It’s been four years since I first read the Crows duology, and I am so ready. Please let this destroy me as much as it did the first time. Initially, I tried to reread the entire Grishaverse before the show came out, but one of my faults is not reading series all at once, but rather spread across several months, so though I did manage to read and review the Shadow and Bone trilogy fairly fast, I only got through Six of Crows before the show premiered, which is the minimum I wanted to get to anyway. And now here we are! Time for me to weep incessantly!
Also, this is going to contain all sorts of spoilers. I feel like the first five books in this universe have been out long enough that no one is going to stomp their feet about that, but fair warning. I’m not going to talk about the ending of King of Scars in this post, though I did in the S&B review and will in the Nikolai duology review, so you’ve been warned. I’ll try to be less spoilery about Rule of Wolves when we get there, but I’ll put a note before that review if things got away from me.
I truly cannot explain, in words, how much I love Kaz Brekker, but I’m going to do my best. This will also be the only time I screech about Freddy’s portrayal of him because I posted an entirely separate review of the show, BUT OH MY GODS I CANNOT HANDLE FREDDY CARTER AS KAZ BREKKER!
THIS IS THE END OF ME AS WE KNOW IT
In all seriousness, though, Kaz is truly one of my favorite characters of just all time. I love him so much. I may scream into the abyss about Wylan at every given chance, and I may weep over Alina at all times, but the Bastard of the Barrel? Dirtyhands?? LEADER OF THE DREGS??? Sign me up to die. It’s not even that hard to explain why so many people love him when you break him down to the basics–that stupid haircut that we all love, the all black hella Goth ensemble, a break your bones cane with a crow’s head godsdamn it, THE SCOWL ALONE, Sad Boi™ expert, literally wants to bottle Inej’s laughter okay do you see what I’m getting at? He is all the archetypes that people have loved for so long in YA, and to see that finally portrayed on the big screen? I mean, hell, I thought we were blessed with Tommy Shelby, but THIS?! I am deceased.
Don’t get me wrong, I love SOC for a lot of other reasons, too. The writing style of it is such a huge departure from the S&B trilogy, and it always takes me a second of just woah when I think about how different they are. Not even because Bardugo switches from first person to third person (which, hey, I wrote a whole post about this recently!) or that it’s darker than S&B because it’s really not, when you think about it, but just the entire atmosphere of SOC feels elevated. Which, yes, makes sense given that it’s Bardugo’s fourth novel, and obviously her skill would level up. But SOC isn’t just gritty–it’s chaotic and messy and full of criminals that try their damndest not to have hope and so many damn good lines. The scheming face? definitely exchange will never not destroy me. And holy magic, but the first time they said no mourners no funerals in the show? LEAVE ME HERE TO PERISH.
The heist bit of SOC never gets old, either, and I’m always so damn impressed with how Bardugo has managed to figure out all these insane ideas in a way that makes sense and somehow doesn’t get everyone killed? But the stakes are still raised, and I’m still terrified for everyone by the end, even when they’re whooping and hollering in the tank. UGH, THE TANK! There’s just so many unexpectedly hilarious and wonderful moments throughout this dark and terrible tale, and I know it shouldn’t be stupidly romantic every time Kaz rips out Oomen’s eyeball before throwing him overboard, but like? #sorrynotsorry
At its heart, the thing I love about SOC is definitely the characters. The plot is amazing, and Bardugo’s writing just keeps getting better with each
time Kaz’s breath catches when he sees Inej likes it’s the first time all over again chapter, and I will forever hold this book close to my heart as the thing that inspired me to finally break out of my YA writing shell and try something bigger and bolder in the adult universe, but the characters? The first time I read Crooked Kingdom, it was two weeks after reading SOC because I had a head cold in between, and I wanted to be fully aware and ready to go when I dove back into those beloved characters. Like, what a weirdo, but there’s just something about this motley crew of crows that’s always going to make me feel like home.
I think we all know how much I love Kaz, particularly because, during that scene in the S&B adaptation, I was fully ready to abandon the entire plot and say whatever to S&B if it meant Kaz was going to be okay–so I’d like to step back from screaming about the characters in this review of Crooked Kingdom and instead focus on the plot & writing. I do a lot of character weeping, and the Grishaverse books have been around long enough that I’m far from the only one screaming over these characters, but you know what really gets me about the SOC sequel? It’s been four years since I last read it, and yet, I remembered the smallest of details. It wasn’t just the broad strokes of the scheme/heist that I was able to nod along with, remembering the bigger machinations of the story, but all the little ones, too. I remembered funny lines and wild sentences and just itty bitty things that normally don’t stick out to me for four years.
But the plot of CK is out of this world phenomenal. Somehow, despite the very long time between first and second read, the intricate details of the chaos that the Dregs go through have stood out to me over the years so that, as I come back to this second read, it’s like returning home after vacation. Everything’s exactly where I left it, and I’m so happy to see all of it. I can so clearly remember every single facet of the Kaz & Inej bathroom scene–although, who didn’t read that scene thirteen times the first time–but it was more than just remembering it. It was just so vivid in my mind, and while my heart was beating like crazy all over again, it was also so familiar.
Even beyond the romantic aspects of this book–but holy magic Wylan “I’d like to make a down payment” I LOVE YOU–the masterful way that Bardugo has woven this insane plot together just leaves me in awe. I had to pause about halfway through and just wonder at how she did it. I would have had to have several whiteboards, a million sticky notes, and two of my readers with their fully devoted attention to help me scheme out the wickedly complex threads of the Dregs’ heists. And not even just the heists themselves, but how they fall apart and come together anew on the spot! It feels like math, how she’s braided it all together, and I’m just so damn impressed.
I think, at the end of the book, I’m split about halfway. Did I actually cry over Kaz holding Inej’s hand? YES OF COURSE DUH. But did I also just sit back and go wow over Wylan’s entire character arc, but especially his ending with his father? Just actual awe. There’s a reason these books are so beloved, and it’s because of the characters, yes, but it’s because of the extraordinary plot and superb world-building, too.
I just love these books so much, and though I’m eternally sad that this is it for the Crows, I also can’t wait to finally reread King of Scars and get onto Rule of Wolves! I miss Nikolai a lot, and getting to briefly see Zoya in CK had me screeching. That said, have I already finished a second watch of the Netflix adaptation and rewound all of Kaz’s scenes? You betcha! I am nothing if not predictable! That boy will be the death of me, even if Wylan is still, somehow, my favorite character.
And that is a wrap! Next up is the Nikolai duology, and it’s slated for next week, so hopefully I’ve gotten my butt in gear and read through those. Until then, no mourners no funerals.