I’m talking about 2 books in this post, so it’s probably going to be a little longer than normal. But it’s been almost a week since my last review (I got a new job and have been busy settling in there!), so maybe this will make up for my absence. So, these books are an extension of the world, or “Grishaverse” if you will, created by Bardugo in her original trilogy, The Grisha. I loved that trilogy and have reviews for each of those on Goodreads: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising. They were dark, original, nicely paced and the world-building was superb – hard to put down all around. Plus, every once in awhile while reading SoC and CK there was a comment or character that, having read The Grisha, gave me a little extra insight or made me feel like I had some sneaky insider knowledge, which was cool. However, you definitely don’t have to read that trilogy before reading this duology. Six of Crows is a wonderful adventure either way and, if you are pressed for time and this looks more your style, worry not, I actually think Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom ended up being better!
Six of Crows
“I mean with a rating as high as this on Goodreads and the most pervasive bookstagram presence of almost any YA other than Sarah J. Maas‘ books, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but still. Wow. The hype for this is real and it holds up. I mean, like I said, I loved the original Grisha trilogy a lot. The world-building and characters were great and they were just so well written and super fun to read. If anything, this was even better. I’m sure you could read this on it’s own and it would have been fine, but having already spent wonderful hours in the Grishaverse, the extension to the world that we get here…moving out of Ravka (though I loved all the hints and references to the civil war there and some of the “famous” characters from The Grisha) and into Kerch and Fjerda we get to see this world in a much broader sense. The way the countries feel about each other, interact, etc. that we get to see more of here is truly impressive in scale. The alliances, stereotypes, and power plays Bardugo writes and creates are perfectly rendered and feel so real.
The characters, our group of thieves and misfits and lost souls, play flawlessly for and against one another. Kaz, Inej, Nina, Matthias, Jesper and Wylan are one of the best crews I’ve ever adventured with. Their relationships with each other, and the growth and changes that happen over time on this journey (both for us as readers, as we learn about their pasts and how they all came to be where they are now, and for them), are developed at a reasonable and believable, but simultaneously nonstop, pace. I really enjoyed the experience getting to know them all as they get to know themselves. I saw it written somewhere that this crew really is #friendshipgoals, and honestly, even though I’m only halfway through the duology, I really agree. I cannot wait to see where they and their relationships go next.
While their story does end up having some far reaching implications, I enjoyed that that’s not how it started. It’s not a group of people setting out on a hopeless quest to save their world that succeeds against the odds, etc. It’s a group that, each for their own personal reasons, really need/could use the promised rewards. They aren’t setting out thinking about anything other than their payday at the end. Watching their development to see it in a bigger way, or not (for some it happens sooner, for others, they still are looking at it as simply revenge/a payday), is fun. But overall it’s refreshing to see a tale told of a group that’s just really good at what they do and they are in it for that alone. And if there are wider reaching implications of their actions, so be it, but that’s not their issue. Super refreshing. And definitely part of what makes this story so special and gives it such charm.
This is a book you just cannot put down. The overall writing is on point, with new and exciting plan reveals and unexpected twists (in equal measure) with almost every chapter. And it’s all done with a wonderful mix of traditional ambiances, the fun caper and the serious “job,” to create a mood all it’s own. The cover advertises “Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist.” …and for all that that premise sounds incredibly overdone, it’s a promise that is absolutely fulfilled.”
“This was a non-stop follow-up/wrap-up full of action and drama and adventure and love and sorrow and the perfect amount of swashbuckling (both serious and otherwise) on every page. Absolutely a worthy follow up to Six of Crows – it stands up to it as far as the plot, pacing, and creativity of the “heist” and use of available resources, while also managing to even add a little more to the odds stacked against the team and the lengths they need to go to/the lines they need walk. And Bardugo is able to write it all in a way that is both reasonable and fantastic – exactly what you want out of a book like this.
After book 1, I liked Inej and Jesper the most, and that essentially didn’t change, but Wylan really came into this own in this book and carved a much bigger place for himself in the crew and in my heart. The character development, which was already beautifully done in the first book, continued to be phenomenal – realistically paced and unbelievably complex. Each character grew as individuals, grew in their relationships to each other, and with more and more information revealed about their backgrounds, just kept growing in general. I feel like after finishing I was left with 6 larger than life, in many different ways, friends. My one critique is that outside of the main six, I felt that the rest of the characters were fairly flat/too easy (Jesper’s dad, Kuwei – though he did grow a little more than the rest with time, Alys, even Pekka Rollins – I liked that it ended with his perspective and the quick visit of Inej [always looking out for Kaz] though, and especially Dunyasha – like she came out of nowhere with a crazy backstory and was gone just as fast…she just felt incomplete to me). But honestly, that’s a small complaint and didn’t effect my overall experience much at all. I loved the cameos from some of my favorites from the Grisha Trilogy – Genya and Sturmhond – it was a fantastic bonus. And the continued growth in complexity of the Grishaverse, the inter-country relations and the treatment of/response to Grisha in different countries, etc. is spectacular.
Though I am incredibly happy with the caper (everyone kept to their individual morals, goals, and end games within the bigger picture, as any person/character really would, and I really respect that), the ending, and where each character ends with their foil (Inej/Kaz, Nina/Matthias, Wylan/Jesper) – honestly especially that, those particular relationships were closed out perfectly, I thought – I am having a hard time abiding by the Dregs’ mantra “no mourners, no funerals.” I am TOTALLY mourning the end of this adventure. “[Jesper’s] guns, Kaz’s brains, Nina’s wit, Inej’s talent, Wylan’s ingenuity, and Matthias’ strength” I will miss you.
SPOILERS: My mini eulogies. (I got so attached to The Dregs and letting go was so hard, I just had to write some little good-bye notes for/to each of them. I’m sorry to each of the Six, in a philosophical sense, for violating their code.)
– Inej, good luck to you in your quest to end slavery – it is a good goal, one worthy of you. And as you work alongside K, give him time, give yourself time, but never give up on what you mean to each other. And happy family reunion!
– Kaz, you may not be a good man, but you are a better one that you thought. Keep trying. You are worth it, Inej is worth it. And good luck running the Barrel – it’s your destiny, fill it well.
– Jesper, embrace yourself for everything you are: Grisha, gambler, lover, son. Forgive your father and forgive yourself. Take the time to master your skills so they become the gifts they always could have been, instead of the curse you thought they were.
– Wylan, no shame! You are smart and will do and become so much more than you ever would have if you had been able to read and your father had accepted you. Enjoy your happiness with your mother and J, you deserve it. Be bold.
– Nina, though you profess no mourning, you can give into it a little. But then let M live on in your quest to reach your dual goals. Break down those inter-country barriers and make everyone see in you what he saw. And never stop seeing in others what you saw in him. And embrace your new powers – different is hard, but you were made to handle it.
– Matthias, you can rest easily knowing you did everything you could, everything you needed to, and more. N is strong – she’ll follow through and you’ll both still change the world. And you will live on within her forever, where you belong.