This post should have been up weeks ago, preferably at the first Sunday of January, to signal the first instalment of my new blog series Sequel Sunday. Unfortunately, because of circumstances out of my control (my shitty time management) and reasons that I cannot explain (I kept forgetting to write the damn thing), my first Sequel Sunday post was repeatedly postponed until at the very last week of January. What I failed to realize then was that the last week of January’s Sunday fell on February. Oops.
This post should have been up weeks ago – preferably on the first Sunday of January – to signal my new blog series of this year, Sequel Sunday. Unfortunately, because of circumstances out of my control (my shitty time management) and reasons that I cannot explain (I kept forgetting to write the damn thing), my first Sequel Sunday post kept getting postponed until at the very last week of January. What I failed to realize then was that the last week of January’s Sunday fell on February. Oops.
But anyway. We’re here now and that’s all that really matters, right?
As the name suggests, the goal of my little Sequel Sunday series is to take a look at the second book of a series I started last year (or before that) and discuss if it holds up to the first.
Sequels, in my experience, always have the herculean task of not just delivering its promise in the first book but also give something completely new to the table, be its own thing. In trilogies especially, the sequels are the middle child of the series and, as a middle child myself, I know how tough it is to live up to certain expectations when you’ve got a particularly esteemed older sibling. The second books don’t introduce the story or end it; they have to keep the readers’ attentions well enough so that they’ll finish the series.
I’ve also started on longer book series but… I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.
I more or less loved all of the book series that I picked up in 2018 (enough to keep reading, I mean) so it’ll be interesting to see if the sequels (or second books) will hold up or not.
Starting this series strong is Crooked Kingdom, the sequel to Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows.
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.
Although it took me about four months to finish this book, I truly, genuinely, and wholeheartedly loved Crooked Kingdom. It was a deliciously complex and unpredictable revenge plot that had a satisfying – if not heartbreaking – end. I was pleasantly surprised to see familiar faces return in this book too.
What made this book so exciting was that Kaz and his team didn’t always win. In fact, for the most part, they seemed to be on the losing end despite their meticulously laid out plans. There were real stakes in the story and a palpable sense of danger the entire time. But there were also plenty of emotional character interludes. In this book, we get to know more about the characters, Jesper and Wylan in particular. We learn about their backstories in greater detail without sacrificing the pace of the narrative.
Overall, Crooked Kingdom was a great book in its own right. However, when compared to its predecessor, how does it fare?
Six of Crows vs Crooked Kingdom
Where Six of Crows was a large scale heist book that involved a crew of brilliant criminals working together to survive in a wholly foreign and hostile country, Crooked Kingdom was a revenge story that unraveled and took advantage of the corruption and impunity of the characters’ home country. I found it fascinating that the dangers didn’t ease despite the fact that Kaz and his team were in their home turf.
In the first book, there was a lot of worldbuilding and character introductions which meant that the plot took some time to get going. The sequel had an easier time since the world and characters were already established so we really hit the ground running.
Crooked Kingdom had the advantage of having a fully fleshed out world to explore immediately however it also had to juggle a lot of minor plots that it teased at in the first book. It had a semi-large cast of characters too and each of them had their own sort of contained stories. Jumping to and fro character POVs was a little jarring at times, especially since all of them had such intense stories to tell. Don’t get me wrong, Bardugo weaved all of these character arcs beautifully but, personally, it got a little overwhelming having so many heavy stories to digest at the same time.
This is where Six of Crows had the upper hand since it had one major goal that the team was focused on. The team was mostly on the same path in the first book. Character backstories were given in increments but, for the most part, they stayed just what they were, backstories. The heist was at the center of the story.
Personally, I enjoyed Crooked Kingdom better than Six of Crows purely because I preferred reading Kaz and his crows outsmarting the politics and bureaucracy of Ketterdam than infiltrating the impenetrable security fortress of Fjerda. The former is just more engaging for me.
Plus Crooked Kingdom explored character relationships (romantic and platonic) much more in depth. You can see why these character have grown to care for one another. They’re not working together for the sake of the heist; they’re working together to save and avenge the team. Any one of them could just walk away, stay out of trouble, but they don’t, not after everything they’ve been through.
Does it Hold Up?
A hundred percent. It gave us readers exactly what we loved in the first book – colorful and complex characters, clever twists and turns, danger in every corner – plus more.
If you’re reading this and somehow haven’t read the duology, do yourself a favor and get right on it. You might feel that the Grisha magic system isn’t as explored in this duology but that’s only because the book sort of assumes you read the previous trilogy. But if you’re not up for those three books – and, honestly, I think everyone in the fandom can agree that Six of Crows is a major glow up from the Shadow and Bone trilogy – you can still read this duology without missing that much.
And that’s it for my first ever Sequel Sunday post! Sorry if it’s a little all over the place. I’m still trying to figure out my footing.
Next up I’ll be looking into Rin Chupeco’s The Heart Forger, sequel to The Bone Witch. The first book of Chupeco’s The Bone Witch series was more of a character history while the second, I’m told, is more focused on the plot. Should be fun.