon go to war with each other. The other two countries - Shu and Fjerda - are on both sides of Ravka and are planning to fight each other. Determined to stop every battle, Nikolai decides to throw a lavish festival to bring everyone together and gather whatever information he can.

However, when a priest name Yuri asks Nikolai to name the Darkling a Saint, Nikolai decides to travel with Yuri into the place where the Darkling died known as the Fold. He hopes doing so will allow him to complete a purification ritual and dispel the monster within him. Along the way, Nikolai talks with as many civilians as he can and tries to understand everything Ravka needs to recover. Just outside of the Fold, Zoya is captured by a mechanical Grisha soldier and Nikolai unwittingly transforms to save her. Nikolai, Yuri, and Zoya travel to the place where the Darkling died. However, a storm separates them from the rest of their crew and a massive palace of sand and bone appears in the distance. Yuri calls it a miracle, but Nikolai thinks it is a trap.

Meanwhile, a Grisha Heartrender named Nina works with Ardik and Leoni to smuggle Grishas out of Fjerda where many are imprisoned or killed. She struggles with grief after the death of her love Matthias, and still hears his voice reminding her that she needs to show mercy. However, Nina is bitter that she allowed a man named Jarl Brum to live, as he is now a powerful general who continues to torture Grisha. After she saves a group of refugees from a corrupt commander, Nina and her team head to a city named Gävfalle where women and children have gone missing. Once there, they learn that a factory is poisoning the water with an unknown substance. Nina hears the dead calling her to the factory and realizes it is a mass gravesite. Uncertain what to do, Nina finally buries Matthias’ body. Shortly after, she meets a woman named Hanne who is desperate for freedom from the convent. The two bond over similar interests and Nina discovers that Hanne is a Heartrender like herself. Despite Hanne’s hesitation, Nina convinces her to learn her power.

The Witch in the Woods

Nikolai, Zoya, and Yuri are approached by three Saints; Elizaveta, Juris, and Golgori. They invite them to the castle where they have been trapped for over 400 years. Elizaveta says they must dispel the remains of the Darkling within Nikolai to free them. Doing so will turn all three of the saints into humans, but will bring life back to the Fold. Nikolai agrees to the plan. As Elizaveta trains him to summon his monster willingly, Zoya learns from Jaris that she has only used a portion of her power. He says that Grisha used to be much more powerful and in balance with nature. Juris teaches Zoya everything he knows and encourages her to control her power on her own. When the day of the ritual comes, Nikolai confronts his monster and dispels it. However, Elizaveta reveals that was her plan all along and she has preserved the Darkling’s body to reawaken him and allow her to escape the Fold. Zoya finds Juris and unites her soul with the dragon. With her newfound power, she kills Elizaveta, burns the Darkling’s body, and saves Nikolai. However, on their way back to the capital, Nikolai can still feel the monster within him.

Meanwhile, a new character named Isaak begins his journey at the palace. With Nikolai missing, Isaak is asked to impersonate the king so they can continue with the festival. Isaak, who is gifted with languages, accepts the role. However, he struggles in Nikolai’s role because he is not used to the attention a king gets. Over time, Isaak meets the Shu Princess Ehri. She tells him that her family wants her to marry Nikolai, but she wishes she could be a soldier instead. The two bond, and Isaak begins to act more like himself instead of Nikolai when he is alone with her. Meanwhile, Nikolai’s advisors are trying to find proof that one of the royal guard, named Mayu, wants to defect from the Shu to save her twin brother. Near the end of his story, Isaak asks Ehri if she will meet him in the conservatory and plans to tell her the truth.

In Fjerda, Nina discovers that Grisha women and girls are imprisoned inside of the factory and kept under control by a strange type of parem (a highly addictive drug that enhances a Grisha’s power at the cost of their sanity). All of them are forced to have children if they want their next dose, but many have died in the experiments. Nina returns to the convent and is almost caught by the Wellmother, but is saved by Hanne. The next day, Nina is asked to meet with Hanne and her father. She is horrified to learn that he is Jarl Brun and struggles to address him. When alone, she tells Hanne about the factory and asks for Hanne’s help. She agrees and Nina works with Leoni and Ardik on a plan to free the prisoners.

On the day that Jarl plans to tour the factory, the four disguise themselves and head to the factory. While Hanne and Ardik sedate the women and hide them in a wagon, Leoni and Nina set blast charges. However, Leoni is almost caught by Jarl who knows about the experiments. Hanne knocks him out with her power, horrified. However, she begs NIna to save him. She does so, but when the Wellmother tries to stop then, Nina calls the dead to her and lets them kill the Wellmother. On the way out they are stopped by guards, but the people of Gävfalle recognize many of the prisoners as friends and family. An explosion goes off, sending a wall of poison water at the town. Ardik uses his wind powers to separate it, while Leoni pulls the poison from it, saving everyone. The women are freed, but Nina tells Adrik that she is going to stay in Fjerda. Later, she meets Jarl and his wife in the Ice Court under her fake name, Mila. Both are thrilled at her progress with their daughter and ask her to stay with them. As they leave, Hanne and Nina reaffirm their plan to change Fjerda from the inside out.

Back in Ravka, Nikolai returns to the castle in time to see Isaak meeting with Ehri in the conservatory. When Isaak asks her if she could love him if he was not the king, she says she could. Then, she stabs him in the heart, killing him, before stabbing herself. However, it is revealed that she missed her own heart and is still alive. Nikolai grabs one of the soldiers and reveals that she is the real princess Ehri, and the soldier, Mayu, was sent to kill the king and die to start a war between Shu, Fjerda, and Ravka. Nikolai announces that Ehri will be his wife to stop the Shu from attacking while giving him enough money to deal with the war. He then reveals that the Darkling survived by putting his soul in Yuri’s body. Zoya asks to kill him, but Nikolai stops her as they need every resource available to deal with the war. The novel ends with the Darkling saying how nice it is to be home with friends.

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