May 21, 2021
This is a review of the book Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo.
Crooked Kingdom is the second book of a duology taking place in the Grishaverse. I went into Crooked Kingdom after reading Six of Crows, the first book in the duology, and Crooked Kingdom took me about a week to read. Be prepared for minor spoilers as well as major spoilers for Six of Crows. Skip to the end for a TL;DR and overall rating. With the formalities out of the way, onto the review.
Crooked Kingdom was an excellent continuation of the Six of Crows story. Crooked Kingdom was able to raise the stakes even more from the last book in excellent ways — it was able to get into the meat of the story much faster and in a much more interesting way than Six of Crows. It is able to do this because of the nature of a sequel not needing to spend as much time on establishing setting and characters. However, Crooked Kingdom was able to give some more characterization to characters that needed it. In Six of Crows, I felt like Wylan and Jesper were a bit lacking in backstory. Crooked Kingdom really fixed that problem giving Wylan and Jesper a lot more attention. However, Crooked Kingdom ignores Matthias a lot more.
I do want to speak quickly about what I did not like in the book. My main distaste is the Kaz and Inej romantic subplot. In Six of Crows, I had a problem with the start of this relationship, and I still don’t like it. It feels forced. Kaz does not need a lover, and Inej deserves so much better (cough Nina cough). Kaz opens up because Inej loves him, but that is definitely not the only way for him to open up a bit. It is even shown a bit later on that he does not need Inej in order to open up.
In general, I think the character relationships were not dealt with well throughout both books. In my opinion there were two options the author could have gone with that would have worked better than what they did. First, completely abandon the idea of having romantic relationships between characters, possibly with the exception of Matthias and Nina. Or second, go all in with the romance and have lots more 1-on-1 chapters with the characters. The way it is, the current relationships between Kaz and Inej, as well as Wylan and Jesper, feel kind of half-hearted. Sure, Jesper teases Wylan a bunch, but is it too much to ask to have a chapter dedicated to a date between them?
Even though I think the characters' relationships could have been better, I still think each character is excellent and I really enjoy reading from each of their perspectives. However, the action in this book is some of the best I have read in a long time. Every encounter follows a pretty standard formula, but the way it is implemented is done very well. Almost every encounter is preceded by planning and excellent character interactions figuring out the plan. Then, they start the plan and it goes perfectly for the first bit. After that, there is often a twist that puts a hitch in their plan and forces the characters to improvise around it. In Six of Crows there was only one instance of this and it was much grander, being the main heist. In Crooked Kingdom, however, there are multiple smaller heists so this happens many times. Six of Crows feels much more like one cohesive movie, while Crooked Kingdom feels more like an episodic tv show where each heist is its own self-contained episode with an overarching plot expanding with each episode. Which I think works in it’s benefit, the more episodic format makes it much easier to consume.
The only criticism that I have plot-wise for this book is that it feels sort of unfinished. I get that it sort of ends in a way that allows you to expand the story on your own, but I would like just a quick short story of each character after the events of the book. Perhaps in a short story compilation book each character gets a little 1 or 2 chapter capstone to their story where we see their personal goals fulfilled.
An excellent expansion of the story. I definitely recommend it to anyone who loves Six of Crows and wants to finish the duology. The action is excellent and the characters are just as charming as in the previous installment.