Review: Crooked Kingdom (Spoiler Alert)
** spoiler alert ** reread 2021:
'You showed mercy, Kaz. You were the better man.'
There she went again, seeking decency when there was none to be had. 'Inej, I could only kill Pekka's son once.' He pushed the door open with his cane. 'He can imagine his death a thousand times.'
These books bring me so much pain and yet also infinite joy. The plot is simultaneously complex and perfectly tight, with every single aspect coming full circle--even aspects you didn't realize would have any effect later. Even aspects from the first book.
I don't think I know any characters as well as I know these ones, and that's crazy to say because this series is only two books. I've read eight book fantasy series, and while I of course feel incredibly connected to those too, this one is just different. It's so perfect and it's so hard to be able to explain why.
I don't think I'm skilled enough to write a comprehensive and coherent review, so I think I'm just going to mention some of my favorite moments (even though it's basically all of them), because the quotes do this book more justice than my ramblings.
First we need to address the elephant in the room: Matthias' death. No, I'm still not okay. And yes, I've read this before and I knew it would happen. Somehow, even though his death is heartbreaking, I also feel like it was necessary. I can see why Leigh chose this as his end. He was raised under false beliefs, and in death all he wanted was to help others escape that same twisted way of thinking. And on top of it all, he was killed because of how he was raised and how he rebelled. And the worst part is that only he knows how he died. The Crows never even saw who shot him. Re-reading his death also really got me to understand Nina's journey in King of Scars, because before I completely forgot why she was even going to Fjerda in the first place.
Also... his parting words. I nearly cried and I never cry at books. Even though I knew they were coming.
Ladies and gentlemen, let's recall how in the first book Matthias said
'Jer molle pe oonet. Enel mörd je nej afva trohem verret.'
Nina swallowed hard. She remembered those words and what they truly meant.
'I have been made to protect you. Only in death will I be kept from this oath.'
It was the vow of the drüskelle to Fjerda. And now it was Matthias' promise to her.
AND THEN IN THIS ONE, AS HE'S DYING IN NINA'S ARMS HE SAYS
'I have been made to protect you. Even in death, I will find a way.'
GOODBYE. THIS WAS THE END OF ME.
Okay I don't want to dwell on them any longer because I will spiral into sadness. How about next we talk about what brought me pure joy in this book: Jesper and Wylan.
I loved seeing Wylan shine in this installment. He truly proved that he wasn't completely helpless, that yes, he was spoiled and rich, but that didn't mean he didn't have to endure in his own unique way. His father is EVIL and quite literally tried to have him murdered on multiple occasions all because he couldn't READ.
That's why it was so satisfying when he got to blow everything up in his father's face. He pretends to read for the crowd, and just as his father is about to be arrested and taken away Jesper makes sure to lean in for one final quip.
'I can read to him.'
'He has a very soothing baritone,' added Wylan, and then the guards were hauling his father down the aisle.
I just love to imagine the expressions on their faces. Jesper with his arm practically around Wylan, Wylan brutal stare into his father's eyes as he's dragged away, and Van Eck's frantic form, helpless. It's so satisfying.
Speaking of satisfying, let's discuss Kaz's arc. His character is so consistent it's almost painful. He's cruel and twisted and afraid of affection all because of what happened to Jordie. He built an empire just to take down the man who took his brother from him. Who took the life from two hopeless children. The scene where he bests Pekka lives in my mind rent free. He gets so brutal it's terrifying, but you can feel the pain that's been built inside him for years.
'Tell me where he is, Brekker.' He smashed Kaz's head against the wall again. 'Tell me.'
'It's a simple trade, Rollins. Just speak my brother's name and your son lives.'
'Tell me my brother's name.'
'I can give you the Barrel, influence you've never dreamed of. Whatever you want.'
'Bring my brother back from the dead.'
Kaz looked at Pekka Rollins, Jakob Hertzoon, kneeling before him at last, eyes wet with tears, pain carved into the lines of his flushed face. Brick by brick.
It was a start.
LIKE THE IMAGE OF THIS IS SO ICONIC. AND THIS SCENE IS JUST SO PERFECT AND GENIUS. Of course Kaz would just want Pekka to remember. Would beg him to know the name of one of the poor boys he swindled to build his empire. And of course he wouldn't.
