Monday, October 24, 2016

crooked kingdom: stardust reviews

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2)
Leigh Bardugo



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 left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, 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 magic in the Grisha world.

full review under the cut! 

"No, you're the man who sits idly by, congratulating yourself on your decency, while the monster eats its fill. At least a monster has teeth and a spine." 

I want to preface this by saying that my love for ensemble casts pulling heists is endless and it is DEEP. I love a ragtag group of enemies-turned-teammates-turned-friends, especially if they’re pulling impossible heists with tons of gratuitous sass. And this may not surprise you now, but that love for ragtag heists made Six of Crows one of my absolute favorite books of last year. I had what could be called insanely high hopes for Crooked Kingdom. I think it is the most difficult thing in the world to write a follow up to a book that is almost perfect, but LET ME TELL YOU GUYS!!!! CROOKED KINGDOM DID THAT. I laughed aloud, totally alone, to myself. I shed a great many embarrassing tears in Starbucks at the end. I fell in love and in love with these characters all over again. I was shocked and impressed and surprised as many times as I could be. This book is nothing short of incredible, and I wish with all of my heart that I could read more about these dorks. Two books just ISN’T ENOUGH!! I’m happy with the endings that we got, but I just selfishly want more.

I am going to just say up front that this review is going to contain ALL of the spoilers. (not really, but for sure some) And if you haven’t read either Six of Crows or Crooked Kingdom… I’m not going to tell you to go away, because some people genuinely like spoiling themselves, but just be cautious! I have a lot of feelings about basically everything in this book, and I might get out of control. So be warned!

OKAY LET’S TALK ABOUT SOME STUFF. First of all, I love feeling like absolutely anything can happen in a book. There was this kind of reckless abandon in Six of Crows, where at every turn, things went wrong, but Kaz and the gang were on top of them. Like, every plot twist had already been accounted for and the characters had already played past it. But I knew that their luck couldn’t hold out. I really liked how Bardugo let her characters fall and fall hard in the first half of this book. They obviously couldn’t continue outsmarting their opponents forever, it was too reckless. So it took them getting bested by Pekka and Van Eyck to bring them back to earth. Once that happened, they changed their tack, and then that fun, outsmarting bit could come back into play. I just absolutely love feeling like everything has gone to shit, but then Kaz steps in and being like “…. you really doubted me?” ITS SO MUCH FUN. I imagine it must be terribly difficult to write, getting in front of yourself and thinking out all of the possible outcomes like that. I guess that makes Leigh Bardugo a little bit like Kaz in her own right.

Now for  my children. Everyone gets points for  ~character development~ and a whole lot of kickassery. I LOVE THEM ALL SO MUCH. I’m hard pressed to remember a series where I was more attached to the characters…. Heroes of Olympus comes to mind as being a similar rag tag emsemble cast that I adored. ANYWAYS. Point being, I love these losers so much.

