4 out of 5 stars
Every page of the Six of Crows duology tells you not to fall for Kaz Brekker. So, of course, you do.
The only person craftier than leading hero-villain Brekker is author Leigh Bardugo. And that’s really saying something when you read the heist/con/quadruple-cross Kaz pulls off in Crooked Kingdom.
Picking up after the Ice Court events of Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom finds our ragtag band of thieves and misfits still stinging from the double-cross that cost them 30 million. They did good work – better than they intended – in rescuing would-be scientist Kuwei Yul-Bo. Now they’re harboring him. More and more people (countries, armies) hunt for the boy and the miracle his father created, that he can (maybe) reproduce. Their nemesis remains Jan Van Eyk, who hired them for the events of Book One and left them with empty hands and pockets at the end.
As I said before, in Six of Crows, I shipped everyone. It carried on in Crooked Kingdom. Potential romances abound. Pitfalls range in difficulty from star-crossed lovers, to “I kissed the wrong guy because his face was magically altered to look like someone else’s face,” to sheer and terrifying haphephobia, the fear of touching or being touched. It’s not as if “Have you ever been buried in a pile of corpses?” comes up in a lot of dating profiles.
Kaz and his crew organize a revenge heist so complicated that I don’t even remember everything that happened. Which must be how five of our six Crows feel (excepting Kaz himself, of course). Bardugo’s plot is so intricate, every detail so important, that she must have written it start-to-finish, then cut it up and moved the pieces around. The reader has no clue about the full scope until it’s over – which, incidentally, is exactly how someone gets tricked, robbed, and destroyed. Kaz and the gang roll us too; the audience are like pigeons in Fifth Harbor.
This book was really great (though not quite as awe-striking as Six of Crows). The world of Kirch and beyond could be the setting for a hundred stories. I’d like to read them all.