Alternate title: I am Dead Forever. Dead. Bye. Forever. (Just Like *SPOILER*)
Let me be clear from the start: I am a serial spoiler hound. I can’t keep secrets, I suck at lying, and my anxiety makes it so that spoiling the end of the story when I’m only a quarter of the way through makes said story far more enjoyable for me. I realize others don’t share my penchant for ruined surprises, so I’ll say this nice and loud:
SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS
In this review, there will be spoilers around every corner. Spoilers in your closet. Spoilers in your soup. Spoilers in those places in your bra where you find chips at the end of the day. (Just me?) If you do not want spoilers, leave now and never look back. I don’t want to be yelled at. I’ll give you a minute to gather your things and exit. No questions asked. Go on.
No, really. Please go.
If you’re still here, I’m assuming you’re comfortable with spoilers, because as I said, there will be spoilers. If that is so, welcome to the hell that has haunted me since 10:04pm EST on September 28, 2016.
Crooked Kingdom is the second and final book in the Six of Crows duology, by none other than the Queen of the Grishaverse, Dutchess of Words, and Destroyer of Souls, Leigh Bardugo.
When we last saw Kaz and his crew, they had just been cheated out of their promised reward for breaking parem chemist, Kuwei Yul-Bo, from the Ice Court. Inej had been taken hostage by Jan Van Eck, Wylan learned once again just how much his father hates him, Nina was strung out on parem (but surviving because Nina is THE ACTUAL BEST). Jesper was in hot water with Kaz over his gambling addiction, Kuwei was safely stowed away from a million desperate hands, and Matthias was still a frosty prude, but had pledged the greatest oath to Nina: “I have been made to protect you. Only in death will I be kept from this oath.”
And that, my friends, is why Leigh is the Destroyer of Souls.
I read through 496 pages of gut-busting action, homerun dialogue (seriously, the dialogue!), and a number of long-awaited ship rewards to see all my people do the impossible and survive! They did it! They survived Van Eck, Pekka Rollins, Dunyasha (*eye roll emoji*), the Stadwatch, parem, those weird, mechanized Shu bird-people, EACH OTHER (a feat in and of itself). Everything is going to be okay!
But then Leigh was like, “This simply won’t do. There’s too much joy and resolution here. Let’s see. Oh! You there! Little Fjerdan boy! Come here, little baby druskelle with a gun and a Fjerdan mind for vengeance! Now, aim that right at Matthias’ stomach.”
To say I cried would be a gross understatement of fact. To say I wept would be putting it mildly. What I did when I read Matthias’ and Nina’s last exchange before his massive Fjerdan soul drifted into the frostbitten abyss was somewhere between a soul-bound sob and an interpretative dance of marrow-deep grief. I am not exaggerating when I say my face flushed, my stomach heaved, tears poured, and I sobbed–SOBBED–“No, no, no, no, no, no!” until heaven-rending sadness stole my voice away. It has been two days, and I am still crying. I hope to recover by the time my son gets married. He’s five.
“Matthias was dreaming again. Dreaming of her. The storm raged around him, drowning out Nina’s voice. And yet his heart was easy. Somehow he knew that she would be safe, she would find shelter from the cold. He was on the ice once more, and somewhere he could hear the wolves howling. But this time, he knew they were welcoming him home.” Chapter 40, Matthias
Oh, I’m sorry. Has anyone seen my ability to go on? I seem to have misplaced it somewhere in Matthias’ last chapter.
This is not a love story. None of the characters even so much as kissed until halfway through the book. And it wasn’t a heartbreak story, either. Not until page 496.
I just wish Leigh had asked me, ya know? If she had only talked to me during edits. It would have gone something like this:
Leigh: “Hey, I’m thinking about letting some druskelle scrub kill Mathias. What do you think?”
Me: “Hahahahaha. Lolololololol.” *pauses to catch breath* “No.”
Leigh: “How should I end it, then?”
Me: “Matthias and Nina left Ketterdam, left Kerch, married, and united Fjerda and Ravka with the power of their love. They lived out the remainder of their lives feeding each other waffles and raisins on fire, alternating between their Ravkan cottage and their Fjerdan ice palace. Nina never ceased to make Matthias blush and Matthias never ceased to love it. The End.”
Leigh: “Wow! You’re good at this! Can’t wait to read your books!”
Me: “In time, Leigh. In time.”
So, that’s on you, Leigh.
Despite the fact that my heart is in pieces and I’m living on borrowed time, Crooked Kingdom is a solid five of five stars for me. I was blown away by Six of Crows–not kidding, it changed my life–and Crooked Kingdom was an excellent follow up. At the end of it all, Jesper is coming to terms with his Fabrikator abilities, working on his gambling habit, and developing a new, honest relationship with his father. Wylan has been given his rightful inheritance, and holds his mother–HIS MOTHER!!–and Jesper under HIS roof. Inej is finally free, the proud owner of The Wraith, and reunited with her parents. Kaz owns nearly all of Ketterdam, shows (relative) mercy to Pekka Rollins/Jakob Hertzoon and Jan Van Eck, and is working through his demons–all eight million of them–to be with Inej. And Nina…Nina is alone. *grumbles and throws a dish*
The Grishaverse is a beautiful place and I cling to hope that Leigh’s not done with it. The cameos by Grisha Trilogy stars were exciting and little nuggets of thanks to Bardugo’s fans for investing in this world she’s created. With Nina’s scant resolution, I’d love to see a Nina-centered spinoff. Shoot. I’d love any spinoff. Translation: I need more Grishaverse immediately.