“When everyone knows you’re a monster, you needn’t waste time doing every monstrous thing.”
– Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
I’d been anticipating this read for a long time now. I’ve heard so much about Kaz and the Dregs, and with all the talk of how dark and conniving Kaz was, I knew I was going to love him and this book!
First of all, I did not finish the prequel series to this duology, the Grisha Trilogy. Originally I had intended to read the Grisha books before I went into Six of Crows because I very firmly believe in reading prequels. I don’t like missing any details from prequels that will enhance the world and the connections in it as the series continues (I have The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas to thank for that). However, I stopped reading in the middle of the second book Siege and Storm, mostly because I was rolling my eyes at the characters and A Court of Wings and Ruin was coming out, so I dove into a reread of that series instead.
But I digress. I had no idea what to expect from a book about a gang of thieves breaking into a fortress seeking riches. While the opening scene was exciting and had me grinning, I felt it was a little hard to get into this book. Honestly, while the plot itself was interesting, it wasn’t as exciting as I’d anticipated it being. That said, the characters made up for all of it. I didn’t feel for the characters at first – especially since there is more than one point of view to sympathize with – until later on. But the Dregs are incredibly refreshing! Each and every one of them are unapologetically themselves, and as backstories began to unravel throughout the novel, I began to love them more and more. Not to mention their hilarious quips and banter together!
I have to say, Inej is probably my favourite character. She is strong and badass, but not overconfident; she is modest and genuine and I really adore her character. But I want to talk about Kaz. I knew I was going to love him, and I so admire his sharp, conniving mind, but there is something about him that is different from other YA male leads. This novel isn’t focused so much on romance rather than character dynamics and growth. The thing about Kaz is he embodies being the monster. He is perfectly content with not being the love interest. He is hard and harbours demons that make him dangerous, and for once it’s not necessarily in the “sexy dark character” kind of way. Kaz is willing to break his opponents, even if it means doing things even his companions can’t fathom. And it’s not just Kaz who has such a full-bodied past – all the characters carry their burdens. Leigh Bardugo knew exactly what she was doing when she fleshed out these characters. And that slow burn between Kaz and Inej literally killed me!
Overall, while it was a little slow for me, the characters won my heart. And with that major cliffhanger of an ending, I’m glad I had the sequel ready to go instead of waiting for the next book! I gave Six of Crows a 4/5.
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Crooked Kingdom was a whole lot more intense than Six of Crows! It jumped right into the thick of the action. There was no slow recap and build-up; we get straight to business – very Ketterdam style, no? – with character building and tackling what happened in that cliffhanger in the previous book.
I really love the way this world is set up. Each nation in the Grishaverse have different beliefs, different prejudices, and in Ketterdam it’s as though all of that becomes grey area in the light of commerce, trade, and money. In this book Kaz’s crew are on home turf and we get to see how their schemes come to life and how the Dregs have come to understand their own city, despite the fact that almost all of them are actually foreigners born outside of Ketterdam. I think the main thing I found difficult about reading this duology as a whole was that I found some parts of the book to be slow and I couldn’t quite imagine the setting as well as I’d hoped. That’s likely a writing preference on my part, though. And it certainly didn’t take away from the characters!
The characters open up all their demons in this book. The burdens from their pasts come to haunt them, and I really love how much almost every one of them grows! Jesper was probably my least favourite character in Six of Crows, but by the end of Crooked Kingdom I loved the way he grew with Wylan. And of course Matthias… oh my goodness, Matthias. He was just a big bear I wanted to hug! I loved his relationship with Nina. And if the burn between Inej and Kaz was subtle in the first book, it was so intensely fragile throughout this book that I was dying inside!
For most of my read, Crooked Kingdom sat at a 4/5. However, what happened near the end changed everything. I couldn’t believe what I’d read and had to pause from my read as I gasped and said, “Oh my gosh, no way, no way, no way!” and proceeded to nearly near up. The ending of this book was so incredibly satisfying! And I really have to give major props to the author for making me feel so giddy over hand-holding as though it were a first kiss! You know an author has done characters right when that happens.
I also want to tip my hat off to Leigh Bardugo for creating such a diverse series. I don’t know many who can juggle so many topics of diversity all in one story, but the portrayal of tensions between races, religions, disability, sexuality, and more were seamlessly added into this duology.
I will say, I’m glad I read at least halfway through Siege and Storm of the Grisha books before reading this duology. I got very excited over a few things because I’d read a bit of the Grisha books first, but I also most definitely spoiled myself by jumping to the duology. Whoops!
All in all, I gave Crooked Kingdom a 4.5/5!
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes from the duology:
“‘I would come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together – knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.'”
– Crooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo