Title: Crooked Kingdom
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fantasy, YA
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Goodreads Summary:Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn't think they'd survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz's cunning and test the team's fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city's dark and twisting streets—a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.
Okay it's been four months since I read this book, so forgive me for the vague review - I don't really remember details anymore :/
I really enjoyed Six of Crows, because I love stories about heists and morally ambiguous characters and friendships, and SoC had all of these things in spades. Crooked Kingdom was also pretty enjoyable for all the same reasons, plus it was easier to get into because I already knew the characters. Still, I didn't enjoy it quite as much as SoC. I felt like the book was a lot longer than it needed to be, and there were points in the middle where I was thinking to myself, "Okay, there's no way this plan is going to work because there's still 300 pages left..." Thinking about the page count was definitely a sign I wasn't totally sucked into the story. I did enjoy all the twists and turns though; it's nice to have a villain who is cleverer than you would expect.
I think a big reason a lot of people love this book more than Six of Crows is the cross-over with the Grisha series. I have only read the first book of that series and I didn't really like it, so I haven't bothered to continue with it. I missed all the references and characters that crossed over from the other series, so I didn't get to experience the fun of drawing connections between two connected worlds.
I really liked how all of the characters and their relationships developed in this book. Mild spoilers, but I'm glad Kaz doesn't magically get over his phobia of touching people with his bare hands by the end of the book. It's something he is working on, and I really appreciate that this is portrayed as a process and not a simple flip of a switch. I'm also thankful that the other character(s) involved don't push him and give him space to overcome his fears on his own terms. While I really liked that aspect of Kaz's character, he's just a bit too broody and self-hating for me to actually like his character as a whole.
Inej, on the other hand, continues to be my favorite. She has experienced a lot of pain and triggering events, but she powers through them because she won't ever let herself be held back by her past and the people who want to use her. And of course, Jesper and Wyland were adorable. One of my favorite parts of this book was Jesper's character arc and how his complicated relationship with his father develops. Nina's struggle with parem withdrawal was also really well-done and unsurprisingly painful to read about. I really liked seeing how Nina and Matthias' relationship was strained by the parem but they still found ways to love and support each other.
The ending was pretty shattering, and I'm glad that for once there wasn't some last minute deception or twist about the fate of a particular character. That's one of my pet peeves, when you mourn a tragedy that has befallen a character, only to discover that it was all a trick or that somehow the character has magically healed/escaped/been brought back to life. At the same time, I felt like the tragedy befell the least surprising character. The events that transpired are the direct result of actions that this character chose to take, so it's not like the consequences came out of nowhere. I wasn't actually upset about what happened to this character as much as I felt bad for the other characters dealing with its repercussions.
I think I would recommend reading the Grisha trilogy before reading this book, simply because I felt like I was missing a lot by not reading the other series. It's not my favorite fantasy heist novel, but it was still fun.