by Leigh Bardugo
Even better than Six of Crows, full of so very elaborate schemes and backstabbing…and an ending that leaves no wishes open – heartbreaking, but still great.
‚Crows remember human faces. They remember the people who feed them, who are kind to them. And the people who wrong them too. They don’t forget. They tell each other who to look after and who to watch out for.‘
No, crows don’t forget – and they don’t forgive. Pekka Rollins, Jan Van Eck and Per Haskell have wronged our Supreme Crow, Kaz Brekker, and he’s coming for them. Coming to get what was promised, what’s his, for all that money and gratitude they owe him… and for Inej, of course. Kidnapping Inej Ghafa was definitely the stupidest thing anybody ever did in the history of literature. Because hell would freeze before Kaz would let that stand.
‚He was going to break my legs,‘ she said, her chin held high , the barest quaver in her voice. ‚Would you have come for me then, Kaz? When I couldn’t scale a wall or walk a tightrope? When I wasn’t the Wraith anymore?‘
Dirtyhands would not. The boy who could get them through this, get their money, keep them alive, would do her the courtesy of putting her out of her out of her misery, then cut his losses and move on.
‚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 our way out together–knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.‘
For most of this, Kaz and his crew are on defense, always hiding, constantly licking their wounds…and scheming, then striking back hard. They aren’t the same people that left Ketterdam to break into Fjerda’s Ice Court anymore. They’re changed, battle-hardened, and they’ve grown into a unit.
‚They don’t know who we are. Not really. They don’t know what we’ve done, what we’ve managed together. So let’s go show them they picked the wrong damn fight.‘
Sure, they still bicker, but the great fights among them are over. The Crows are a now a team, and they’re brilliant at it. Even Matthias adapts to circumstances:
‚Where do you think the money went?‘ he repeated.
‚Guns?‘ asked Jesper.
‚Ships?‘ queried Inej.
‚Bombs?‘ suggested Wylan.
‚Political bribes?‘ offered Nina.
They all looked at Matthias.
‚This is where you tell us how awful we are,‘ she whispered.
He shrugged. ‚They all seem like practical choices.‘
They’re at their best when on their own, and when they hit back, Van Eck (who’s seriously competing with TV-Stannis Baratheon for the title of Worst Father Ever) doesn’t realise what’s coming, because there’s just so much of it. The way they solve their problems and break out of all his traps is incredible – but once again it’s not the plot that carries this book, it’s the characters. After following them through two books, you can basically ask yourself about any topic: What would they say to this? And you’d know their answers, because Leigh Bardugo has imprinted their voices in your brain forever. All their wit, all their irony, all their feels.
‚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.‘
‚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 are a tidal wave. You’re a stampede. You are overwhelming.‘
‚Has anyone noticed this whole city is looking for us, mad at us, or wants to kill us?‘
‚So?‘ said Kaz.
‚Well, usually it’s just half the city.‘
‚Do you know what Van Eck’s problem is?‘
‚No honor?‘ said Matthias.
‚Rotten parenting skills?‘ said Nina.
‚Receding hairline?‘ offered Jesper.
Plus, there are some real nice treats for all the readers of the Shadow and Bone trilogy in this one. I hadn’t read the trilogy when I devoured this one first, but now I have so I finally get to appreciate what the author did there – if there was anything I missed in this duology up to this point, it’s that Ravkan privateer.
’Do you really have a flying ship?‘ blurted Jesper.
‚I have several.‘
‚Take me with you.‘
And that ending, people, that ending. So bittersweet, and so fitting.
‚We were all supposed to make it.’
Yes, they were, but that bitter part made this even better, because at that point I really realised how attached to these characters I’ve become. It shattered me way more than a boy should admit.
This is the best duology I’ve ever read, blessed with a fantastic plot, excellent worldbuilding and the most brilliant set of characters I’ve ever seen.
‚His father would have sneered at these thugs and thieves, a disgraced soldier, a gambler who couldn’t keep out of the red. But they were his first friends, his only friends, and Wylan knew that even if he’d had his pick of a thousand companions, these would have been the people he chose.‘
They’d be the people I choose every time. FIVE stars.