Book Review

Crooked Kingdom – Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★★  (5 / 5 stars)

There’s one thing you should know: don’t cross Kaz Brekker.

After Van Eck fails to uphold his end of the bargain and steals the Wraith, Kaz is on a mission to seek revenge…and he’ll burn Ketterdam down in the process, if necessary. With his band of misfits ready to fight to the death, Kaz constructs a plan to bring Van Eck’s empire down…and hopefully make a quick profit in the process.

While it took me awhile to read Crooked Kingdom (only due to my own life and not the story itself), this story kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. The market manipulation, the popping characters, and the scheming all come to a head right back in Ketterdam. Unlike Six of Crows, we already know Kaz and his crew, so it gives us a chance to really immerse ourselves in the story rather than be taken back in time throughout the heist.

Ultimately, the Six of Crows Duology is a character study though, and while the plot itself is relatively predictable as far as the ultimate outcome (and thanks to a few spoilers I saw online, unfortunately), it’s the characters and their development, and their actions, that make this story shine. There is no one quite like Kaz Brekker and his crew. Each character adds their own perspective to the plot, making Kaz’s plans all the more allusive, as they navigate Ketterdam in the dark.

What’s impressive overall is how each pair in the crew seems to foil each other, but in all the right ways. Jesper is impulsive and cocky, Wylan quiet and more calculating. Nina is a Grisha with a penchant for crude humor, while Matthias is a soldier raised to hate Grisha and keep things in line. Finally, you have Kaz and Inej, with Kaz as the “ruthless” leader of the Dregs, and Inej as his moral compass.

I would like to take a moment to talk about Inej. She is by far my favorite character – I love leading women who are both kind and tough in one foul swoop. She doesn’t kill without reason, and her end goal is hunt slavers and bring them to their knees. It’s noble, and not quite what you would expect for someone so close to Kaz Brekker. But, while Kaz is hailed as the “hero” of the story – the mastermind of the plot if you will – it is Inej’s story. The first time we meet the crows is through Inej’s perspective. We learn about how she is indebted to Kaz. The book ends on her freedom. While yes, the Six of Crows Duology is about all six of the characters, I really do think the story is about Inej (and Kaz, of course). But it’s subtle, not up front, and that’s what makes it brilliant.

One reason though that I really loved Crooked Kingdom is because of the way Kaz manipulates the markets in his illegal ways. The fact that the outcome of this is all due to market play is fascinating to me – especially since I work in the financial service industry. It’s rare to see something like that in a fantasy story. Instead, you often see thinks more like the Shadow & Bone Trilogy, with wild displays of magic and fighting.

Ultimately, Crooked Kingdom is a fantastic way to end the Six of Crows Duology. I have full intentions to pick up the King of Scars Duology soon…and hopefully I’ll see Kaz, Inej, and the rest of the Crows again in the near future.

And remember…if you can’t beat the odds…change the game.

What’s it about?

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.

Insights

The Struggle of Comp Titles

For the longest time, I have struggled with finding a comparable title to my debut novel, The Mist Keeper’s Apprentice. I had pulled from many sources (Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, Star Trek, and general fantasy as a whole. But I hadn’t quite found a comparable title.

A lot of fantasy as of late, especially in the New Adult genre, didn’t quite fit in with what my book is about. It seems like that direction it goes in is one of the two: high fantasy or fae fantasy, based on what is popular right now.

My book doesn’t fall into either of those categories.

And this became a frustration. While I’m happy that my book stands on its own, to attract readers, you need comparable titles.

That changed after I read Six of Crows.

I’m ready to delve into the rest of the Grishaverse (although, I’m not sure how I’ll feel about Shadow and Bone due to how “YA” it really is). To me, the Grishaverse serves as a great comparable to my story.

Let me tell you why:

The world is composed of multiple countries with different feelings about magic (or Grisha), with different factions fighting. The world is diverse, and the way magic behaves is beautiful. Combined with references to more of an 1800s/1900s feeling, there was a similar vibe to my story…at least from a world building perspective.

The stories are very different though. My story deals with Death Gods as well as magic; the Grishaverse deals with the magic…and in Six of Crows, heists.

