The Grishaverse
The Grishaverse

"He’s damnably handsome. Brave in battle, smart as a whip. An excellent dancer, oh, and an even better shot."
— Nikolai Lantsov about himself, Ruin and Rising

Nikolai Lantsov is a former King of Ravka. He is the second son of Alexander III (though later revealed to be the biological son of Magnus Opjer). He spent many years undercover, taking on a variety of jobs and hobbies. He is first introduced in the series as Sturmhond, a powerful privateer, and soon after reveals his true identity to Alina Starkov and Malyen Oretsev.


Early life

Nikolai grew up at court and craved attention. He was surrounded by an army of nannies and was a constant troublemaker. Nannies, tutors, servants, and even his mother tried to get him to keep still but none of their methods worked. Nikolai favored Vasily's attention the most and tried to emulate his brother in everyway to garner a smile or praise. However, Vasily paid little attention to his younger brother, so Nikolai continued to misbehave.

At age nine, Nikolai was pranking Tutor Mitkin regularly. Because Nikolai could not be punished directly, Dominik was brought to the class to use as a punishment device. In the first class with Dominik, Nikolai placed a mouse under Mitkin's hat to scare him. When Mitkin lifted his hat to find the mouse beneath it, he lashed Dominik's forearms and hands ten times. Mitkin explained that this punishment method would continue every time Nikolai misbehaved. The next day, Nikolai apologized to Dominik and pledged to do better. From then on, he was well behaved.

Dominik and Nikolai's friendship grew as they studied together into adolescence. At the age of twelve, Nikolai began sneaking out to the countryside where he helped out on Dominik's family farm. Nikolai also learned the realities of Dominik's position as a commoner with a special position at the Grand Palace. At the age of fifteen, Nikolai was caught by Vasily coming back from the countryside. Dominik was barred from the palace and lost his stipend from the palace. Nikolai worked hard to provide for Dominik and his family by using his privileges as prince.

At sixteen, Nikolai and Dominik enlisted in the First Army together as infantry. They ended up in the 22nd Regiment, where Nikolai took his first bullet. During the Halmhend campaign, Dominik was shot. Nikolai was beside him on the battlefield where he died.[2] During this campaign, Nikolai learned about the Spinning Wheel. [3] After the Battle of Halmhend, he visited an infirmary to talk to the wounded. That is where he spoke to Isaak Andreyev and advised him to make use of his talent for languages. Before the end of his service, Nikolai earned his final rank of Major.[4]

When his service ended, he left Ravka in order to apprentice with a shipwright, a civil engineer, and a gunsmith, excelling in all professions. This led him to begin his life as Sturmhond, the privateer. Although Nikolai had been away from court for almost seven years, he couldn't take the risk that the Darkling or one of his Grisha might recognize him, and so he had Tolya Yul-Bataar, a member of his ship, tailor his face. Nikolai took on the name Sturmhond (which was given to him by feeding a captain's fingers to his dog) because he quickly realized that on the sea, a prince would be more valuable as a hostage than a captain. He, therefore, concealed his real identity from all but his most trusted crew members – Tolya, Tamar Kir-Bataar, Privyet, and a few of the Etherealki, presumably the ones who were on the Hummingbird.

He found that as Sturmhond, he was able to amass resources and mount offenses that were not possible for the Ravkan navy and that he had done more to support Ravka's war effort as a privateer than he ever had as a soldier or a prince. However, leading this life had meant that he was at sea when the Darkling made his attempt on the throne, and now his father, King Alexander III's health was failing.

Siege and Storm

Nikolai is first introduced as an infamous privateer known as Sturmhond, a young captain commanding his own personal fleet of ships which he uses to aid the war effort of his native Ravka. He and his crew have been hired by the Darkling to transport him and a group of his Grisha through the icy seas in their hunt for a supposedly mythical dragon, Rusalye, which the Darkling believes to be real.

The Darkling has, at this point, captured Alina and her partner Mal, and they are held prisoner aboard Sturmhond's ship, the Volkvolny. Sturmhond refuses to listen to Alina's entreaty to help her against the Darkling but opposes the Darkling's mistreatment of Alina.

Just as Rusalye, the dragon, is harpooned, Sturmhond leads his crew in a revolt against the Darkling, fleeing with Alina and Mal and shooting the Darkling in the process. Sturmhond reveals that he had not been working for the Darkling and was instead working for a higher bidder in Ravka. He convinces Alina to come with him, befriending her and Mal.

They spend several weeks on his ship, where he has his best Fabrikator make a fetter out of the dragon's scales. When he and Alina, Mal, and a few crew members leave on the Hummingbird – a flying ship that he designed and built – and he leaves his first mate Privyet in charge.

