Sunday, November 20, 2016

Book: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (Six of Crows, #2)

After reading the massively addicting Six of Crows, I realized that I was so lucky to be in a world where Crooked Kingdom is already published and readily available to be devoured. If not... I don't know up to what lengths I'd go to feed my need for a closure. The highly anticipated conclusion to this explosive duology has dominated the charts -- and not without cause! The hype is real on this one. This book sailed so far, soared so high -- my life was changed. *LOL*

I'm not even sure how to start this or if I'll be able to make a decent run down of my thoughts but let me at least try. So... one by one, let me count my feels:

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Plot:
Kaz Brekker and his crew 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 left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, 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 magic in the Grisha world. (via Goodreads)
Just like the first book, Crooked Kingdom (CK) was told through alternating POVs of the protagonists. We're done with the crazy heist plot of the SoC and we now move on to a different side of the story. The crew was left cheated and, here, we come across a more slow-moving form of narrative. One that is full of backstories, underlying motives, decisions and intrigues. This is not to say that CK is boring compared to SoC. In fact, I can outrightly say that I loved CK more than SoC. The first book was the beginning, one that introduces a relatively foreign world to us, one that sets the tone of the series. I think many would agree that one of the problem with book series is the pressure for the sequels to give justice to the hype of the first book. And even though people should treat each book as an almost separate material, people expect the sequels to surpass or at least keep up with the first ones. Luckily, we got an epic second book -- a fitting conclusion to this duology. Crooked Kingdom definitely did not disappoint. 

CK still has that old SoC charm. The meticulous planning. The fast-paced action. The crazy twists. Even the romance -- all the teases, all the build-up, leading to something more. Ships were realized and everything was right in the world. The way Leigh Bardugo handle relationships is too realistic to fathom, too fitting to each character's individuality. It felt natural, and it was one part of the narrative that I definitely enjoyed breezing through.

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One big change in this sequel: Wylan Van Eck finally had a POV. And though Kaz and Inej's POVs are still my favorite, this was a welcome change. Some of my favorite scenes happened while reading Wylan's POV. There's this scene at Chapter 14 that got me crying in the corner with my feelings. Gaaah, his was such a welcome addition to the already brilliant lineup of POVs. I really loved the chemistry whenever he was with Jesper. It was really something. I can't talk about it enough without spoiling things so much but I was really happy with the way their story line concluded.
Maybe he was the same. A bullet in a chamber, spending his whole life waiting for the moment when he would have direction.
Now that I think about it, most of CK focused on Jesper and Wylan's backstories. And though it was a given that I'd certainly enjoy Wylan's, I find it surprising how I became really invested with Jesper's. Don't get me wrong, he was one smart-mouthed dude that I'd definitely would want to have a chat with if he ever comes alive (and absolutely one of my favorites)... but I find his character development back in SoC a bit lacking. Both Wylan and Jesper tend to disappear in the narrative in SoC, but with CK, they took center stage. It was nice to peak behind Jesper's free-spirited cover. It was nice reading that journey of finally accepting what he truly is, what he can do -- and channeling that to their cause. That [bullet-bending] scene back at Chapter 36 was soooo epic it was criminal. Plus, his Pa = <3. Papa Fahey had it rough, but I admire his love for his son. #ParentingGoalz

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One thing that concerns me, though: too little Kaz Brekker POV chapters! His bright, twisted mind always deliver a punch whenever it's on page so I would really like more of it but sadly only few are in here. But still, he was a looming presence all throughout the book. I am not sure how Leigh did it but Kaz was never out of the action and I loved it. There was one particular scene with Wylan that really resonated with me, and he delivered a line that I think would be one of my mantras from now on:
"You're not weak because you can't read. You're weak because you're afraid of people seeing your weakness. You're letting shame decide who you are. [...] It's shame that lines my pocket, shame that keeps the Barrel teeming with fools ready to put on a mask just so they can have what they want with no one the wiser for it. We can endure all kinds of pain. It's shame that eats men whole."
I honestly think Kaz is one of Leigh's best creations. A boy twisted by life and fate and has been broken too many times.  One that acknowledges his weaknesses and makes a weapon out of them. He thinks he's a monster but still is able to do good and serve justice to the oppressed. One that can still care so much for another -- despite protest. *wink* His relationship with Inej has been one of the biggest highlights of my reading experience and it's definitely one for the books. The intensity of it, the complexity. I can't even begin to think how to express my love for them.

Probably my favorite Inej fanart / source
And speaking of her, this I can say: INEJ GHAFA IS MY QUEEN. Kaz have questioned her thinking: "How could she still look the world that way?" and same as him... I am amazed at how little everything that happened to her affects her beliefs. The Wraith always had something to hold on to, literally and figuratively - her religion, her beliefs, fond memories of her childhood, even that small semblance of something that she saw in Kaz that made her believe in him. The trying times when she questioned her beliefs and  even Kaz's feelings for her broke me. Especially with the former because I know how important it is for her. But still, she managed. Because she is freakin' Inej Ghafa.

Also, this quote from her:
But wasn't that what every girl dreamed? That she'd wake and find herself a princess? Or blessed with magical powers and a grand destiny? Maybe there were people who lived those lives. Maybe this girl was one of them. 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.
I want to scream because of how much light this quote brought to my life. Some books are all about the chosen ones, the ones with a destiny that would save an entire nation, the ones whose loss would mean mourning to everyone, the ones who are at the center of an elaborate game. But what about the *others*? As Inej said: the "nobodies and the nothings [...] the invisible girls"? This right here is one of the reasons why I love this book so much. Props to Leigh for veering away from "chosen ones" stories because the YA world certainly is with too much of them now. I'm not really sure but somehow this quote made me feel represented. That despite that not being *special*, you still have a claim in the world. You still have right to get what you want from it -- and I think that thought is beautiful.