But, the purpose of a comparable title is this: I can say that if you’re someone who is 16+ and enjoys the Grishaverse, you might just enjoy my book.

That might not be the case with everyone. But, it is nice to say.

It’s a way to help market my book, as well as reach different audiences.

Will it work? Who knows.

And I’m sure I’ll find more comparable books as time goes on.

Until next time,

ESB

Book Review

Six of Crows- Book Review

Book Rating: ★★★★★  (5 / 5 stars)

An impossible heist. A team of six misfits. 

And a reward that could make all their dreams come true.

Presented with an opportunity of a lifetime, Kaz Brekker, one of the leaders of the Dregs, forms a team to complete a job: find a scientist responsible for creating Juda Parem, and bring him back to Ketterdam. With Inej, Jesper, Nina, Matthias, and Wylan, he forms an unlikely team, each bringing their own talents and knowledge to the heist. But can they survive breaking into the Ice Court…with their prize in hand?

What can I say about Six of Crows that hasn’t already been said? Truthfully, I rarely pick up these “hyped” books, because either they’re not for me, or I’m disappointed. I made the exception for Six of Crows. The plotline and world interested me (plus, I saw it as a potential comparable book to my own writing, but I won’t talk about that here), so I figured I’d take the plunge. Plus, with the new Shadow & Bone TV, I can’t say my interest wasn’t piqued.

I was worried since I hadn’t read Shadow & Bone first. While some people might need that for context, the worldbuilding in Six of Crows is sound. I wasn’t confused by anything taking place, and I desperately wanted to keep reading. 

While the heist story, overall, is relatively predictable (as has been parodied in multiple TV shows and books), this novel really isn’t about a heist. It’s about the characters, about how they have come together, and about how their stories and the world influenced their decisions. Who is Kaz Brekker? Why was Inej at the Menagerie? What history do Nina and Matthias have? Why is Wylan hiding from his father? And how did Jesper get in so much debt? These answers come to the forefront throughout the story, as they navigate the Ice Court, putting Kaz’s plans into action. 

I do wonder if I would have loved the book as much if I read it with no context: if I didn’t see all the memes on the internet, if I didn’t see the snippets from the upcoming TV show, etc. Might I have been more confused? I don’t know. It doesn’t matter. What I know now is that it is one of the best books I read this year, and I am anxiously awaiting my copy of Crooked Kingdom, as well as my copy of Shadow & Bone. 

The only problem I had with the story, to be honest, was their ages. The characters read as older than 16-17, especially with everything they’ve been through and with their position within the Dregs. This comes down to an issue with older YA books as a whole; often times, these books might be better placed with a New Adult audience, possibly with characters in their early 20s instead. 

Yet, this is also why the book appealed to me. YA as a genre often results in me having mixed feelings on the book. The characters are whiny or immature, as teenagers are, and sometimes the tropes that follow suit (love triangles, enemies to lovers, etc.) get on my nerves. While there is a place for all of these stories, and not all of them are bad, they just aren’t usually for me. This is why I am unsure how I will feel about Shadow and Bone…but time will tell once I pick it up. 

But, with Six of Crows, it’s different…especially since this falls under a much more “Older YA/NA” age group. The characters are somewhat more mature. There are darker subjects overall. But instead of being in their 20s, they’re 16 or 17…and I somewhat struggled to suspend disbelief on that. It was easier for me, in my head, to imagine these characters as 20-somethings. So that is what I did. 

Overall though, the book is phenomenal. I have been pacing around my house all day wishing I had Crooked Kingdom in my hands RIGHT NOW. Tomorrow, I keep reminding myself, tomorrow it will come. But for now, I just have to anxiously await what might happen: will Inej (my favorite) be okay? Will Nina and Matthias’s romance flourish? What is Kaz scheming? Will they forgive Jesper? And what about Wylan and Kuwei? Are they going to survive this all?

I’ve seen some spoilers already on the abyss of social media, but that only makes me want to read it more. 

So, if you like a good heist story in a fantasy world, with a focus on characters and worldbuilding, pick up Six of Crows. I highly, HIGHLY recommend it. 

What’s it about?

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .

A convict with a thirst for revenge

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager

A runaway with a privileged past

A spy known as the Wraith

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes

Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first