Also on top of ALL THAT, he also added the element of starting the plague outbreak sites at Rollins' businesses to slowly cause his entire career to tumble. Genius.
Let's also take a moment to talk about the relationship between Kaz and Inej. Their dynamic is just so undeniable. They are the definition of OTP. They both have so much trauma and only the other really understands it.
Was she meant to find a kindhearted husband, have his children, sharpen her knives after they'd gone to sleep? How would she explain the nightmares she still had from the Menagerie? Or the blood on her hands?
This passage really brought that to light for me--how could they live with anyone else? They were literally built for each other. And it MELTS my heart the way that Kaz has no emotional maturity and says all the wrong things to her BUT WE GET TO SEE HIS THOUGHTS WHERE HE SAYS ALL THE RIGHT ONES. Also it makes it that much more impactful in the moments when he does get vulnerable. One touch for Kaz is like the ultimate act of trust.
'I would have come for you. And if I couldn't walk, I'd crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we'd fight our way out together--knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that's what we do. We never stop fighting.'
LIKE HE WENT FROM "YOURE JUST AN INVESTMENT TO ME" TO THAT. Kaz legit had me screaming at the pages sometimes because of how defensive he is in fear of vulnerability. Like boy, learn to express your feelings. But also it makes perfect sense why he can't for so long. It's easier not to get hurt when you expose nothing.
Tell her, said a voice inside him. Tell her everything. But he didn't know how or where to begin. And why should he? So she could find a way to absolve him of his crimes? He didn't want her pity. He didn't need to explain himself, he just needed to find a way to let her go.
'You want to know what Pekka did to me?' His voice was a snarl reverberating off the tiles. 'How about I tell you what I did when I found the woman who pretended to be his wife, the girl who pretended to be his daughter? Or how about I tell you what happened to the boy who lured us in that first night with his mechanical toy dogs? That’s a good one. His name was Filip. I found him running a monte game on Kelstraat. I tortured him for two days and left him bleeding in an alley, the key to a wind-up dog shoved down his throat.' Kaz saw Inej flinch. He ignored the sting in his heart.
'That’s right,' he went on. 'The clerks at the bank who turned over our information. The fake attorney. The man who gave me free hot chocolate at Hertzoon’s fake office. I destroyed them all, one by one, brick by brick. And Rollins will be the last. These things don’t wash away with prayer, Wraith. There is no peace waiting for me, no forgiveness, not in this life, not in the next.'
AJKDSHKJHSDHF LIKE BOY YOU KNOW WHAT YOURE DOING TO HER AND YET YOU CONTINUE. Like we get it you're scared of weakness 🙄 but guess what she can see right through you.
Nina glanced from Inej to Kaz and saw they both wore the same expression. Nina knew that look. It came after the shipwreck, when the tide moved against you and the sky had gone dark. It was the first sight of land, the hope of shelter and even salvation that might await you on a distant shore.
Also I just love Inej so much and I hope she takes down the world like she deserves.
But what about the rest of us? What about the nobodies and the nothings, the invisible girls? We learn to hold our heads as if we wear crowns. We learn to wring magic from the ordinary. That was how you survived when you weren’t chosen, when there was no royal blood in your veins. When the world owed you nothing, you demanded something of it anyway.
She is a queen and I sincerely hope we get to see more of her (and Kaz) in future Grisha books.
Okay I could go on forever about this series, but I just want to say one final thing. The final chapter to this book is quite literally the most perfect thing I've ever read. It manages to extract the motivation at the heart of 1,000 pages. Everything that the crew lived and died for. It was all to see Pekka Rollins cower beneath them.
The problem was that the creatures who had managed to survive the city he'd made were a new kind of misery entirely--Brekker, his Wraith queen, his rotten little court of thugs. A fearless breed, hard-eyed and feral, hungrier for vengeance than for gold.
I love knowing that every night he'll think of them. That he'll fear for his life every night before he falls asleep. I love that this series implanted aspects of everyone within me. That Ketterdam managed to turn us all into at least some kind of monster.
first read 2017