Review: Six of Crows & Crooked Kingdom, by Leigh Bardugo [spoiler free]

Book: Six of Crows & Crooked Kingdom
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Pages: 465 & 561
Genre: Fantasy, YA, Magic, Adventure
Published: 2015 & 2016, Henry Holt and Company
Rating: ★★★★ & ★★★★★


[Summary for Six of Crows:]

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes. 

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.


Any reader worth their salt knows: when there’s a map at the beginning of a book, you’re in it for the long haul.

Between these two books, there are three maps.

So, of course I read the entire series in a week. One week. And it was one of the best weeks of this year. I felt like I was binge watching a fantasy YA Ocean’s Eleven tv-show, but like, with diversity and character development and feelings.

I figured that since they were both fresh on my mind, I’d group my reviews together into one series review. Again, this is a spoiler free review. 

There are six reasons to love these books, and each of them manifest in a character:

1. Kaz

At the height of controversial characters in recent YA novels is Kaz Brekker. When you think his reputation in the Barrel (the worst area of Ketterdam) can’t get any worse, it usually does. At the same time, as you read, you begin to understand that even the worst actions have their reasons. Kaz is a character that’s just as complex as the plot, and watching them unfold together is simply marvellous.

“No mourners. No funerals. Among them, it passed for ‘good luck’.”

2. Jesper

Jesper, for me, was the epitome of the character development in these books. All of the characters changed, absolutely, but watching Jesper shift and shimmy from someone I already loved, into someone who was actually dealing with his past and his problems, was one of the best parts of the story.

3. Inej

Just putting this out there: Inej was my favourite character. Hands down. Her role in all the heists really emphasized the intricacy of the plot. She defied so many things, not only gravity, but the terror of her past, the fear that should have overwhelmed her optimism. And just as she defied the impossible, so did the plot – just when you thought you understood what was going on, Bardugo would add in another loop. I’d bow at her feet for the sheer amount of planning these books must have required.

4. Nina

Nina is basically the big sister I’ve always wanted. She, for me, was the glue that held a lot of the relationships in the books together. (Also Jesper. Nina and Jesper are my new brotp)  And these relationships, alliances, friendships, whatever you call them, were at the foundation of the books: a group of misfits take on the world. Who doesn’t love that? Also, she and Inej not only pass, they obliterate the Bechdel test. Check and mate.

5. Wylan

Wylan doesn’t have any part in the multiple POV chapters in Six of Crows, and for good reason: it would’ve spoiled the plot. But I’m so glad he had them in Crooked Kingdom! They serve to make him into a character I not only empathize with, but admire. I can’t even remember the last time I read a book with so many POV chapters, but it’s done so well here. Rather than having one person explain the plot as it goes along, each character’s chapters slowly add to the reader’s understanding of the plot, and it unfolds better that way.

6. Matthias

As far as the flashbacks within the POV chapters went, Matthias’ were my favourite. It would start to feel like I was reading an entirely new story, and all I wanted was to know more. All of the character’s flashbacks were amazing, and added to the story (hats off to Kaz, too), and added to the list of each character’s motivations, but Matthias’ showcased a culture so at odds with everyone else’s, that I couldn’t help but be drawn to them.

On top of all that, there’s diversity. So much diversity: in race, religion, sexuality. There’s some teasing about cultural differences, but no one thinks twice when one of the characters present the group with something that’s different. I love it.

Also, just a brief moment of silence for the exceptional world-building Bardugo has done. I take my hat off to you, madam.

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Now, I don’t have many complaints, but what’s a proper review without some criticism?

  • It took me about 50 pages to get really into Six of Crows. I felt like I was immersed into a world I was meant to know everything about already, which I guess makes sense if you’ve read Bardugo’s Grisha series, but I hadn’t.
  • In the same breath, because it’s building off some of the momentum of the last series, it spoils some of the plot of the previous series. This hurt, because when I read a book by an author and I love it, I want to go and read everything else they’ve written, but in this case, I feel like I already know what will happen.
  • *slightly spoilery* I wasn’t a giant fan of Matthias in Crooked Kingdom. I felt like he disappeared into a certain other character too much, like his POV chapters were always the voice of the bystander watching as the plan unfolded around him. He was so badass in the first book, and I understand that some of his chill was due to character development, but I was sad that he seemed to have lost a lot of his spark.
  • I found that having the books begin in the POV of some unrelated background character really put me off. I didn’t care about them, and I just wanted to get to the chapters for the main characters.

 

All of that said, I truly enjoyed this series. Six of Crows was a fantastic start, but Crooked Kingdom capitalized on the momentum, and brought the story to a close in the only way that felt right. 

So go read it. If this hasn’t all been convincing enough, I’ll leave you with a quote from my favourite misfit just to whet your appetite:

“Wasn’t that what every girl dreamed? That she’d wake and find herself a princess? Or blessed with magical powers and a grand destiny? Maybe there were people who lived those lives…But what about the rest of us? What about the nobodies and the nothings, the invisible girls? We learn to hold our heads as if we wear crowns. We learn to wring magic from the ordinary. That was how you survived when you weren’t chosen, when there was no royal blood in your veins. When the world owed you nothing, you demanded something of it anyway.”

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I'm Emma Kath. Welcome to my blog! This is where I post my original book reviews, litstyle (lifestyle for the lit-nerd), and other bookish things. A little about me: I'm Canadian, and currently a student majoring in English lit and cultural studies. I'm an introvert (INFJ, if you believe in that sort of thing), sarcastic to the bone, I love art and history, and hope to one day travel around a bit. Until then, I'll be reading, writing, and trying to spread a little kindness around the internet. If you have any questions or inquiries, feel free to contact me!

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