Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo is the sequel to Six of Crows. If you haven’t read Six of Crows yet, you may want to check out my post that provides ten reasons why you should read it. If you haven’t read it, you may want to skip over this review until you do. I promise I won’t give any spoilers for CK, but in discussing this book, there will definitely be spoilers for SoC. Not my preference, but as with so many sequels, it just can’t be helped.
Immediately after Kaz Brekker and his crew successfully nail a heist so daring they weren’t sure they’d even survive, they should be dividing up their substantial profits. Instead, they’ve been double crossed, badly weakened, and are back to fighting for survival. They’re running short on resources, allies, and hope. Powerful forces from around the world are descending on Ketterdam to discover the secrets of the dangerous new drug known as jurda parem. Old rivals and new enemies are emerging to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile bonds. 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.
It’s easy to get so caught up in the story that I would forget that none of the characters are more than around 17 years old, tops. While information about the background of each character was shared in the previous book, some characters were focused on more than others. Have no fear, each character has their backstory laid bare in this book. We learn a lot more about some characters, like Jesper, Wylan, and even a bit more about Matthias and Inej, even though we learned quite a bit about them in SoC. It was a really interesting experience to read about what motivates each character, what they went through, and what led them to the point where they wound up in Kaz’s crew.
We also get to see different sides of each of them. It’s almost as if after everything they went through in the Ice Court, and after their return to Ketterdam, they’ve learned to trust each other just a little bit more and stop going for the jugular at all times. There’s times in the book where they almost let themselves just be kids who need comfort, but unfortunately, there isn’t anyone to give them that other than each other, and they’re all just so hurt and broken that it seems like an uphill battle.
The sexual tension that simmered throughout SoC heated up immensely in this book, threatening to boil over so many times. Nina and Matthias clearly have the enemies to … not enemies thing down pat. Kaz and Inej have something happening, although Kaz is more heavily armored than a tank and Inej isn’t too far behind, but at least she’s willing to try. Jesper and Wylan have some kind of connection; that might just be because Jesper is a shameless flirt rivaled only by Nina, although I wasn’t really buying that act for a second.
Ketterdam is painted so descriptively that I have somehow developed a picture of it as a cross between the Netherlands and 1800s New York (think Gangs of New York with canals and magic). Once I put my finger on that solid picture, I can’t unthink it, and it stuck with me the entire time I was reading this book. It wasn’t a bad thing, it just crystallized it for me.
The story picked up a week after SoC ended, and while the first book took some time to get rolling, giving me time to bond with the characters, this one was full of action from the jump. Kaz and company are trying to recover their losses, but every single plan gets very complicated very quickly, as usual. I knew these kids weren’t going to roll over and give up, especially since the words on the cover say, “when you can’t beat the odds, change the game.” These are seven kids who have literally nothing working in their favor, but they’re smart, savvy, and talented. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have lasted very long on the rough and corrupt streets of Ketterdam. As Jesper says:
“That’s the problem with Ketterdam … trusting the wrong person can get you killed.”
Leigh Bardugo has an incredible ability to weave together so many plot lines without me even really noticing what exactly is happening until everything comes together. I’m not sure if this happens to everyone, but I was incredibly surprised at how many twists and turns happened throughout the story. Normally, this many turns would have had me so lost I’d need a map AND a GPS to find my way back out, but I was just enjoying the ride until all of a sudden it was over. I flew through this book, and was desperate for more. I’m hoping this isn’t the end for this crew, and I’d love to see them get into more adventures. I want to know what happens next for them. This is the kind of series I can absolutely see myself reading again and again.
Reading this after having just finished the Shadow and Bone trilogy, I was expecting to get it right in the feels, but I just wasn’t prepared for the amount of feels that I got. It was funny, touching, sad, and happy. I’m not surprised at the amount of both laughter and tears that were pulled from me during the reading of this book.
People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn't an upper limit.
Gasp Factor: 30
Overall Rating: 5 out of 5 stars