Kaz X Inej / source: tumblr
         "I would come for you," he said, and when he saw the wary look she shot him, he said it again. "I would come for you. And if I couldn't walk, I'd crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we'd fight out way out together -- knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that's what we do. We never stop fighting."
Ah, the tragedy that is Inej and Kaz. It was all full-on romance-baiting back at SoC but things picked up at Crooked Kingdom.
        Two of the deadliest people the Barrel had to offer and they could barely touch each other without both of them keeling over.
This is a ship that I definitely would want to sail and I've been rooting for this since SoC. Two complex characters: both with something they want to fight for, both with something to run away from. There was this bathroom scene back at Chapter 26 that really made an imprint in my head. It was so beautifully written with such anguish and longing it was hard not to cry. My two broken babies. Both too damaged to even make it work, but still trying. A defining chapter indeed.

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Inej placed her hands on Nina's shoulders. "Well see each other again."
"Of course we will. You've saved my life. I've saved yours."
"I think you're ahead on that count."
"No, I don't mean in the big ways." Nina's eyes took them all in. "I mean the little rescues. Laughing at my jokes. Forgiving me when I was foolish. Never trying to make me feel small. It doesn't matter if it's next month, or next year, or ten years from now, those will be the things I remember when I see you again."
And can we talk about Nina and Inej's friendship in this book? I haven't highlighted it enough in my thoughts on SoC, but their friendship is one thing I find very endearing and inspiring. For once, this is not about two girls engaging in a competition -- these are girls who treat each other as equals, a friendship bound by mutual trust and respect. No one is anybody's sidekick, no one's presence is more prized than the other. I hope to see more of this in YA novels in the future, because, really, this is what relationships should be made of.
She was the Queen of Mourning, and in its depths, she would never drown.

And then there was Nina,. Having just come out of parem withdrawal, I didn't expect much of her role in CK. But good thing she was still the very present firecracker that she is. And with a surprising twist, a new ability was born. Matthias and her story struck a chord with me and still sends me sobbing. [They deserve better than that.]
"I," she said, planting a hand on her hip, "am a delicate flower."
"You aren't a flower, you're every blossom in the wood blooming at once. You're a tidal wave. You're a stampede. You are overwhelming."
That level of affection for each other. *creys* If I was not obsessed with Kaz and Inej already, I would be swooning over them all the time.
"I have been made to protect you. Only in death will I be kept from this oath." 
^ Still makes me sob AF. 

Gorgeous Kaz and Inej fanart that reminds me so much of Sin City for some reason. / source

I enjoyed the parallelism, the consistency of everyone's character - that validated over and over why I love these bunch of characters so much. I mean just look at the homage for this SoC quote in these: quote 1 and quote 2. This book had its constant share of these moments of recognition which is a joy to read. I am almost ashamed at how tenderly I loved this book. 

This post turned out to be a bit long but it's because this book made me feel so many feelings I can't cope. This is the first time in a long while that I became very invested in a series so these books really hold a special place in my heart. PROBABLY THE BEST OF MY 2016. This book was perfect. I mean, cross that: THE WHOLE SERIES WAS PERFECT. Leigh Bardugo, you freakin' genius! I've never been charmed by crooks and criminals this much and that is saying something. 

MAH BABIES! / source
I was sad because the story came to an end but also a bit happy because, finally, I'll be able to get my life back. Now it's finished. A satisfying conclusion to an epic tale of complex antiheroes that I've come to love (maybe a little more than necessary). I know I can always go back -- I will always go back. *dramatically clutches chest*

To the word of Inej Ghafa on Kaz: "He doesn't say goodbye. [...] He just lets go." Maybe I don't need to say goodbye, maybe I just need to let go - but it's hard.
______________
My Rating: ★★★★★ (5 out of 5 stars)

Quotable Quotes:

"I'll tell you a secret, Hanna. The really bad monsters never look like monsters."

He had often wondered how people survived this city, but it was possible Ketterdam would not survive Kaz Brekker.

When fear arrives, something is about to happen.

"Sometimes, the only way to get justice is to take it for yourself." Kaz

"That's where you're wrong," Kaz said. "I don't hold a grudge. I cradle it. I coddle it. I feed it fine cuts of meat and send it to the best schools. I nurture my grudges, Rollins."

"[...] There's no time to constantly be apologizing for existing. But when someone does wrong, when we make mistakes, we don't say we're sorry. We promise to make amends."

"Stop treating your pain like it's something you imagined. If you see the wound is real, then you can heal it."

"I've taken knives, bullets, and too many punches to count, all for a little piece of this town," said Kaz. "This is the city I bled for. And if Ketterdam has taught me anything, it's that you can always bleed a little more."

"Sometimes," said Kaz, "a proper thief doesn't just take. He leaves something behind."

And that was what destroyed you in the end: the longing for something you could never have.

"Fate has plans for all of us," Inej said quickly.
"And sometimes fate needs a little assistance."
_____________________________________

Searching for anything Six of Crows-related lead me to so many fan casts. I sure do hope this gets turned to a movie. Although there's always a risk that someone, somewhere will butcher this in the big screen -- there's still something amazing when you see your beloved characters being brought to life, right? Buy the freakin' movie rights to Six of Crows, please!

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