Published: Henry Holt, 2016
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
My rating: 4/5 stars
Description: “Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of magic in the Grisha world.” (Goodreads)
Why I picked it up: I absolutely adored Six of Crows. It’s quite honestly one of my favorite books of all time, and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Crooked Kingdom and see what happened to the characters I had fallen in love with.
Summary: I had to admit it, but this book was a bit of a let-down for me. I finished it because I’m so attached to the characters from book 1 that I absolutely had to know what happened to them but, quite honestly, if this were a stand-alone I would have been hugely disappointed.
First off, I love the Grisha universe. Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are both set in the same universe as the Grisha Trilogy but, while that trilogy takes place over very large area, the Six of Crows duology is centered mostly in the city of Ketterdam. Ketterdam is so unique it’s like a character in itself, something I adored about the series. It was very submersive, and I loved getting to take a closer look into a corner of the universe Bardugo created.
The biggest letdown for this book for me was a big one – the plot. While Six of Crows has such an interesting and fast-paced plot I could barely put the book down, Crooked Kingdom has me counting how many pages I had to get through to make it to the end of the chapter. There were fast-paced, totally engrossing ups, and boring, sleep-inducing lows. The plot just wasn’t the Six of Crows follow-up I was anticipating. I also had an issue with a small subplot that was occasionally mentioned but never resolved. I couldn’t really tell what the point of including it was, because it didn’t seem too important to the characters and was never wrapped up. However, I did love all of the plotting and “scheming” that went on throughout this book and the previous one. There were hardly any plot twists or surprises that I was able to see coming, and I was constantly shocked by new reveals, which kept me invested in the book despite the boring and mundane moments.
This is where this book is the strongest. The characters are what really, really kept me going. I haven’t read something with characters I was this attached to since I first read Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys a few years ago. As I’ve said before, my favorite stories are character-driven ones, and Crooked Kingdom was so strong in this aspect. Honestly, I can’t even pick my favorite of the six, I love them all so much. They’re well-rounded, strong, and absolutely realistic. I closed the book sad to say goodbye, and wanting so, so much more of them.
The villains in this one were strong as well. They weren’t brush-off villains who I knew wouldn’t succeed. There were moments where I was afraid they would win in the end. The side characters felt real, and they mattered no matter how big of a role they played in the main story line. Quite honestly, Bardugo simply wrote fantastic characters, big and small, for this book
After reading Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy as well as this duology, her writing has improved, in my opinion, tremendously. Sure, maybe she has a bit of a struggle with sequels, but overall I adored these novels. I felt there was a good balance of beautifully crafted language and information given, and the style fit so perfectly with the content. I know I’ll continue to buy her novels, hopefully in the beautiful hardback editions. She’s even on my list of top 5 auto-buy authors.
Quotes I enjoyed:
“Zoya used to say that fear is a phoenix. You can watch it burn a thousand times and still it will return.”
“But what about the rest of us? What about the nobodies and the nothings, the invisible girls? We learn to hold our heads as if we wear crowns. We learn to wring magic from the ordinary. That was how you survived when you weren’t chosen, when there was no royal blood in your veins. When the world owed you nothing, you demanded something of it anyway.”
“Suffering is like anything else. Live with it long enough, you learn to like the taste.”
Recommend for fans of: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater, Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman, and The Grisha Triology by Leigh Bardugo.