Monday, July 30, 2018

The Crooked Kingdom Book Review

by The Wanderer

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Henry Holt
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Series: Six of Crows Duology Book Two
Pages: 561

(Spoilers for Six of Crows are below).

Kaz Brekker and his crew have pulled off an impossible heist. But their financial backer Jan van Eck has refused to pay them. As an insurance policy he's captured Inej, and if Kaz doesn't surrender soon, she dies. The escape of Bo Yul-Bayur from the Ice Court has captured the attention of the world's most powerful leaders. As they descend on Ketterdam looking to find the man that is believed to know how to make jurda parem.

I really wish I knew why I decided to read this sequel. I wasn't a fan of the first book, and yet here I am writing a review for the second. Well, all the problems with Six of Crows are still present. Romantic relationships are taken to the next level, and so is their ridiculousness. This time around there's even an added campiness to them, which further undermines each characters traumatized upbringing. 

This is especially true of the Jesper and Wylan romance, which has almost no chemistry. It feels more like it was added to the story so it could either fulfill a YA requirement that every significant character must be pursuing a relationship in order to achieve anything meaningful with their lives, or so it could fulfill some sort of progressive agenda because both characters are gay.

Kaz also continues to be another sore spot. He is still more or less omniscient, having all the answers, getting out of every perceived danger, all while being worshiped by his crew while doing so. This time around he's struggling even more with his feelings. How will he ever be cold enough to run a gang, but open-hearted enough to meet Inej's relationship requirements?

While Six of Crows had an epic premise for a fantasy story, ie. the impossible heist, Crooked Kingdom follows this up with an even more epic plot I like to call 'dude where's my paycheck.' Yes the back and forth in this sequel is Kaz chasing down Jan Van Eck to get his money. Van Eck is nothing more than a man who's an assemblage of various generic fantasy bad guy cliches: he's a bad husband, a bad father, and a greedy business man. Normally a fantasy sequel ups the epicness of a series, but Bardugo has somehow managed the exact opposite. 

It's this last issue that's a real sticking point for me. I can't think of a time where I read a fantasy sequel, or a conclusion to a fantasy series, where the last volume is the least epic volume. It kind of boggles my mind. How does this happen? With that in mind, you can bet this wasn't anywhere near as good as the last book, and that's not saying much.

Score: 3.9

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