After they go through the Fold, the Hummingbird crashes in the lake outside of Kribirsk, and the group is found by members of the Ravkan First Army. Sturmhond takes off his coat to reveal he is wearing a military uniform beneath it, and he introduces himself – not as Sturmhond but as Nikolai Lantsov, the second son of the Ravkan King and therefore a prince.

After a startled Alina punches him, Nikolai takes control of the situation and convinces the soldiers to bring her and Mal to their camp as guests rather than prisoners. Once there, he enters their tent and explains himself. Nikolai reveals his ambition to return home and become his father's heir. He believes that his older brother, who is more concerned with horses and hunting than with politics, will step aside.

Nikolai asks Alina to return with him to Ravka and help him to defeat the Darkling. He also proposes marriage to her, suggesting that such an alliance would make both of them stronger and allow them to unite the First and Second Armies against the Darkling. He insists that he is talking about a political alliance and not a love match; though, he says he is not opposed to having children with her. He hints that he would be willing to have an open relationship with Alina if she still wanted to see Mal. Alina refuses, and Mal grows to resent Nikolai. Mal even pins Nikolai to a wall and starts a fight with him, and Alina breaks up the argument. However, she agrees to support Nikolai's bid for the throne if he will support her in taking the Darkling's place as leader of the Grisha of the Second Army. Surprised, Nikolai considers it and finally agrees.

On their journey together to Os Alta, Nikolai and Alina make numerous public appearances in small towns. Outside of Tashta, Nikolai kisses Alina, and the crowd goes wild. Alina, in return, kicks his shin in private, and Mal is once again furious with Nikolai. On her third attempt at kicking Nikolai, he grabs her bare leg, which makes her blush. Still angry, she continues threatening to kill him and calls him "creepy," which Nikolai responds to with surprising insecurity.

It is rumored that he is a bastard, born from an affair between the Queen and Magnus Opjer, a Fjerdan ambassador who made his living in the sea trade. If this were true, he would have no legitimate claim to the throne at all. Nikolai is as aware of these claims as anyone else. He publicly gives no credence to them and denies them entirely. Privately, he tells Alina that he is "probably a bastard;" though, he insists that it doesn't change his ambition. He wants to fix what is wrong with his family's rule.

When they arrive at court, Nikolai reveals to his parents that he is Sturmhond. Alina is put in charge of the Second Army, just as she had wanted, and Mal is installed as her head guard. Tolya and Tamar, the twins from Sturmhond's ship, make up the rest of her guard, and she takes over the Darkling’s old rooms while Nikolai sets himself up at court.

At court, Alina and Nikolai often attend meetings together and become good friends.

Defenses are set up, and plans are made to protect the palace from a potential Darkling attack. Despite this, Nikolai also begins to rebuild the Hummingbird. He names the new ship the Kingfisher, and tells Alina that he intends to retain it as an escape vessel, in the event that their defenses are overcome. She asks him to keep it a secret, saying that it will affect morale.

Nikolai comes into conflict with his older brother Vasily Lantsov. The elder prince recognizes his ambition to gain the throne and proves himself to be far less willing to give up his place as heir than Nikolai had thought.

Plans are cut short during Nikolai's birthday celebrations. Vasily arrives, seeming worryingly pleased with himself, and eventually reveals what he imagines to be a great victory over Nikolai – he has been negotiating with the Fjerdans, one of Ravka's enemies. He has arranged a trade agreement wherein some of the security stations along Ravka's border roads will be relaxed to allow traders to move freely. Nikolai reacts with horror, saying that those security outposts had been serving as an early warning system. He says that Vasily has been played and that the arrangement he has made will provide the Darkling with a direct route to the capital. Vasily scoffs at this, but Nikolai asks how long ago the agreement was reached. He realizes that with all of his family gathered together for his birthday, they have provided the perfect opportunity for the Darkling to strike. He immediately wants to evacuate.

His fears are proved true when, even as they are still arguing about this, the room is invaded by the Darkling's nichevo'ya. All the plans that had been made to fight the Darkling and make a stand against him are brought to nought. Vasily is killed instantly when one of the nichevo'ya tears off his arm and leaves him bleeding on the parquet flooring. Nikolai's military instincts take over. He and Alina rush his parents out of the throne room. Nikolai goes straight for the Kingfisher, saying that he has to get his parents out, but Alina refuses to go with him. Her duty is to the Grisha, and although it's clear that the Darkling's forces are already overrunning them all, she goes back to the Little Palace. Before she leaves, she asks Nikolai to take Baghra – her old trainer and the Darkling's mother – with him, and he agrees. As Alina leaves, her last view of Nikolai is him standing there. She does not know whether or not he has managed to escape the palace or what his fate might be.

