Crooked Kingdom

It takes a lot for a book to keep me sat in one place and sacrifice sleep in order to read hundreds of pages right through to the end, and that’s exactly what this book did. I sat down at page 200 and didn’t look up until over 300 pages later, when I finished the book, and boy was that an eventful 300 pages.

This book is reminiscent of a game of chess. A game that requires strategy, foresight, and meticulous planning, something we see from both protagonists and antagonists throughout. In a tale of twists and turns we see Kaz and the crew plan what can only be described as brilliant ploys to undermine and take down Jan Van Eck, only to be foiled at almost every turn. There was a fantastic dovetail of villains from the past lining up with those of the present, through the alliance of Van Eck and Pekka Rollins – creating many hurdles for the Crows to jump, before ultimately changing the game themselves.

Where this book excels is once again through character development in both a self reflective and social manner. We see them band together despite their differences in order to claim justice for both past and present transgressions. As in the first novel, Bardugo explores themes of trauma, bigotry, and addiction with great depth, ensuring that each character is imperfect making them more human.

Kaz – If Kaz’s brilliance wasn’t showcased enough in Six of Crows, then we definitely got to see it fully fledged here. Fighting, and winning, a losing battle on two fronts is no easy feat, yet his brilliant conniving mind is able to check off all boxes and leave no loose ends untied. We see a lot of growth from Kaz across the 500 odd pages in that he is able to control himself to being more than a heartless, merciless barrel rat, rising above those who’ve crossed him in the past. He could have very easily executed Rollins’ son – an innocent child – or tortured Aly Van Eck, a mercy Jan Van Eck failed to reciprocate with Inej. He evolves into a more compassionate character, forgiving Jesper of his transgressions (despite taking his time), and facilitating the needs of others in his plans for domination. And finally we see this compassion manifest itself in his payment of Inej’s contract and the deliverance of her family and a boat to assist her in her venture for justice around the world. I have never read such a brilliantly intelligent character, bringing Kaz Brekker into my top ten book characters of all time.

Inej – Trauma was a big part of Inej’s development in this book. it morphs her into someone more than a religious spider, taking her to the edge of her own good conscious as she attempts to balance the line between good and evil. Just as we see her compassion rub off on Kaz, we see his ruthlessness rub off on the Suli Wraith. We get to learn more about her heartbreaking past in child slavery and sex work – a very real theme in society today, and how that has impacted her mental health through the years. We see how the trauma of her past, coupled with that of her capture with Van Eck, come together to inspire the more ruthless side to her character, culminating to her boogeyman like threat to Pekka Rollins in the final chapter. It was fantastic to see Inej face her demons in her battles with ‘her shadow’, outlining that she is more than a love interest and a girl broken by her past. She’s a strong formidable character, written extremely well.

Matthias – Why? Why, oh why did he have to die? It was so unnecessary, and unexpected, which is why it read so well. We see his character struggle with his bigotry and vengeance, for him to develop into a gentle giant, hell bent on saving the world through peace rather than violence, something he carries with him to the grave in not revealing the true nature of his murder knowing that Nina would stop at nothing in seeking vengeance of Fjerda. Nonetheless it was fantastic to see how love can water down years of inbuilt bias and hate, something that is becoming ever so relevant in the world today. And credit to Bardugo, his desire to ensure Nina was safe in keeping him alive to see her one last time, wow that was heart wrenching.

Nina – Poor Nina. I wished there had been more on her relationship with Matthias, that was the only thing that I felt was missing from the story. I would have liked to see them alone and vulnerable with one and other, but even without it I did get the sense that these moments occurred in the unwritten portions of the story. It was great to see a character deal with drug addiction and symptoms of withdrawal, from not only her perspective but also the perspective of those who love her and how it impacts them – basically what I, and Bardugo are saying is ‘don’t do drugs kids’. Her new powers were pretty incredible and we got to see how she handled the loss of something that had be a part of her identity (her original heartrender powers). I did feel as though Nina took more of a backseat in this book, however it made sense given her post parem condition.

Jesper – If there was ever a character seeking redemption, it was Jesper. His actions had inadvertently betrayed the Crows, as well as put his father in a devastatingly tricky situation. Addiction is heavily explored through his character, primarily how it impacts his loved ones in that his father is dragged out into Ketterdam, and placed in a deadly situation. It was great to see a gay character so comfortable with his sexuality, and his relationship with Wylan was written perfectly. I loved his development in accepting his Grisha powers, in what I assume is a sly nod from Bardugo to how people with sexual identity worries have to overcome the stigma of society to be comfortable with who they are.

Wylan – Second to Kaz, Wylan was my favourite character in the book. It was great to see him have his own POV so we could learn more about his harrowing backstory. Dyslexia/learning disabilities are nothing to be ashamed of, and people who carry such traits should not be ostracised, something he learns in the end of the book. The discovery that his father attempted to have him assassinated and that his mother was still alive only added to the cruelty of the series antagonist, while delving into Wylan as a character. He evolves from a scared tea sipping marching to a hardened Crow, while not losing his good natured qualities that made him such a likeable character.

There is nothing any one could say that could make me dislike this book. Fantastic characters, and extremely gripping story to follow, and great expansion into the Grishaverse with a few cameos from the original trilogy. All in all this book had everything you’d want for a fantasy novel, as well as the conclusion to a series.

Want More Grishaverse Content

Explore the range of Grishaverse book reviews!

Shadow and Bone Trilogy

Six of Crows Duology

King of Scars Duology

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