This is just a small warning: since this is the second book in a series, it is possible there are a few small spoilers in this review before the designated SPOILERS section at the end! Read at your own peril.
Since this is the second book in the series, I have to say that I was fully enthralled in this world by the time I picked up Crooked Kingdom. I have not read the first series in the Grisha world before, but I had no problem whatsoever catching up with the terms and the world Bardugo has created within these pages. I easily fell into the rhythm of the world, from the determined and ease at which the characters talked about their native Ketterdam, to the slang that the characters threw around.
If we’re being honest, the complete comfortableness that Bardugo obviously feels within her own world really helped me feel like it was real. I could easily tell that she had fully made this world within her head before putting it down on the page and it really showed within the writing. by the end, I really felt like Ketterdam was a real place and I was very sad to let it go, despite all of the terrible things that happened there.
I really, really, enjoyed Bardugo’s use of multiple point of views. If you’ve read Six of Crows, you’ll know that the chapters shift in point of views, chapter to chapter. I’ve never hated that format, but usually it’s found in first-person writing styles, which I personally don’t really enjoy reading anymore. I loved the omniscient voice, because you were really able to take in every tiny detail that each character could give you. (More about this in the character section below!)
I went into this series completely blind. I had no idea what it was about besides “band of thieves” and the word “Grisha” that I hadn’t any idea of what it meant before I started. I was suddenly thrown into this intense world in Six of Crows and it was absolutely brilliant. Crooked Kingdom brought us back to Ketterdam, taking place entirely (just about) within the island’s borders. I loved that so much about it, since the characters (most of them) knew the city quite well which brought it more to life than in the previous book.
I wasn’t sure what the plot was going to be after they (spoiler?) saved Inej. I thought it would take longer than it did, and then I was left grasping at what else would happen. And what happened was…wow. About halfway through things started going wrong with Nina and Kaz started to crack and I was left gripping the pages and inwardly screaming “What is going to happen? Too much is going smoothly, what the hell!” and oh wow, I was not expecting all that happened.
I had no doubt that Kaz could come up with such a large scale scheme, but I was still impressed as each layer unfolded. I was on the edge of my seat until the very last page and I still find myself breathless. As things started to go wrong, I wasn’t frustrated, I was more like “I was expecting this to happen” because it was realistic. I loved that about Bardugo’s writing; it all felt so real, as if this could actually be happening. Strong characters have flaws, plans don’t always go smoothly, betrayal and bonds are tested, people are human. Every inch of the plot was about suspense and wondering what craziness was going to happen next, and there were so many cliffhangers at the end of chapters that sometimes I wanted to pull my hair out but instead I chugged along, wanting to eat up as much as I could.
I spent a majority of Six of Crows trying to pin-point my favorite character. I, surprisingly, didn’t take to Kaz the way a lot of people do. I by no means dislike him, but he isn’t like on the top tier of my favorite characters. I really enjoyed each of the main characters, and being able to read their thoughts in each of their chapters really made me connect with all of them on an immensely personal level. Let’s break it down one by one from those in Crooked Kingdom:
Jan Van Eck: total asshole. I am so glad there was not one but two white men in this series in which I could turn my hatred toward (the other being Pekka Rollins). Jan Van Eck was a vile human being, I still can’t get over how horrible of a person he is. He was definitely an antagonist I could get behind along with the main characters.
Kaz Brekker: I really like Kaz. He’s that tall, dark and mysterious type that is often in YA books; but Bardugo took that trope and spun it upside down. It’s great really. Kaz actually terrified me sometimes. If I met him in real life? I would run for my god-damn life! The way he snapped after Inej was injured in Six of Crows was so graphic I had to put the book down and try not to think about it for a while. His back story, as it unfolded, was truly heartbreaking and I felt dearly for him. His fatal flaw, his skin-to-skin weakness was so interesting and human that I could relate to him even though I don’t have his same “weakness”. I was a bit surprised at the turn of events at the very end, it seemed to happen a bit too fast for my personal tastes, but hey, it gave me all the feels anyway!
Inej Ghafa: When I first started Six of Crows, I felt like Inej needed to be my favorite character. And I do really, really love her. Like a whole hell of a lot. She has such a tragic story, but also hope and faith that other characters in this series tend not to have. She is by no means naive, but she’s just a girl, and it shows. She, however, didn’t feel like she changed much at all during her entire story. I liked her personality, her determination, the way she wanted to go off and punish slavers, but I felt like her character growth wasn’t really there at all. Which was really sad for me; maybe someone else saw it while reading and I just missed something.