Ruin and Rising

After the Darkling's attack, Nikolai managed to escape with the King, Queen, and other survivors. After he saves Alina, Mal, and the rest of the Grisha who escaped the White Cathedral, he brings them to the Spinning Wheel, where the rest of the survivors are, including the King and the Queen.

Soon after Alina and others arrive, Genya Safin gets in trouble, and Nikolai stands up for her against the King. He forces King to write the letter of abdication, threatening him with the trial for rape. Before his mother leaves, she tells him about Magnus Opjer, a Fjerdan ambassador, and Nikolai's real father. She also gives him the emerald ring, the Lantsov Emerald, which he later gives to Alina, when he proposes to her again. He tells her that, even though their marriage would mainly be a political alliance, they could be happy and eventually have children of their own.

Afterward, they make plans to fight back against the Darkling. This includes Nikolai and Alina touring together to attempt to win support. Their first stop will be Ketterdam, a port city on the nearby island of Kerch. As they are making plans to leave, the Darkling appears, having been led to them by Sergei, a Grisha who had defected to him. As punishment for Nikolai stealing Alina from under his nose in the previous book, the Darkling infects him with merzost, the same forbidden power that he has been using to create his nichevo'ya. It warps Nikolai, transforming him into a winged monster with fangs, talons, and skin filled with veins of darkness. It also fills him with a hunger for human flesh and makes his mind more animalistic. He flies away, leaving Alina and her friends to escape alone and form new plans of their own.

Despite what has happened to him, Nikolai retains some awareness in this form. He at first follows Alina, and when he sees her emerald ring, he puts it on her finger to show that he recognizes her. She attempts to use her light to heal him, but when it hurts him instead, he flies off towards the Fold – a place which the Darkling had created many years before, where the land is bathed in constant darkness and where monstrous predators named volcra make their home. Later, when Alina and her friends confront the Darkling inside the Fold, Nikolai appears again with the volcra following after him. He leads them to attack their creator, helping Alina to fight off the Darkling's forces.

Alina kills Mal and her power is amplified and absorbed by all the other otkazat'sya in the area. A moment later she stabs a horrified Darkling in the chest, killing him. This returns Nikolai to his human form; however, because he is flying at the time of his transformation, he falls from the sky. Zoya Nazyalensky manages to cushion his fall with an updraft, reducing his injury to only two fractured ribs and saving his life. All of them are taken back to the farm that Alina and her friends used as a refuge before entering the Unsea. He is shown to now have a voice "husky and damaged from whatever dark thing had used him."

In the aftermath, Nikolai is rushed back into uniform and brought to the remnants of Ravka's First Army. He is able to take control and finally return to Os Alta to claim the throne, while a story spreads that he had been kidnapped and tortured by the Darkling. This is used to explain the dark scars on each of his fingers – actually marks left from where his talons had grown. His transformation is not made public. Nikolai reveals that his memories of that time are scattered and unsure; though, he remains privately haunted by it. He asks Alina once again to be his Queen, but she refuses. The creation of the new Sun Summoners has left her without her power, and she chooses a quiet life with Mal instead. Recognizing that Ravka owed her a debt, Nikolai tells her to keep the Lantsov Emerald and use it to build something new.

After this, Nikolai appoints three of Alina's friends – Zoya, Genya, and David Kostyk – to lead the Grisha in place of the Darkling. Alina is publicly said to have died along with the Darkling and is remembered as a martyr and Saint. Privately, she marries Mal and uses the Lantsov Emerald to build a new orphanage where her own had once stood. Nikolai visits her there in disguise, always wearing gloves to cover the scars on his hands.

Crooked Kingdom

Nikolai later appears in Crooked Kingdom, accompanied by Zoya Nazyalensky and Genya Safin, as part of a delegation of Ravkans sought out by Kaz Brekker and his gang. He is styled once again as Sturmhond and claims that the King of Ravka has permitted him to negotiate on the country's behalf when this involves dealing with people King Nikolai cannot be seen to negotiate with.

Nikolai and Kaz discuss Kaz's plan to stage an auction for the indenture of Kuwei Yul-Bo, a boy whose father created jurda parem and who may be integral in developing an antidote to the drug. Kaz, suspicious of the idea that a privateer would be given the power to decide the fate of a nation, refuses to deal with Sturmhond unless the privateer discloses his true identity. When Nikolai hints to Kaz that he is the King of Ravka, and that he uses his old persona to take action where it would not be appropriate to do so as King, Kaz agrees to execute their plan: Sturmhond will enter the auction and bid on behalf of Ravka.

