Crooked Kingdom is the followup to Six of Crows. As far as I’m aware, this is a two-book series and there won’t be further volumes. (There are, however, some indications that there might be more books coming in this world – hints that never panned out, stories with no endings, etc. So we’ll see.) I will avoid spoilers both for this book and the series in this review.
To Begin: Last year, I read Six of Crows and had mixed feelings on it. I’m not generally a heist or vigilante justice or criminal-protagonist fan, and this series had all three. I did like some characters and I grew to understand others, so I’d planned to read Crooked Kingdom, though with a wary eye. However, earlier in the month, I revisited Six of Crows on audio. Either my foreknowledge of the book/characters or the audio production changed my mixed feelings into positive ones, and I was excited to experience Crooked Kingdom on audio.
The Story: Six of Crows had a very specific plot arc. There were lots of intertwined stories, but there was one big thread – the heist – to pull it all together. Crooked Kingdom had a more general thread (revenge) and so it felt less like a full story and more like a bunch of disparate stories all in the same book. I think perhaps when I reread it after some time/distance, it’ll all come together a bit better for me, the same way Six of Crows did. For now, though, I felt like there wasn’t enough cohesion throughout. I often felt like I was drifting, even when everything came back together by the end.
The Characters: That’s not to say I didn’t like the book, however. Honestly I think perhaps my drifting was due to reading the book way too fast. That often happens to me, and I do plan to revisit – particularly because I enjoyed most of the characters. The main character, Kaz, is the one exception to this. I feel sorry for him, because instead of watching him grow as a person, we get to watch him become identical to his archenemy. I wanted more redemption for him, but at the same time, I’m glad I didn’t get it. It would have been too unrealistic to ask for him to become a better person after he’d spent so much of his life becoming the thing he hates. That was probably my favorite thing about the book: there were no unrealistic character transformations. Jesper still struggles with his addictions. Wylan doesn’t miraculously overcome his particular affliction. Inej is permanently scarred by her time in the Menagerie. Etc. Even as they grow, they are all hindered by their pasts, choices, and traumas.
The Audiobook: Crooked Kingdom, like Six of Crows, is read by different performers. With the first book, I mostly liked the performances, with some minor dislikes. Some of the cast changed from the first book to this one, however, and there was one performance that I really, really disliked (Wylan). This was contrasted with a few I really loved (especially Jesper!), and a few consistency things that were strange. Van Eck’s first name was pronounced differently by different performers. Genya’s name was often pronounced in different ways (with a hard or soft G) by the same performer in the same section – sometimes only a sentence apart! Added up, the audio version of Crooked Kingdom wasn’t nearly as good as the audio of Six of Crows. Ironically, when I revisit this book – which I will likely do in the next year – I’ll probably revisit in print! How’s that for full circle?