I’ve been promising to read this book “next” since March. I failed a lot, but I did it! I finally read Crooked Kingdom! And honestly, I loved it. I loved being back with Kaz and Inej, but mostly Nina and Matthias this time around, and a bit of Wylan as well. I liked the heist, even though it really wasn’t much of a heist and more of a swindle and a huge misdirection. Bardugo is still a master of crafting complex characters, superb pacing, and world building. So if you liked Six of Crows you’ll enjoy Crooked Kingdom, but if you’ve read the other books in the Grisha trilogy, you’ll probably like it even more, so maybe do that first? I didn’t do that for the first book, so figured it wouldn’t be a big deal this time around, and it actually kind of was? It’s odd, let me explain.
Let me start off by saying I didn’t love this book as much as I loved Six of Crows—please don’t kill me. There was just something about the Ice Court job and the rawness of all the characters and their struggles to get along that I adored that just wasn’t present this time around. I was invested in what was happening, don’t get me wrong, but I didn’t love Kaz or Inej more after this book. I thought Jesper and Wylan were cute and Wylan’s struggles with his dad were engaging, but Jesper didn’t shine as much for me in this book. The only ones I really felt something for, well, something MORE than the first book was for Wylan, Nina and Matthias. OH MY HEART! I can’t say more than that, sorry. It could be that with an additional perspective—Wylan—we lost time we could have spent with Kaz, for example. I felt his chapters were the fewest and what I really wanted was more, more, and more of him. Without that… I struggled to see why he even had this crew after being such a dick to them. I still love him and his struggles, I loved that he made me want to shake him when he tries to be more vulnerable with Inej, but it still wasn’t enough.
Also, it did get a tad tiresome that Kaz never failed. It looks like he fails, but then his “failures” were allllll part of the plan because he just knew all these fools were going to act a certain way. No. I call BS on that one. At least in Six of Crows you know things don’t go right and they have to improvise and I loved watching them think on their feet. That really wasn’t much of a thing in this book. Did I enjoy Kaz being a conniving a*hole? Of course! But I wanted to care about him and his issues, and he just didn’t get to a place where I believed he really handled his demons. Again, it could be because we get so much less of him due to the addition of Wylan’s perspective, but I wouldn’t have taken him out. Wylan is too precious for this world! Maybe cut down or get rid of Jesper’s perspective in order to give the main character more page time? I don't know.
Also, there are a lot more cameos in this book than the previous one from characters in the GrishaVerse. I could tell their appearance in this book was supposed to be an “oh my god yay!” or an “oh snap!” moment, but because I haven’t read those books, it was lost on me. So why does it matter? Because it’s very obvious that Bardugo put them in there as fan service. But without knowing why I should care, or why they matter, these big moments fell flat and are going to fall a bit flat for anyone who hasn’t read those Grisha books.
This all may seem rather nit-picky, and it is, but there was such a high expectation going into this book for me, so much hype, so many promises the book needed to deliver on and it just… didn’t. Don’t get me wrong though, this book is great, hell, the whole world Bardugo has crafted is one of my favorites so far. It really is! But when you’re a master at your craft like Bardugo clearly is, the less-than-stellar parts, shall we say, tend to shine a bit brighter. That being said, I’d still recommend this book left and right, in fact, READ THIS SERIES! I’m just saying I was a bit let down is all. But not so let down that this will get anything below a 4 stars for me, because the writing is just so good and the pacing was wonderful for such a large book. So let’s say 4.5 stars, and now I’ll promise to read the Grisha trilogy soon and still not get to it for another 6 months. Oops?
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