However, a problem arises. Ravka does not have enough funds to bid competitively in the auction; the Ravkan civil war two years prior combined with years of poor financial management under the previous Lantsov Kings has left the country's treasury depleted. As a result, Nikolai has borrowed heavily from Kerch banks in order to sustain his country, a fact well-known to the Kerch Merchant Council. Despite this, Kaz plans a way to transport Kuwei to Ravka and simultaneously implicate his enemy Jan Van Eck in meddling in the auction. After Kuwei's death is faked and he is smuggled out of the auction site in order to prevent pursuit by other interested nations, Nikolai, Zoya, and Genya prepare to bring the boy back to Ravka.

The other members of Kaz's gang remain unaware of Sturmhond's true identity; however, Nina Zenik, a former soldier of the Second Army, feels that she has met Sturmhond before and that his voice is strangely familiar. Before Nikolai leaves with Zoya and Genya, he encourages Nina to return to the Second Army, and informs her that Ravka and the King are grateful for her service.

At the very end of the book, it is revealed that Nikolai sent scouts to find Inej Ghafa's parents as a part of his deal with Kaz.

King of Scars

Taking place sometime after the events of Crooked Kingdom, it is revealed that Nikolai's body still contains a sliver of the Darkling's magic. Nikolai has begun to temporarily transform into a winged monster as he did in Ruin and Rising. The monster only comes at night, and occurrences are growing more frequent, putting people at risk from the creature's hunger for human flesh. On top of that, unexplained events have been happening all around Ravka; statues have begun to weep, and a bridge made of bone has sprung from nowhere. The people have called these events miracles, and a new religious cult has appeared - the Cult of the Starless Saint, which preaches that the Darkling is a Saint, and will be reborn.

With Ravka in considerable debt to Kerch, and war with Fjerda brimming on the horizon, Nikolai needs to focus on finding a Queen and securing Ravka's throne with an heir. With the appearances of the monster inside him growing more and more difficult to control, Nikolai embarks on a quest to find a cure. Supported by Zoya and Yuri Vedenen, one of the monks from the Cult of the Starless Saint, he journeys into the Fold seeking the place where the Darkling died. Yuri has told tales of an ancient ritual that was once used to remove monsters from men. Nikolai hopes it can work for him.

En route to the Fold, the group is attacked by Shu soldiers using jurda parem. When Zoya is almost taken, Nikolai leaps to her defense and manages to manifest the monster in daylight for the first time. He also retains control of his mind for the first time and is able to make the monster retreat once Zoya is safe. The incident reveals the King's condition to Yuri, who is awed by an obvious manifestation of the Darkling's power. Nikolai points out that Saints have to be martyred, and so long as that power still exists, the Darkling cannot be a Saint. Yuri promises to help Nikolai get rid of the monster as a result.

When they arrive at their destination, Nikolai, Zoya, and Yuri are taken captive by three monstrous creatures; a dragon, a woman surrounded by bees, and a creature that keeps changing its form. These are revealed to be three of Ravka's reborn Saints; Sankta Lizabeta, Sankt Grigori, and Sankt Juris. They claim to have been trapped in the Fold since its creation by the Darkling 400 years ago. They ask Nikolai to complete the obisbaya ritual to excise the demon and destroy the last of the Darkling's power, the act of which will finally free them from the Fold and allow them to live out mortal lives. In preparation, Elizaveta trains Nikolai to call the monster forth at will, helping him to better understand the nature of the creature within him. Recognizing Nikolai's attachment to Zoya, Elizaveta temporarily drowns her in order to prompt the transformation. It works, and Zoya willingly submits to multiple sessions of torture to help her King. At the same time, Juris, having earlier destroyed Zoya's amplifier, gives her training which lets her access every aspect of Grisha power.

When Nikolai undergoes the ritual, Elizaveta betrays him, revealing that she had secretly saved the Darkling's body from its funeral pyre and intends not to destroy him, but to bring him back to life. Yuri has been helping her and deliberately betrays Nikolai. Despite beating the demon in his battle for control of his body, Nikolai looks set to die. Zoya comes to his rescue, her powers vastly enhanced by a new amplifier - one made from the dragon scales of Juris, his final gift to her. Zoya is able to destroy the Darkling's body, kill Elizaveta with her own thorns, and revive Nikolai. Having lost all track of time, they head back to the capital with Yuri in bonds.

On their return, they discover that Genya, David, Tamar, and Tolya have done their best to conceal the disappearance of their King. An Autumn Festival had been planned, in reality, to attempt diplomacy with their neighbors, under the mask of finding a Queen for Nikolai. A palace guard named Isaak Andreyev has been disguised as Nikolai and fallen in love with one of the potential brides, the Shu princess Ehri Kir-Taban. The real Nikolai arrives home in time to see Ehri assassinate his double, and then stab herself. He realizes that Ehri was also an impostor; the real Ehri is hiding, pretending to be one of her own guards. Tamar manages to save the life of the assassin, Mayu Kir-Kaat, and Nikolai takes Ehri as both his hostage and Queen, to prevent war with the Shu. He also makes a trade agreement with the Kerch in order to secure the support of both countries against Fjerda, who are now marching on Ravka with a pretender to the Ravkan throne at their head. This pretender has the support of Magnus Opjer, who claims to have proof that he is Nikolai's true father.

These are the problems ahead. Nikolai then reveals two pieces of bad news; the monster remains inside him, though it has been weakened, and the Darkling's return was successful. On the way back to Ravka, Nikolai had discovered that since his own body had been unavailable, the Darkling has taken up residence inside Yuri. Nikolai intends to keep him in custody as he is the key to getting rid of the monster inside him, and since they are about to be at war, he intends to use every resource he has. The Darkling, still bound, tells them that it's good to be home.

Rule of Wolves

Nikolai sends Queen Makhi Kir-Taban the invitation for a wedding in Os Alta.[5] He then rides to Yaryenosh with Zoya, Tamar, and Tolya to investigate the blight. After conflict arises between the townspeople and the Suli, Nikolai confronts the butcher that antagonizes him, then he and Tamar interview the Suli. Nikolai issues orders once word arrives about the war.[6]

At Nezkii, Nikolai watches as Fjerdan tanks approach and then explode after they run over anti-tank mines placed by the Nolniki, Nikolai's special soldiers. He charges into battle with the Ravkan soldiers and waits for the arrival of a Zemeni ship, which delivers jurda parem antidote to the captured Grisha. Nikolai and Tolya board Nikolai's flyer to view the scene from above and meet Kalem Kerko, who pilots the Zemeni ship.[7]

They deliver the antidote to Poliznaya and ride back to Os Alta. However, upon arrival, Nikolai witnesses as the Tavgharad set themselves on fire in an attempt to kill Ehri. He tries to grab Ehri, burning himself in the process, and orders for a Healer.[8] Zoya comforts him throughout the healing process. Nikolai and Zoya later visit the Darkling, who offers information on the thorn wood in exchange for a meeting with Alina Starkov.[9]

Nikolai shows Zoya that the demon still lives inside him. Although he suggests going with Zoya to find the thorn wood, she refuses and leaves.[10] Nikolai visits Ehri in the infirmary and reunites her with Mayu, who convinces the princess of the Tavgharad's intentions to kill her. Nikolai then informs Mayu that his spies have found information about her brother and tells the Healers to restore Mayu's strength. Afterward, he flies to Lazlayon but is accidentally struck down by a rocket. Nikolai discusses strategy with David, Genya, Adrik Zhabin, and Leoni Hilli.[11]

Nikolai greets Makhi at the Grand Palace for the wedding. He walks with her as David and Genya exchange their vows, then reveals that Ehri has already returned to Ahmrat Jen and spoken to the queen's ministers. Nikolai persuades Makhi to sign a peace treaty between Ravka and Shu Han that also protects Grisha and stops the creation of more khergud.[12] However, Os Alta is bombed that night, and Nikolai releases his demon to attack a Fjerdan bomber.[13]

Soon afterward, Nikolai speaks at David's funeral. He then leads a Triumvirate meeting and suggests stealing titanium from Kerch.[14] That night, he follows Zoya into her secret garden and embraces her.[15] Nikolai resumes the role of Sturmhond when they arrive in Ketterdam and find Kaz Brekker. Although Kaz is initially reluctant to help, Nikolai convinces him by offering safety for Inej Ghafa.[16] They recruit Jesper Fahey and Wylan Van Eck for the job before heading to Rentveer. Zoya gets them past the Suli stationed there[17] and Nikolai and Kaz steal the titanium. However, Nikolai releases his demon in an attempt to cover up their tracks, revealing it to his crew. Before leaving, Kaz tells Nikolai that his parents are no longer in exile. That night, Nikolai speaks with Zoya in private and admits that he wants her as his queen.[18]

At Lazlayon, Nikolai talks to Adrik about the demon. Magnus Opjer, Nikolai's biological father, appears at the gate and requests that he protect Linnea Opjer.[19] Nikolai later fights the Fjerdans at Arkesk, but they deploy a new weapon based on sound vibrations that render the Ravkans helpless.[20] Nikolai commands his demon and is strengthened by the Darkling's will.[21] When Zoya arrives in the form of a dragon, Nikolai withdraws his demon and the Fjerdans bow to her.[22] They call a truce.[23]

