Book: Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
This book was my #RockMyTBR book for June, and definitely one of the most anticipated books on the list that Twitter chose for me last year, as I had read the previous book for the same challenge last year and absolutely loved it. This one, I have to say I didn’t love quite as much. Don’t get me wrong, I love Kaz and the rest of the gang and I loved being back in Ketterdam with these characters, but I felt this time that the “job” plot was a little convoluted. In the first book, they had a clear goal, get to the Ice Court, get Kuwei out and get their money. The goal in this book is just as clear, take down Van Eck and Pekka Rollins, but I found that the plot for doing so got increasingly convoluted and it wasn’t as easy to follow because it kept changing! I also found it kind of slow. Here is a short synopsis of the book:
Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off the most daring heist imaginable.
But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re fighting for their lives.
Double-crossed and badly weakened, they’re low on resources, allies and hope.
While a war rages on the city’s streets, the team’s fragile loyalties are stretched to breaking point.
Kaz and his crew will have to make sure they’re on the winning side… no matter what the cost.
Okay so yeah, I was kind of disappointed in this book. I loved Six of Crows, sure it was slow at the beginning, but I loved the characters, the heist was cool, the twists and turns were unpredictable but made sense and the characters were working towards a clear goal. It was a much more straightforward story.
Crooked Kingdom on the other hand? Yeah not so much. The pacing was hugely off, the chapter lengths were really uneven as were the parts, you’d have chapters of like 20+ pages and then suddenly one that was only 6! The first part had only 4 chapters, then the last part had like 12? Yeah not great. There was so much plotting and planning and scheming and then there’d be like maybe a couple of chapters with some action and then more plotting, I just didn’t feel really engaged with what was going on. Plus the job got increasingly convoluted as the whole thing went on, you had all the stuff with the silos that had basically no payoff whatsoever, the auction, getting Inej back, there was so much going on and yet at the same time it still felt like it was going really slowly? I don’t know, like I said, the pacing was just really odd.
I still loved the characters, well most of them anyway, I’m not overly keen on Kaz still, I felt like he needed to come across more stumbling blocks, the fact that he was this perfect criminal mastermind who always knew what to do when everything went wrong? Yeah, I might have liked to see a little more doubt. Plus, the whole, everything goes to shit, but it was really part of Kaz’s plan all along thing? That got old fast. For once, I would have liked it if the others had been in on Kaz’s plans as well. The great thing is though, that even if you don’t love one of the characters, you still want them there, because the dynamic of the six of them as a group is what really makes this story work, and without a single one of them, the banter would just die. I love the way Leigh Bardugo does dialogue, it really shows the dynamic of the group well, and I found myself laughing out loud more than once in this book.
Jesper and Nina are still my favourite characters and I enjoyed seeing their struggles in this book, Jesper with his gambling addiction and his relationship with his father and trying to get Kaz to forgive him after the last book and Nina with her struggles with parem and learning to use her new powers and everything. Plus the two of them really just lighten the mood when things start to get dark! I also loved that we got Wylan’s POV in this story, it was great to see him get some more development and to see his relationship with his father through his eyes.
Having said that I liked the addition of Wylan’s POV, I will admit that I felt like there were too many POVs in this book, which seems like kind of an oxymoron, but you would have one character’s POV, something exciting would happen and then we would jump to someone else and wouldn’t get back to them till like 4 or 5 chapters later. I feel like this story only really needed Wylan, Nina, Jesper and Inej’s narrations, Kaz’s and Matthias’ didn’t really add anything for me.
The plot was kind of repetitive for my taste, we’d have planning, plan goes wrong, new plan, that plan goes wrong and cycle, rinse, repeat. I feel like if we’d just had the Inej rescue at the beginning and then working towards the final plan at the end, the whole book would have been a lot more streamlined, the plot wouldn’t have been as convoluted and we could have avoided the repetitive cycle that the book got stuck in. The stakes also didn’t feel as high in this book as the other one, the Ice Court was the impossible heist, this book was just a series of mini jobs and never at any point did I feel like the characters weren’t going to make it out.
The relationships were…..well I had the same problem as in the first book, I didn’t really understand why everyone had to be paired up. Sure, the romance doesn’t overtake the plot of the book, and that was good, but I found that the only relationship I really felt invested in was Jesper and Wylan’s. Kaz and Inej, honestly I felt like Inej deserved better and watching them hide their feelings from each other just got infuriating, and Nina and Matthias? Well again, I just didn’t feel invested, although I could kind of understand more of what drew them together. I honestly preferred seeing the development of Jesper and his father’s relationship through the book than any of the romantic relationships.
Speaking of Jesper’s dad, it was really cool to see a fantasy book where a parent could actually be integrated into the plot and be useful for what the main characters are doing, just goes to show that a parent doesn’t have to be a hurdle to overcome for a YA fantasy, they can be useful for the narrative!
The backstory parts, much like in Six of Crows, I did like reading them, but it felt like they were clumsily integrated into the action and took us away from what was happening in the main plot. Inej’s backstory was particularly tough to read and just a warning for survivors of sexual assault it could be potentially triggering. Kaz’s journey with PTSD was equally intense, so again, for people who suffer from it, it could also be potentially triggering.
I probably would have appreciated the Grisha cameos more if I’d read the whole Grisha trilogy, but it was fun to see Genya, who I now know from Shadow and Bone and it did make me look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy.
I didn’t really understand what the point of Dunyasha was, she was basically employed as a distraction for Inej and I reckon she could have had the potential to be much more but was used in the wrong way.
I can’t really talk about certain things that happen at the end because of spoilers, but let’s just say that what happened really hurt, but it wasn’t the event itself that hurt, more the impact on the other people involved. I’ll admit, it did feel kind of gratuitous, I don’t think anything would have been lost if this particular event hadn’t happened, but it will be interesting to see how it’s dealt with in King of Scars.
The ending was kind of anticlimactic, I felt like Bardugo should have ended it with the last Kaz/Inej interaction because that was genuinely sweet and would have gone out on a high. I understand that if she had, then the whole Pekka thing would have been left unresolved, but it was clear enough that Kaz was going to get his revenge on him without us having to see it.
I wanted so much more from this book. I loved the characters, but the convoluted plot and the pacing and everything meant that this book never reached the heights of its predecessor. Having said that, I know Leigh Bardugo has said at some point that there will be a third Six of Crows book and I am so on board for that, because I still have questions and I’m not quite ready to say goodbye to the Dregs yet!
My Rating: 3.5/5
BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Nina and Inej have conversations that are not about men, Inej and Dunyasha’s conversations aren’t about men and although Nina is with Matthias when she meets the Grisha, her initial conversation with Genya and Zoya are not entirely focused on men.
My next review will be of my first YALC prep read Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls (if I don’t finish A Thousand Perfect Notes first).