Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows book 2)
If book 1 blew me away, then I’m not really sure how to describe the impact Crooked Kingdom had on me. It was everything I wanted and then some in terms of plot, character development, and surprises. With far greater stakes, Kaz and his crew pull off the impossible not just once, but twice in two connected heists.
*SPOILER ALERT - if you haven't read book 1: stop, go read it, and then come back*
As if breaking into and then out of the Ice Court wasn’t enough, Kaz now has to race against time to save Inej while majorly getting back at Jan Van Eck. I loved that throughout his planning he kept saying that it was all to rescue her and get the crew’s money back, but everyone knew Kaz’s main motivation was because of how he felt for Inej. But once he got her back, oh man, did he really let loose on his desire for revenge! The connection the Kaz and Inej find throughout the course of this novel was really moving. Both with their own past demons, they find themselves to be two magnets - pushing back yet irresistibly drawn together.
Watching Wylan and Jesper connect and learn to lean on each other was something special too. They were both characters running away from their fathers and their own problems, and watching their trust in each other grow was adorable and sweet in ways I wasn’t expecting. I also loved when Jesper finally connected his Grisha power to his shooting skills!
Another huge character growth was Nina’s struggle. Not only did she have to overcome the parem, she then had to cope with the change in her Heartrender abilities. I must say, I was really surprised Leigh Bardugo decided to change Nina’s powers. While it’s true that all the facts in the story supported it - no other Grisha had survived parem as to be a comparison and that Nina “was on the edge of death and might have brought something back” - it was still an interesting twist.
And then Matthias. He came so far in his assistance of Kaz’s crazy schemes and acceptance (and even brief commanding!) of Grisha. I was really, really rooting for him and Nina… And that’s probably the one part of the story I don’t agree with. I’m not sure why it was necessary for him to die. Was it because he was the last one of the six (from the first book) to bring them all together? Meaning that his departure opened the door for the various other individuals to break out on their own (kinda). Or perhaps this was necessary to tie in to the Dreg’s motto, “no mourners, no funerals.” I could imagine this in which he doesn’t die, and things would still end the same, if on a happier note.
And the return of Nikolai/Sturmhond! As humorous and vain as before, I was glad to see him come back for a short time. Of course Kaz would notice that Sturmhond didn’t act like the way a pirate -“privateer” - would, but that really added to the weight of the dangerous situation they were all in.
I was so surprised to watch the story unfold and really connect to the title. At first I wasn’t sure what it would mean, but the more the events of the story unfolded, the more clear it all became. Not only were the depths of Van Eck’s wickedness revealed, but we saw just how much the entire “kingdom” of Ketterdam was crooked - corrupted or susceptible to corruption. Another incredible book, and I only wish there were more!