Back inside the city hall, Nikolai faces his parents and Vadik Demidov, the Lantsov pretender. Rather than claiming the crown himself, he kneels to Zoya.[24] Afterward, Nikolai promises to stay by her side, and he and Zoya kiss.[25] They later arrive at the Monastery of Sankt Feliks. Nikolai offers to hold the Shadow Fold closed, but the Darkling volunteers instead in return for an altar.[26]

Nikolai insists that Zoya take over his chambers once they return. He introduces her to Inej after the coronation ceremony.[27]

Personality and traits

As Sturmhond, he appears to be cocky and brash, always "using ten words when two would have sufficed." He is rather mysterious; no one is able to tell where he is from or what his real name is. Sturmhond is said to have the respect of his crew, not their fear; he is able to retain their loyalty without resorting to threats of power plays that Alina has seen the Darkling employ, and it is said that he "does things his own way," implying that he abides by his own rules rather than conventional ones.

He is shown to be proficient with a number of weapons and is always seen to be bearing an assortment of weapons, including a brace of pistols, several knives, and a sword. He seems to have a particular fondness for the sword, even being willing to instruct Mal in the use of it. Usually, Sturmhond is observed wearing a bright teal frock coat with gaudy gold buttons and huge cuffs that Alina thinks would be more at home in a ballroom than on a ship's deck. When Alina and Mal dine with him, he shows a preference for fine cooking – the ship's crew includes a chef employed for this purpose. In conversation, he is jovial and intentionally lighthearted; though, when he is challenged, he betrays a much harder edge.

Alina and Mal are impressed by Nikolai's ability to appeal to the people around them and present them with a persona that they want to see. During this time, he shows himself to be extremely socially intelligent and willing to do whatever he can to manipulate the public into supporting him. He is really fair and just and cannot stand the mistreatment of innocent people. Nikolai is very intelligent and is said to excel at practically anything he tries. Nikolai suffers from being told he is ‘Nikolai Nothing’ by his brother and comments about his parentage but he hides his insecurities and does his best to satisfy everyone. He is adored by the public.

Physical description

When he first appears disguised as Sturmhond, he is described as a tall boy with hair of a strange shade of red, muddy green eyes, a nose that looks as if it has been broken and badly set several times, and an overly pointy chin. He looks to be around 19 or 20 years old[28] and looks "too young to be the captain of anything." Alina thinks that there is something strange about his face that she cannot place.

Later on, Sturmhond reveals himself to be Nikolai Lantsov. Nikolai has golden blond hair, neatly cut to military length, hazel eyes, and his nose slightly crooked but "nothing like the busted lump it had been." Alina later remarks that he has a handsome face "cut in the lines of a fairy tale prince." He is described as extremely charming and handsome.[29]

In his beastly form, he has a pair of black shards protruding from his back like wings, teeth, and fangs that are the color of onyx along with powerful claws. He also often has blood around his mouth, spilling onto his chest.

Skills and abilities

  • Nikolai is a gifted fighter, swordsman, and marksman having learned to fight in street brawls as a child and serving in the First Army.
  • Nikolai is a natural leader, diplomat, and strategist.
  • Nikolai is a master actor able to pass off as Sturmhond which helps him be very manipulative and persuasive with his natural charisma.
  • Nikolai can juggle.
  • In King of Scars and Rule of Wolves, Nikolai is able to use his monster form while remaining conscious. He can fly and use his fangs/claws.
  • Nikolai can pilot airships and fighter planes, dating back to his experiments with his ship the Hummingbird.
  • Nikolai is a gifted inventor, when he was a child he turned a priceless Lantsov clock into a bizarre contraption.


Zoya Nazyalensky

Their relationship gets stronger in King of Scars since Nikolai starts to wake up in the middle of the night in the form of a winged monster, the same form from Ruin and Rising. The twins and Zoya are the ones who look for him every time it happens, but it is Zoya who creates the strongest bond with him.

She is in charge of chaining Nikolai to his bed every night and unchaining him in the morning. It is especially during this ritual that their bond deepens, along with their general every day working side by side. He likes Zoya for who she is and does not wish for her to change or soften, as every other man wishes he could make her.

One night, Nikolai escapes his bonds while in his monster form and flies to a town called Balakirev. Tolya, Tamar, and Zoya follow him. Zoya with her Grisha powers makes it to the top of the bell tower where she discovers that the monster is hungry for human blood. Zoya fights Nikolai and he suddenly attacks her after saying her name with the Darkling's voice, which distracts her and causes her to get injured. Luckily, Tolya steps up and saves her from being eaten by the monster. After that night she tries to avoid Nikolai, even if it was not him that night. Nikolai tries to have a moment with her alone to apologize but it is not possible since they are planning a trip to try to kill the monster inside him.

