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.
I loved Six of Crows last year and Crooked Kingdom is just as excellent. From the gorgeous physical book design to the wonderful plot and characters within, Bardugo’s duology definitely proves that there are some really great reads in the young adult section that you’d be sorry to miss.
While Six of Crows centers around an epic Mission Impossible style heist, Crooked Kingdom is much more about careful plotting, subterfuge and manipulation in the streets of Ketterdam. The stakes are also substantially higher as more than just a plot to earn cash, the characters are fighting for their lives and futures.
Even after getting to know Kaz and his plans, I still continually got blown away by all the twists. Every time I tried to think a few steps ahead, Kaz was always three steps further away. By cleverly only revealing small pieces of the plot at a time, Crooked Kingdom keeps you on your toes. You can never tell what plot events are going according to plan and which will complicate things further until after they have already taken place. There is never a dull moment and things never stay calm for long. There are gun fights, break-ins, kidnappings and grandiose schemes. It’s a lot of fun and I still don’t understand how this series hasn’t been optioned for a TV series yet, it would seriously work perfectly.
Gaps in characters’ backstories are slowly filled in to provide a complete picture of their motivations and desires. The characters’ grow over the course of the book; the major theme here is not to run away from who your are; your past or your desires, for there is strength in accepting your flaws and not allowing yourself to be defined by them. They stop running from their responsibilities and step into the roles they need to take, becoming much more adult. The romance continues to be extremely well handled, not the in the least bit over the top, progressing naturally and realistically. The dialogue and interactions between them is also awesome; I truly love all these characters.
I also love how while not necessarily completely realistic, the world is depicted as dark and unforgiving. The setting is never romanticised and is utilized to great atmospheric effect while adding a necessary weight to the story keeping the stakes real and the plot intense. Bardugo doesn’t ever shy away from darker themes of death, prostitution, human trafficking, and prejudice, and includes them realistically, never forcing a message or using them for shock effect. There’s definitely a lot of food for thought in here.
Though I am certainly happy that Bardugo wrote this story as a duology rather than stretching it to fill a trilogy like many YA authors, I am terribly sad to have to say goodbye to these characters and world. With a clever, fast paced plot, excellent characterization, witty dialogue, and a wonderfully gritty and magical world, this duology is certainly not one to be missed.
P.S. That epilogue was pretty brilliant…