Warning: If you have not read Six of Crows, do not read this review.
The Dregs are back in Ketterdam, but nothing has turned out the way they planned: Inej has been captured, Wylan’s face is not his own, and Nina is on the brink of death or insanity as a result of parem. Kaz Brekker has pulled off the world’s most successful heist at the Ice Court, but the price was higher than he ever thought he would pay. Betrayed by Van Eck, time is running out to turn the man’s game against himself.
That was when the window shattered. Jesper had his guns drawn in less than a breath, as Matthias shoved Kuwei down and shouldered his rifle. They edged to the wall and Jesper peeked outside through the smashed stained glass. In the shadows of the cemetery he saw lanterns raised, shifting shapes that had to be people–a lot of people.
“Unless the ghosts just got a lot more lively,” Jesper said, “it looks like we have company.”
(Crooked Kingdom, p. 261)
If you’ve read my review of Six of Crows, then you will know how much I enjoyed Leigh Bardugo’s first book in this series. The mastery of her storytelling and character development set the bar at an almost unreachable high…yet she still managed to surpass it. From the opening scene to the grand finale, Bardugo ensures that her readers love the ride and long for more.
The others would sleep. Kaz could not. He’d meant what he’d said. Van Eck had more money, more allies, and the might of the city behind him. They couldn’t just be smarter than Van Eck, they had to be relentless. And Kaz could see what the other couldn’t. They’d won the battle today…But the merch was still winning the war.
(Crooked Kingdom, pp. 171-172)
Set back into the city of Ketterdam, the stakes were never higher for the misfit band of thieves. Kaz’s entire world seems to be falling apart as his city is turned against him. All the while, the demons of his past continue to stalk his mind and prey on his weaknesses. Yet, Kaz never was the type to slink away from a challenge. Instead, he pulls together his crew for another heist: taking back his Wraith and his city.
To make everything more complicated, Van Eck is hunting down Kaz and his crew in search of Kuwei Yul-Bo, the only one who can recreate his father’s invention of jurda parem. Recalling the events of the previous book, it was this drug that drove Van Eck to hire Brekker in the first place, and now, in the second book, it is the driving element of the plot once again.
Of course, Bardugo’s plot would not be so simple. With the continuation of six protagonists, readers are constantly delving into a character’s backstory or watching as they overcome personal hurdles. The plot is everything a reader could hope for, with its blend of action and suspense, love and friendship.
And there are plenty of nail-biting heists and tricks along the way, a constant reminder to readers of the Dreg’s famous phrase: “No mourners. No funerals.”
The complexity of Crooked Kingdom is what makes the ride so enjoyable. Readers are never left bored or wondering when the next action sequence is going to happen. Because there are a lot of them. But even in the “quiet” moments, readers are able to sit beside the characters as they pour out their hearts and make our own bleed. No matter how hard you try, you will be pulling for the protagonists to succeed in their quests. And the ending? Well, you’ll just have to read it for yourself. (*silently weeping in the corner*)
If you’ve caught a glimpse of any of the reviews for Crooked Kingdom (or if you’ve read this book) you’ll know that it’s the characters that make this story what it is. The setting is magnificent. The plot is gripping. Yet it’s the characters and their struggles that breathe life into the words on the page and allow the characters to feel so alive.
Faster, she told herself, sweat beading on her brow. It was hard not to imagine the building compressing around her, its walls squeezing the breath from her lungs. She couldn’t make a real plan until she reached the end of this tunnel, until she knew just how far she’d have to go to evade Van Eck’s men.
(Crooked Kingdom, p. 58)
Kaz “Dirty Hands” Brekker: The coldest, most-feared criminal in the Barrel, is crippled physically as well as emotionally by his fear of human contact.
Inej “The Wraith” Ghafa: A skilled spy able to move silently and unseen, but struggles with her past and longs to return home.
Jesper Fahey: the greatest shooter in the Barrel; addicted to gambling.
Wylan Van Eck: An intelligent inventor who is an illiterate runaway.
Matthias Helvar: A strong-willed, skilled fighter struggling to overcome prejudices.
Nina Zenik: A powerful heartrender fighting against the lingering affects of parem.
Each one of the characters had their strong points while having to battle their weaknesses. The character development that began in Six of Crows exploded in Crooked Kingdom, giving readers a clear picture of each one until we simple couldn’t get enough. While the setting and circumstances are very much fiction, the difficulties each character faces is all too real and sometimes even relatable.
And while I’m usually not a fan of romance in novels, you can’t help but get sucked into the relationships in Crooked Kingdom. Seeing how Inej and Kaz are drawn to each other, yet their histories wedge them apart. To see as Nina and Matthias love each other, yet their ancestry keeps coming between them. Bardugo is one of the few authors who successfully made me enjoy romance in a novel.
So that’s my review. Honestly, there is nothing bad to say about this book. And if Leigh Bardugo decides to carry on this duology and make it into a trilogy, I will be reading it without hesitation. What are your thoughts? If you haven’t read it, are you planning to? And if you have already picked this one off the shelf, what did you think? Comment below.