KAZ. Oh my beautiful, dark hearted prince. I was a little bit sad, because we spent a ton of time in his head in Six of Crows, and though we still get to see him quite a bit, it wasn’t as much! I understand the jostling for position, especially with the addition of Wylan’s POV, but I kind of missed Kaz and his snark! The chapters we did get… hoo boy!!! Jam PACKED. I feel like Kaz changed a lot from SoC to this book, and a lot of that has to do with Inej. A lot of that also has to do with him coming to some personal realizations, but a lot of it also has to do with Inej. No doubt, no questions, Kaz is still the dirtiest bastard in the barrel, but I feel like he’s learned the value of vulnerability, even if it’s only with one person in the entire world. I was glad that he finally got to raze Pekka Rollins to the ground, to make up his debt to Jordie, and to gain his fortune. I feel like, for Kaz, those three things had to happen for him to be able to have any chance of moving on. I like that we got a little more insight into his days post-Jordie but pre-Dirtyhands. It made him feel more real. But damn if he isn’t the smartest, tricksiest son of a bitch ever. In the first book, he frustrated me so much all the time, and that was lessened in this one. Maybe because I know his backstory, maybe because he was able to admit his feelings for Inej, maybe it was because he was finally able to admit that the rest of the crew was something close to a family to him. I just felt a lot of feelings for Kaz! Especially at the end….. when he bought Inej the ship… and brought her family to her…. and was NERVOUS to meet them??? Dirtyhands, bastard of the barrel, the blackest heart in all of Ketterdam…. nervous to meet his girlfriend’s parents. I CANNOT. I also really liked that we got to see some of Kaz’s plans fail, because in SoC he seemed so on top of things, but I think it is even more effective for him to fail and them just seamlessly change all of his plans and pull everything off. He’s just… KAZ!!! You know? <3 br="">
INEJ. YALL!!! MY MFIN GIRL!!!! INEJ!!!! I CANNOT DEAL WITH MY LOVE FOR HER???? SHE IS THE BEST!? I just keep on thinking about that moment, when she and Kaz are in the bathroom and he is bandaging her wounds (firstly, let’s just talk about the sexual tension in there…) and she is looking him in the eyes, challenging him to overcome his past, to step into a future where they could maybe have something. And Kaz just thinks about how she has never let the barrel change her. She still retains her hope, her light. That part made me want to cry, because I was so overcome with feelings for Inej and everything that she has been through. I mean, sold into prostitution, in a foreign land, then purchased again and turned into someone with a dangerous set of skills and ruthlessness in her heart. But she still manages to be calm, graceful, loving, and open to people. I kind of want a spinoff novel where Inej is just sailing around, getting the slavers and bringing justice to the world. LET’S DISCUSS THE PART WHERE SHE TIGHTROPE WALKED THROUGH THE SILOS??? First of all, that is crazy amazing. Secondly, when she's dueling with that other girl ON the tightrope?? And then she just falls without knowing that there will be anything to catch her? Y’all…. Inej is the baddest of them all. I liked that, with Inej and to some extent Kaz, we got their backstories really fleshed out in the first book, and their motivations and everything came from those. So while they’re obviously still at the forefront, I liked how they weren’t trying to figure themselves out, so the focus could be on their actions and also on their futures, together and apart. I loved the end, I was just so joyful for Inej: she gets the ship she’s been dreaming about, she gets to see her parents for the first time in years, and she and Kaz actually manage to hold hands, which was amazing. I also loved that part where she gets to duel the other girl again, her Shadow, and she realizes that innocence isn’t something that is required to be a good person. Inej has done terrible things to survive, but she never lost her morality or her goodness in those circumstances. And my heart definitely warmed when she realizes that Ketterdam is her home, and she tells Kaz she isn’t done with it yet!! SWOON.

NINA. Guys, I know I keep saying this, just like over and over, but I LOVE NINA. I just love her and Inej’s friendship, the way she is a soldier and a fighter without every losing her sense of humor and effusive personality, and the way she loves messing with Matthais. Nina goes through a shit ton in her life in general and in this book, and she is arguably the most well-adjusted person on the crew. My heart went out to her so much while she was dealing with the jurda withdrawals, and I was really scared that she was going to have to take another dose. I thought her new powers were super cool though, and it made so much sense to me once I realized that they had shifted. She’s kind of like a reverse heartrender now!!! As freaky as that was, I thought it was so clever and it was something that I definitely was not expecting. Nina is amazing, I loved that scene where she and Matthais were in Little Ravka and she was reunited with Zoya and Genya!!! I loved the little nods to the Grisha trilogy, and the presence of those two and Nikolai (!!!! my child!!!) made me so excited. I also loved that scene because it is the first time that we really get to see Nina and Matthais completely relaxed together. I cracked up so much when Zoya is like “we’re making this deal with a couple of lovesick teenagers!!” UGH! So much of this book was so funny, and Nina was a lot of the reason why. I completely adored her sass, and along with Jesper, I think she is the reason everyone stayed calm, especially in the beginning when Inej was gone. Inej is the steadying force, but Nina brings levity. Also, at first I was confused as to why she was suddenly feeling better after being so sick, but then I realized it was because she was using her cool reverse power! I love Nina so much, I really thought that she and Matthais were going to make it, to try to smooth over relations between Ravka and Fjerda… and I just cried so much at the end…. Y’ALL THAT IS SO UNFAIR…. which brings me to

MATTHAIS. My enormous son. I can’t think about him right now. I’m going to cry too much. Y’all. WHY. WHY?!?! WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE HIM! I mean, I understand kind of why it had to be him. Without a doubt, he was the one with the strongest moral compass, with the bravest heart, so I think he had to go because something as pure and strong as that invites people to try to knock it down. But I was still silently sobbing in a starbucks when that happened. He had so much character development through the book! I loved seeing him constantly fighting against the prejudices that had been hammered into him from the time he was born. He was so filled with love for Nina, she changed him and made him better, she made him see the world not as something filled with threats, but as something beautiful and worth wondering at. THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO BE HAPPY. I CAN’T DEAL. He was my favorite, with Inej, in the first one. And he was my favorite again, with Wylan, in this second one. I just can’t believe they got through everything they got through, and then after everything had already gone right, he had to go like that. I mean, it was emotional and it made sense with the plot, so I’m not mad but at the same time I AM. Do you know what I mean? The scene where Nina is just holding him and promising that she will take him home and he says “I am home,” I just crumbled into nothingness. I wish we had lingered on his death and memory a little more, but it was beautiful and I am just sad. There was a lot more about him that I loved in this book but it is all overshadowed by my sadness right now. I just love him a lot. I have too many emotions.