Nina Zenik: Oh Nina. I love quick witted girls. It’s a weakness in all facets of my life and Nina is no exception to the rule. I mean how could you not love her! Her struggle in Crooked Kingdom with parem withdrawals was entirely heart wrenching to read through, and I just wanted her to find her confidence again as I turned each page. The way her powers were affected by parem was so interesting, I didn’t see it coming and as squeamish as it made me, I was happy in the sense that Nina found at least something she could do to not give up on herself by the end of the book. And god, the end of the book…. 😦
Matthais Helvar: Matthais was the most interestingly introduced character in this entire book. I spent a good portion of Six of Crows just trying to place him in this ramshackle world of Ketterdam crooks and thieves. He always stuck out like a sore thumb, but in Crooked Kingdom, you could see him shaking off his stoic soldier brainwashing and really develop into his own person. It was so lovely to watch him become more open not only with the people around him, but also with himself and the things he wanted out of life. Namely Nina. While Nina and Matthias’s beginnings were a bit questionable, I had to place myself in this world rather than my own to see how those two could possibly move through their past and fall in love. And once I did that, I could see just how good of a metaphor they are for racism in general and to show that no world is a perfect one.
Wylan Van Eck: Another interestingly introduced character, but a lot less odd than Matthias. Wylan is probably my second favorite male character in this series; he’s just like a little baby bird who fell out of a nest and who I just want to coddle and love forever and keep from harm. He had a terrible upbringing with a parent like his father, and I felt terribly for him through this book. If you’d read Six of Crows you’ll know that he was Tailored to look like Kuwei and it sort of…stuck. So he had to walk around with this foreign face and he had to be dealt racist comments because of it. He already had a hard life so he handled it pretty well, but I still felt terribly sorry for him. His character arc was probably my favorite one through the books. I loved seeing his point of view more in Crooked Kingdom, and learning of his past added a whole new level to him as a character and a fully-fleshed out person. He really came into his person by the end, and I was very pleased with the turn of events there at the end.
Jesper Fahey: I saved the best for last. Here he is folks, the tall, dark-skinned (bisexual!) sharpshooter who stole my heart and hasn’t yet given it back. I had no idea that Jesper would come to be such a big character when he was first introduced in Six of Crows and lo and behold here he is as my favorite character in the duology. He surprised me at every turn, and the revelation of his gambling addiction being an actual sickness was so stunningly done I actually had to sit back and wonder when Inej got so damn wise when she pointed it out. I love Jesper so much. I loved his point of view, his vivd liveliness, his absolute adoration for his guns and his shooting, and, of course, his constant flirting with Wylan. How could you not love a smooth-talker like Jesper, really?
This series/duology was so damn good I wish I had read it sooner but I was so glad to be able to read the books back to back! I never want to leave the Grisha verse and I can’t wait to read the original trilogy. I will be sad to possibly never read about my lovely characters ever again, but I loved Bardugo’s writing style enough to want to read anything I can get my hands on.
This is the first book/series I’ve read in a very long time that made me feel so intensely. I felt everything for the characters, I held my breath for them, I cheered and cried with and for them, I cursed their enemies and wanted to bring them cups of tea and warm blankets for most of the time I was reading.
Below is a section of blatant spoilers where I gush about certain events in the book! Don’t read on if you don’t want to be spoiled to bits!
First off…I had a feeling one of them was going to die at the end. It was impossible for everyone to live through the books, really. I wasn’t sure who it would be until it happened. I started crying for Nina when Matthais came up to her because I knew what happened and what was going to happen and I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t even horrified when she brought him “back” for a moment because she was grieving. Matthais’s final chapter just about ripped my heart out so there’s also that.
When Jesper kissed “Wylan” I gushed for about six minutes to my boyfriend about it until I turned the page and found out it was Kuwei! I wanted to throw the book across the room because of it. But then my kids kissed when Wylan got his true face back and I was so happy I cried. And Jesper’s dad being supportive of them was the greatest thing I have witnessed in such a long time.
I was so, so happy when Kaz found Inej’s family for her. I know she wanted to find them, but I’m glad she didn’t have to do it alone because she is literally a seventeen year old girl, and even Wraiths need help sometimes. What I still find a bit….unlikely is Kaz actually holding her hand at the end there. It seemed like a pretty far stretch to go from him nearly throwing up and passing out at lightly touching her skin in the bathroom to fully on hand-to-hand contact within a month or so. But still, the scene was significant and I totally am okay with that and I respect the author’s need to tie up that lose end.
There is probably more but that is all I can think of at this time. Let me know what you think either here or on Goodreads or find me on Twitter!