Rating: (2 out of 5)
Welcome to the world of the Grisha.
Kaz Brekker and his crew of deadly outcasts 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 badly weakened, 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 the Grisha world. (Goodreads)
Oof. I was hoping that Crooked Kingdom would redeem the series in my eyes, but instead it was a major letdown. Truth be told, I almost DNF’ed this, but I ended up pushing through because I wanted to see how the author would handle some of the things I was taking issue with.
I mentioned in my review of Six of Crows that I struggled with the amount of POV characters, though the frequent shifts ultimately made sense to me. The sequel, however, felt cluttered and incoherent with all of the different point of views. Kaz kept coming up with more and more convoluted plans in order for the crew to get their due, and things stopped making sense to me very early on. The eventual execution of the plan was brilliant, but I had to muddle through confusion for too long to be excited about the pay-off.
The author also repeats lines they deem important way too much in this book. It felt like I was repeatedly being hit over the head with a mallet that says “meaningful!”, while the constant repetition actually reduced the impact those lines and conversations had on me.
I was hoping for more explicit queer rep in Crooked Kingdom, and there was some, but I was pretty disappointed that it was all M/M. I’d heard there was queer lady rep in this duology, and there was at best the barest hint of that.
In my review of Six of Crows I said I hated the trope of a bigot being redeemed by falling in love with a member of the persecuted group. For that reason, I was hoping there would be less Matthias/Nina in the sequel, but instead the pairing became more prominent. Personally, this trope makes me a little nauseous, and it didn’t help that Matthias’s chapters were so woe is me. Being a bigot was really hard for him, y’all! But the real kicker was when the author compared unlearning bigotry to overcoming addiction, and finally Matthias saddling Nina with the task of reforming his fellow bigots.
There is also a white character who is tailored to look like a character with East Asian features. He stays that way for a good long while before he is finally changed back, but before his change, the author makes him experience racism on several occasions. I don’t even know what to say here, except: white authors, if you want to explore the racism people of colour experience, maybe don’t do it with a character who is, in essence, wearing yellowface. Especially not when your Big Bad is a Chinese-inspired country.
Overall, Crooked Kingdom left me feeling disappointed and icky. I wish I had been made aware of at least some of these issues prior to reading the duology myself, which is why I felt it important to write this review for other people who prefer to be forewarned. I understand that many people love the Grishaverse books, and while I don’t begrudge anyone their enjoyment, I will be steering clear of this author from now on.
Have you read the Six of Crows duology? (You probably have; I’m pretty late to the party.) What were your thoughts? Let’s chat in the comments below!