Publisher: Orion Publishing Group
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Buy the Book • Goodreads
When you can’t beat the odds, change the game.
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 badly weakened, 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 the Grisha world.
“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.”
Six of Crows was one of my favorite books of 2015 and I was a little nervous going into Crooked Kingdom. I needn’t have worried about the quality of the story, the plot was fast paced with frequently shifting sources of tension and danger. Kaz and company feel a little less ahead of the game than last time. Fighting for more personal reasons than money, and doing so against adversaries who know they are coming, plenty of ugly surprises are in store. This wasn’t like taking the Ice Court by surprise; coming up against a very-prepared Van Eck and Pekka Rollins, the gang frequently struggled and had to re-plot in their quest for revenge and redemption. I kept turning the pages wondering how Kaz and team would manage to achieve everything this story has been set up for. From beginning to end the plot flows masterfully with only small breathers before the next big disaster hits.
The backstories are just as wonderful as before. I didn’t feel as connected to Wylan in Six of Crows, but that all changed here. Chapter 14 alone had me thirsting for Van Ecks ruin. Far less like a lost young boy, both his intellectual and emotional intelligence begin to shine. There’s an appearance from Jesper Fahey’s father, a younger Kaz still finding his way during early days in the Dregs, and some heart-breaking flashbacks from Inej. All of them either endeared the character (as in the case of Jesper and Wylan) or focused on some aspect of their history that I didn’t feel Six of Crows hit on (as in the case of Kaz and Inej). And then there is my beloved OTP for this series, Matthias and Nina. I could read an entire book of these two just flirting, teasing, and loving each other. Right now I desperately wish I had one. But every pairing here managed to be perfect in it’s own way, without drawing more attention to itself than the story warrants.
This duology has all my favorite storytelling elements in it, like a focus on criminals and the underworld. I love that magic is as much a liability as a strength and that the most important characters don’t even have any. One of my favorite quotes comes from Inej and calls out a common breed of YA heroine:
“But wasn’t that what every girl dreamed? That she’d wake and find herself a princess? Or blessed with magical powers and a grand destiny? Maybe there were people who lived those lives. Maybe this girl was one of them. 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.”
Oh, but Bardugo is cruel at times. While this ends on a high note, there is some real pain. I could barely see the last few chapters through my tears and had to reread them the next morning. Happily, the end hints at bright new alliances for a better Ketterdam. Kaz, Inej, and Wylan in particular are in a unique position to be forces of future change. The path from ruin to triumph has been cleared with hopes and plans for a better world for all.