Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo (2016)
YA Fiction | Dark Fantasy
“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.”
pooled ink Review:
Yes. YES. This two-book series was the perfect length and it was incredible! I fell head-over-heels for Six of Crows and its sequel did not disappoint.
Everything I loved about the first book was in the second but with even more complexity and excitement. The characters, the jobs, the high stakes, the rises, the falls, the brilliance of Kaz’s plans, and mind-blowing epic finales were not left out or simply mimicked from its predecessor. The character arcs continued to grow and transform as they faced a new set of challenges and tough choices. There is also a deeper sense of loyalty between the group in this book. While in the first only half were openly willing to follow Kaz, in this book they were all stuck in the same sinking boat, which brought them a stronger camaraderie. It was a nice natural evolution of the crew’s dynamics and it suited them.
Better terrible truths than kind lies. –Kaz
My two biggest fears going into this book were a) it wouldn’t live up to Six of Crows and b) someone was going to die. Particularly Kaz or Inej (because they’re my favorite characters both individually and together and if either of them were killed I would have had to crawl into a cave and sit there for a good long while recuperating…and then I would have burned the world). Killing either really would have made for some classic Shakespeare-level drama but the fans would have risen up in bloody protest. Also, I personally don’t think that ending fits their story…well, actually it could fit Kaz’s story… His character arc has to arc a.k.a. change so that would mean either choose a new goal to set his sights on or die. I hoped very very hard that he wouldn’t die.
I wish I could talk about the character who doesn’t leave this story unscathed but I refuse to spoil it for you (I’ll add it to my Goodreads review and hide the spoiler section there).
Besides the main six, other reoccurring characters both from Six of Crows and the Grisha Trilogy also return for a visit. Mostly enemies, but a few allies turn up too (in fact Sturmhond himself makes an appearance at one point – this made me happy as he was a favorite character from the trilogy series). New characters are introduced, of course, but not a whole lot considering their battle is very specific. I will say that Colm was a lovely refreshing character and a perfect innocent contrast to almost all of Ketterdam. Dunyasha…I don’t know what her deal was but she was crazy. Alys? Well the whole scheme with Alys had me laughing out loud as I envisioned the whole endeavor, particularly Kaz’s undoubtedly sour expression. I’ve no doubt he almost regretted his clever twist. But when she sings, that was it, I lost it and began snorting with laughter unashamedly! Although I will give Matthias bonus points for being the only one semi-sympathetic towards her.
“They don’t know who we are. Not really. They don’t know what we’ve done, what we’ve managed together.” Kaz rapped his cane on the ground. “So let’s go show them they picked the wrong damn fight.”
If you recall at the end of Six of Crows Inej is taken captive all to our stunned surprise. But nobody double-crosses Dirtyhands and gets away with it and thus begins Crooked Kingdom. It’s pretty amusing with Kaz because he refuses to be emotionally attached and yet he doesn’t fool anyone. We all know “the grand plan” is really about Inej. I love it.
In the Grisha trilogy we explore Ravka, in Six of Crows we discover Ketterdam and Fjerda, and in this book we even get to meet more of the Shu. And the greeting is less than pleasant. This book really had innumerable moments of danger for the crew as their lives continually were cast upon a precipice. It’s a miracle they didn’t die in the first book actually. Inej is taken, then we get her back just to have another crew member hunted, forces rally against Kaz, and we all knew Van Eck wants Kuwei, but as the book goes on the heights grow, the stakes escalate, and the noose tightens upon Kaz’s crew until just when it looks like they’re officially finally done for the cork pops and wonderful satisfying chaos ensues.
On top of the obvious threats they face we also witness the after effects of jurda parem and Nina’s battle against it. The effects become very interesting as they slowly manifest. (Between jurda parem and the interesting Shu experiments I wonder if Bardugo will write more books that explore those recent revelations…?)
About halfway through Crooked Kingdom I felt like I had no idea where the book was going. The beginning was fast but I maintained a grip on the story, then suddenly by halfway through I looked around and I felt lost. I just couldn’t see where this would all go. Initially it was to save Inej and then get revenge on Van Eck (plus Kaz’s personal revenge on Pekka Rollins) but then everyone in the crew started adding demands and requests onto Kaz’s plate. Things they wanted done before they left Ketterdam. Honestly, I bet if Kaz hadn’t softened a tiny touch and become so loyal to his small crew he would’ve given them that shark-eyed stare and dumped them to move on with his calculated agenda. Dirtyhands certainly would have. I’ve no doubt Kaz could’ve done it without his closely-knit first-rate crew…he just didn’t want to. (It’s the subtle changes in the characters that are most intriguing)
But like I said, demands kept piling up, enemies kept coming out of the woodworks, and the complications and subplots kept multiplying so that I struggled to see where the book was going. Six of Crows (as complex and amazing as it was) was definitely more straightforward than this one. I’m not sure if the confusing broadness of the middle of this book is a pro or con though. On one hand it made the ending more impressive as everything somehow came together, but on the other hand it made the story so busy and expansive that I honestly started to lose interest. Either way the book as a whole was epic and I loved it.
I’m pretty sure that everyone who read Six of Crows saw all the relationships forming so it’s really no surprise that everyone ends up with someone in this book. I liked the process of seeing everyone find someone but it didn’t really pull me in like Kaz & Inej did. We all knew he liked her but he’s so cruel and disciplined (plus his aversion to skin-on-skin contact) that it really could have never happened and I wouldn’t have been surprised. Disappointed, yes, but not surprised. Although that being said, if anyone else tried to win Inej’s favor Kaz still would have smashed their skull in with his cane and dumped their body in the harbor.
This book…just when you think they’re down and out they spring right back up again but from right behind you. It’s one of my absolute favorite parts of these books. Witnessing Kaz and his brilliant schemes upon schemes within schemes. Kaz Brekker, you both awe and terrify me. I tip my hat to you, sir.
In summation? This book was bloody brilliant. If it’s not my favorite fantasy series (which I believe it officially is) then it’s at least in my Top 5.
Crooked Kingdom rises from the ashes of a double-cross and tips its cane in a lethal promise. Utterly riveting, juiced up on adrenaline, and guided by a brilliant gang leader, this book takes fantasy to another level leaving its readers in awe. If the mortality rate weren’t so high every fan would be lined up ready to join the Dregs.
P.S. Just a reminder: Despite the fact that this series takes place after the Grisha Trilogy, you don’t have to read the trilogy before you read this series. Some of the names and places and Grisha terminology mentioned might be more familiar to you if you do read them but that’s of very little importance as anything you need to know is explained in these books. Even so, the Grisha Trilogy was very good so you should read them too!
Purchase here: Crooked Kingdom
Check out the rest of the series: Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1)