Weeks after, and during the trip to the Fold, while Zoya was chaining Nikolai, he achieves to apologize. However, Zoya reveals that if they can´t get the monster out of him, she would kill him in order to save Ravka from himself. Nikolai reveals he will help her do it himself if the time comes.

When they are working side by side on some documents, and writing letters, Zoya admits to herself that she rather likes Nikolai, and that she will miss being comfortable with him and teasing him when he has a wife. She confesses that she isn’t sure if she could make Nikolai fall in love with her and that some part of her wants to try. Zoya thinks that she never desires but is desired but is suspicious that it is the other way around with her and Nikolai.

During their stay in the Fold, Nikolai finds out that the only way to get the monster out is when Zoya is in danger, so Elizaveta trains him to control the monster by putting her at risk. The day before the ritual to kill the monster, Nikolai asks Zoya to tell him how she got her amplifier. At one moment, Zoya shrugs the silk of her kefta from her shoulders, letting it pool at her hips, and Nikolai describes an "unwelcome bolt of desire shooting through him" meaning he desires and likes Zoya. He also hints at being jealous, when she mentions her past lovers, as he does not even wish to think about them. Later he wishes to be led by his heart instead of duty to make Zoya his queen.

In Rule of Wolves, Nikolai and Zoya continue their daily back and forth, and also engage in casual flirting. Nikolai finds himself upset when he sends Zoya on a mission related to the Darkling. When Zoya returns, they both witness the death of their mutual friend, David, and make efforts to comfort his wife. A few days later, Nikolai views Zoya walking on the palace grounds in the night. He begins to think she is meeting a lover, and out of jealousy, he decides to follow her out. He follows her to a large gate, where she acknowledges that she knows he is there. He continues to go with her, until he finds himself in a garden, that Zoya has planted herself. Zoya tells Nikolai that she plants a flower to commemorate all the friends that she has lost. Nikolai is surprised, as this is a side of her he's never seen before. He begins to comfort her, and Zoya confides in him, leaning on him and crying. As Nikolai walks back to his quarters, he realizes that she is already a leader, and that he does indeed feel strongly about her.

Later on while on a boat after visiting Ketterdam, Nikolai admits to Zoya that he wishes to marry her, not for political reasons but out of true feeling. Zoya declines. saying that love is out of the cards for people like her. Zoya later expresses that she wish she said yes to him, especially because they are about to go into a battle that could kill them both. They both survive, and a few days later, Zoya admits to Nikolai that she loves him. The two begin a romantic relationship after that. It is implied that they intend to marry in the future.

Alina Starkov

After the secret of Sturmhond's identity is revealed, Nikolai proposes to Alina as a political move. He says the marriage would be purely political except in the matter of making heirs, which then provokes Mal. Alina turns him down, but they present a united front on their trip through the cities on their way to Os Alta. Outside of Tashta, Nikolai kisses Alina, and the crowd goes wild. Alina, in return, kicks his shin in private, and Mal is once again furious with Nikolai. On her third attempt at kicking Nikolai, he grabs her bare leg, which makes her blush. The developing relationship between Alina and Nikolai becomes a theme as they arrive at Court. Their allegiance develops quickly, with Nikolai first revealing to his parents that he is Sturmhond and then supporting Alina and Mal as they face the King. Alina is put in charge of the Grisha (the Second Army), just as she had wanted, and Mal is installed as her head guard. Tolya and Tamar, the twins from Sturmhond's ship, make up the rest of her guard, and she takes over the Darkling's old rooms while Nikolai sets himself up at Court.

Alina and Nikolai present themselves as a united front, attending meetings together. Vasily proposes marriage to Alina just as his brother had done. She refuses any kind of familiarity with him, and as time goes on, she starts to view Nikolai more kindly. Though she acknowledges that it can be hard to trust him, since it's not clear whether he is ever really being himself or simply wearing whatever mask he thinks she wants to see, she spends an increasing amount of time talking with him. For his part, Nikolai appears to become more vulnerable around her than around anyone else. Eventually, he even seems to become willing to talk about personal matters with her.

He talks again about the rumors that he is a bastard, admitting to Alina that he has heard those rumors all his life and that he is perhaps not so unaffected by it as he may seem. He makes reference to his childhood nickname, Sobachka, which means "puppy," and says that his mother had refused to call him that because she thought it made him sound like a mongrel. Alina, who had been raised as an orphan, connects with him over this since she remembers being called many names herself. She begins to get angry when she hears people questioning his birth, even when they are strangers, to the extent that Mal furiously asks her why she's so quick to defend Nikolai.