JESPER. All of the awards go to Jesper for hella character development. I was so proud of him at the end of this book! I think a huge part of his turning point was his dad showing up, and I was so happy when that happened. I mean, god damn… these children need some adult supervision. As much as Kaz likes to think he has it all under control, I think the presence of Colm Fahey was the thing that allowed the crew to succeed. His presence is also what makes Jesper realize that he can’t continue down the same path that he has been following. He has to stop gambling and start trying harder. Once he realizes that he has people that truly care about him, like his dad, Wylan, Inej, and even Kaz, then he can stop having such a masochistic streak. I absolutely loved that scene where Jesper was like oh my god Wylan finally wants to kiss me… and then it turned out to be Kuwei. It absolutely cracked me up that Kuwei had such a huge crush on Jesper, mostly because I was unclear on what his age was supposed to be? I was picturing a smaller kid, but then I realized that he was older. then when Jesper and Wylan actually did get their shit together enough to admit their feelings… i was all warm and fuzzy inside. I love that Wylan has a calming effect on Jesper. I also thought it was so cool when Jesper realized that, because he was a fabrikator, he could guide his bullets. That was such a different and cool way to apply those Grisha powers, I loved it. I was just so satisfied with Jesper’s arc and the way his story ended. I felt for him in the first book, the way he never really felt like he belonged and how he constantly felt doubted and left out, but I think he found home and belonging and peace in this book and it is making me emotional to think about.

WWWWYYYLLLAAAAAAAAAN. I saved my smol son for last. Matthais is my enormous son, but Wylan is smol and beautiful i LOVE HIM A LOT. I thought Wylan was such a  puppy in the first book, but I think that, without his POV, I couldn’t really connect to him as I did the other five. That’s why I was so excited to see that we were going to have Wylan chapters in Crooked Kingdom. I was not disappointed by what I found there. I’m really glad that we got to see more of Wylan’s backstory and how he came to the Dregs. Of course, his backstory was also a good way to further villify Van Eyck, but it also shed a lot of light onto why Wylan is the way he is. I was so mad when I realized his own dad tried to kill him, and then I was so proud when Wylan didn’t let that get the best of him. it proved that he was a fighter, just like the rest of them. I loved the scene where Wylan is remembering the day that Jesper came to the tannery to get him to join the Dregs, it was cute when paralleled with the scene of the two of them getting together. I was also so sad for Wylan when he realized that his mother was still alive. It was bittersweet, because while it was good that he did still have a chance to be with family, she suffered like him for all those years. Wylan may have started as an outsider in the first book, but he really came into his own and found his place within the group in this book. Like Jesper, I was so satisfied with the way his arc went and ended. He is just too adorable for words, and he was constantly surprising me when he would find these bursts of confidence. It was so cute when Jesper’s dad came to Wylan to give his blessing for their relationship, when he said that he thought Wylan would be good for Jesper I definitely melted. I was also really happy when Genya was able to turn Wylan back into himself, I think that was pretty symbolic of Wylan finding his purpose and his place. I am ridiculously happy that we got some Wylan POV, and the happiness of Wylan’s story kind of balances out my sadness over Matthais.

Okay, this review is already too long, but I just can’t stop thinking about how much I love this book! The plot was twisty enough to keep me involved but not too complicated to the point where it would lose me. I was always on my toes, waiting for the next thing to happen. I loved the character development and the way the relationships, both romantic and platonic, progressed. There was so much sass and a ton of just really funny moments that I appreciated to balance out the high stress/high stakes nature of the rest of the book. I loved the end, I thought we got a lot of closure… but I ALSO feel like Bardugo could write another one, if she ever chose to do so. This was definitely a sequel that lived up to and even, in some ways, surpassed the greatness of its predecessor. It just cemented the fact that Leigh Bardugo is a certifiable genius and I will read anything that she writes.


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