Nikolai Lantsov is the current King of Ravka. He is the second son of the Alexander III, and spent many years undercover, taking on jobs and hobbies. He is first introduced in the series as Sturmhond, a powerful commander, and soon after tells Alina and Mal who he truly is.
Appearance and PersonalityEdit
When he first appears, Alina describes Sturmhond as a tall boy, a few years older than her, who looks ‘too young to be the captain of anything’. He is also described as having hair that is 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. Alina thinks that there is something strange about his face that she cannot place.
When he reveals himself to be Nikolai, his hair turns dark golden blond (neatly cut to military length), his eyes a clear, bright hazel, and his nose slightly crooked but "nothing like the busted lump it had been." Alina said that he had a handsome face cut in the lines of a fairy tale prince.
As Sturmhond he is said to be cocky and brash, always using ten words when two would have sufficed. He is rather mysterious, no one is able to tell Alina where he is from or what his real name is. Sturmhond is seen as a strong leader by his crew; he is able to retain their loyalty without resorting to the kind of threats and plays of power 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. Sturmhond is said to have the respect of his crew, not their fear. 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. He tends to dress with a flamboyant style, usually 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, and 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 light-hearted, 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 the face that they want to see. During this time he shows himself to be socially intelligent, and willing to do whatever he can to manipulate public opinion into supporting him.
As the Darkling lived at court, he would have been familiar with Nikolai during his childhood. Although Nikolai had not been home since he was 14 years old, he couldn't take the risk that the Darkling or one of his Grisha might recognise him, and so Tolya had tailored his face. He had grown up frustrated by life at Court, and describes himself as having difficulty with keeping still. Rather than do his military service as an officer, as was usual for the Royal family, he insisted on serving in the infantry as an ordinary Ravkan, and earned his final rank of Major on merit. When his service ended, he left Ravka in order to apprentice with a shipwright and a gunsmith, excelling in both professions. This led him to begin his life as Sturmhond, taking on that alias because he quickly realised 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 crewmembers – Tolya, Tamar, 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 offences 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 the King's health is failing.
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 the him and a group of his Grisha through the icy seas in their hunt for a supposedly mythical dragon 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. 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 has been harpooned, Sturmhond surprisedly 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, and 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's 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 fight. 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. A 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," to which Nikolai responds 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.
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. 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 then rips into him. Nikolai the soldier takes 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 RisingEdit
After Darkling's attack Nikolai managed to escape with 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 Monastery of Sankt Demyan, a pilgrimage site turned into an observatory a few hundred years ago, where the rest of the survivors are, including King and the Queen.
Soon after Alina and others arrive, Genya 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.
Afterwards, 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's 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. Because he was flying at the time of his transformation, he falls and fractures two of his ribs, though, the Squaller Zoya manages to cushion his fall with an updraft, probably 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 – 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.
Nikolai later appears in Crooked Kingdom, 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 permits him to negotiate on the country's behalf when this involves dealing with people King Nikolai cannot be seen to negotiate with. He is accompanied by Genya and Zoya, and has had his face re-tailored to match the appearance it held when he first met Alina. It's clear that even though he is now King, he still has a use for his old persona and will still use it to take action where it would not be appropriate to do so as King.
He agrees to take part in the staged auction for the indenture of Kuwei Yul-Bo, the boy whose father created the drug jurda parem, and who may well hold the key to creating an antidote. The war with the Darkling, combined with years of poor financial management under the previous Lantsov Kings, has left Ravka's gold reserve depleted. To keep the country going, Nikolai has borrowed heavily from the Kerch banks, and as a result he is not by himself able to bid competitively for Kuwei. Kaz plans a way around this, which at the same time implicates his enemy Jan Van Eck and allows him the revenge he's been seeking. After Kuwei's death is faked - so that the other interested nations will stop looking for him - Nikolai, Zoya and Genya spirit the boy away to Ravka where he'll be safe.
Kaz, suspicious of the idea that a privateer would be given such power, refuses to deal with Sturmhond unless he knows who he's really dealing with. When Nikolai hints at his true identity, Kaz agrees to deal with him. The other members of Kaz's gang remain unaware of who their ally really is, though Nina Zenik - a displaced Ravkan Grisha who had lived in Nikolai's Court, and would know him well - feels he's strangely familiar. Before he leaves, he encourages Nina to return to Ravka and the Second Army, which still has need of her. He also sends scouts to find the parents of Inej Ghafa as part of his deal with Kaz.
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 more and more 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 rumours that he is a bastard, admitting to Alina that he has heard those rumours all his life and 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 has risen in Alina's esteem. In this moment 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 – has been deteriorating. 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 she is also suffering 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 has waited for Alina to give up on Mal and for her to marry him, become his wife, become allies. 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.
- "When people say impossible, they usually mean improbable."
- "Anything worth doing starts as a bad idea."
- "Princes bleed just like other men. They just do it in better clothes."
- "Understatement is overrated."
- "Well, she did almost die trying to kill your cursed spawn."
- "I live on a strict diet of ill-advised enthusiasm and heartfelt regret."
- "If there weren't an all-powerful dictator and his monstrous horde to attend to, I'd be opening a bottle of champagne."