Nikolai rises in Alina's esteem. She seems to be not only his ally but his friend. At the same time, Alina's relationship with Mal – in theory still her romantic partner – deteriorates. Mal is shown to dislike the Little Palace and to have reservations over how powerful Alina is becoming and whether it is changing her. Alina, who has some doubts over this herself, feels a distance growing between her and Mal and suffers due to her continued "visions" of the Darkling. She seems, in general, to be more at ease in Nikolai's company. As his birthday approaches, he even comes close to kissing her, telling her that he wants to but will not until he's sure she's not just trying to forget Mal. Nikolai waits for Alina to give up on Mal and for her to marry him to form an alliance. He even thinks they could have more than a political marriage and grow to love each other. Alina officially turns Nikolai's proposal to rule the Second Army down at the end of Ruin and Rising out of her belief that she would only be a liability to him at court.



  • Nikolai is an East Slavic variant of the name Nicholas,[30] meaning "victory of the people."[31]



Language Translated name Transliteration
German Nikolaj Lantsow


  • Leigh Bardugo stated that Nikolai Lantsov was supposed to die at the end of Siege and Storm. She had originally planned to have his brother, Vasily, murder him, and Alina framed so she would have to go on the run. After she started writing him she realized she enjoyed him and scrapped the idea. By the end of the book, she knew she wanted to give him his own book, which later became the King of Scars duology.[32][33]
  • According to Leigh Bardugo, Nikolai is a "Gryffindor with Slytherin tendencies."[34]
  • Nikolai is afraid of spiders, especially ones that wear suits, since it is strange that they managed to do their buttons up.
  • Nikolai hates kvas and loves brandy.
  • According to a Q&A after Ruin and Rising, Nikolai is not a virgin.[35]
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel was the inspiration for Nikolai.[36] In the book the character Sir Percy Blakeney is a rich English baronet who rescues those sentenced to death by the guillotine. A master of disguise, an imaginative planner, a formidable swordsman and a quick-thinking escape artist, he becomes known as "The Scarlet Pimpernel" by the public while keeping his true identity hidden behind the facade of a wealthy playboy.


  1. Rule of Wolves, chapter 19
  2. King of Scars, chapter 12
  3. Ruin and Rising, chapter 6
  4. King of Scars, chapter 16
  5. Rule of Wolves, chapter 1
  6. Rule of Wolves, chapter 3
  7. Rule of Wolves, chapter 6
  8. Rule of Wolves, chapter 8
  9. Rule of Wolves, chapter 9
  10. Rule of Wolves, chapter 11
  11. Rule of Wolves, chapter 12
  12. Rule of Wolves, chapter 15
  13. Rule of Wolves, chapter 18
  14. Rule of Wolves, chapter 20
  15. Rule of Wolves, chapter 23
  16. Rule of Wolves, chapter 27
  17. Rule of Wolves, chapter 28
  18. Rule of Wolves, chapter 31
  19. Rule of Wolves, chapter 34
  20. Rule of Wolves, chapter 37
  21. Rule of Wolves, chapter 38
  22. Rule of Wolves, chapter 41
  23. Rule of Wolves, chapter 43
  24. Rule of Wolves, chapter 45
  25. Rule of Wolves, chapter 46
  26. Rule of Wolves, chapter 48
  27. Rule of Wolves, chapter 49
  28. Alina describes him as a few years older than her. She was 17 at the time. Six of Crows, chapter 25.
  29. King of Scars
  30. Wikipedia: Nikolai
  31. Baby names: Nikolai
  32. EW Interview with Leigh Bardugo
  33. The Globe and Mail interview with Leigh Bardugo
  34. Leigh Bardugo on Tumblr
  35. Goodreads Q&A with Leigh Bardugo
  36. Leigh Bardugo's December 2021 newsletter


v  d  e
Main Characters Kaz BrekkerInej GhafaJesper FaheyNina ZenikMatthias HelvarWylan Van EckKuwei Yul-BoJan Van EckPekka Rollins
Minor Characters JoostAnyaEmil RetvenkoCouncilman HoedeGeelsBo Yul-BayurPer HaskellTante HeleenJordie RietveldSpechtRottyJarl BrumCornelis SmeetAdem BajanColm FaheyAditi HilliAlys Van EckMarya HendriksZoya NazyalenskySturmhondGenya SafinDunyasha LazarevaAnikaPimKeegRoederKarl DrydenJellen Radmakker
Locations KetterdamThe BarrelHellgateIce CourtDjerholmBlack Veil IslandKerchFjerdaRavkaNovyi ZemShu HanWandering Isle
Groups The DregsDime LionsBlack TipsStadwatchGrishaDrüskelleThe MenagerieHouse of the White RoseMerchant CouncilCouncil of TidesKhergud
Events HringkällaHellshowQueen's Lady PlagueKomedie Brute
Miscellaneous JurdaJurda paremKeftaIndentureDjelGhezen