Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

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I feel that in the name of full disclosure, I should reveal that to me Rule of Wolves is not the epic ending of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse series, the culmination of seven books of emotion and wondering, but simply book two in a duology with King of Scars. I loved that book. Really did.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for Rule of Wolves.

It’s not a bad book. It does a lot of things well. The thing it does for me is the balance between snark and sincerity. The banter between the companions is endlessly enjoyable yet it never interferes with the book’s big emotional moments. Every character’s voice comes through distinctly as their own too; Bardugo is just an excellent, witty character writer.

The problems start with the plot. Like many an author ending a long running series, Bardugo has a great many items to fit into the space. The end result is a lot of things happening and not a great deal of tension. This resulted in a lack of narrative momentum that made it hard to get into the book.

That doesn’t matter all that much if it hits on all those big resolution moments but weirdly, Rule of Wolves rarely nailed the landing there for me. Zoya and the dragon, Zoya and Nikolai – there never seemed to be some big “this is what it was all for” emotional moment there. Hanne and Nina did a bit better but it still seemed a bit muted. I am debating whether to call it rushed, but I think the beats were there, just… muted. The only resolution that felt powerful was the Shu Han side-arc.

Shu Han brings me to a point that maybe doesn’t even matter, but did make me go “huh” in the book. Ravka doesn’t just fix its own problems in this book, it fixes Shu Han’s and Fjerda’s. Oh, there’s people of both countries involved too, but the initial momentum comes from Ravka. One country fixing the world breaks my secondary belief a little these days. I guess adding more from both those countries would have made the book even more unwieldy, so I’ll live with it.

Speaking of unwieldy, the cameos of the Crowns, Alina and Mal, the Darkling – well, they didn’t add much other than shrugs. If they mean more to me emotionally I might feel different, but I don’t.

In short, Rule of Wolves was a pleasant time with characters I liked doing things I struggled to care about. There are worse books to read but also a lot better and as we hit the climax and I found myself not caring, the list of better felt longer. A missed opportunity, but it won’t stop me paying attention to Leigh Bardugo in future.

One thought on “Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

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