Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Series: Book 2 in the Six of Crows Duology
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Hachette Children’s Group
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
(I was graciously provided a copy for review by Hachette Australia but this in no way affects my thoughts – I also pre-ordered the duology box set but it hasn’t arrived yet *sobs*)
Six of Crows is probably the best book that I have read this year (actually, probably of all time – it is ranked just under Harry Potter), so to say that Crooked Kingdom was my most anticipated release of the year is taking it lightly.
Now I’m not going to lie – I went in to Crooked Kingdom with many worries. What if Six of Crows was a fluke and I didn’t like Crooked Kingdom? What if it fell short? WHAT IF ONE OF MY CHILDREN DIED? In response to the first two questions – I needn’t have worried. Crooked Kingdom was as breathtaking, exhilarating and emotionally exhausting as Six of Crows. In response to third question – don’t look at me! You’re going to have to find that out for yourself ;).
Where the first book focused on the journey and heist at Fjerda, Crooked Kingdom takes place solely in Ketterdam and if you’re worried that our protagonists may actually get a chance to breathe and enjoy themselves – no need. Staying alive and finally reaping their rewards is proving to be more difficult for our beloved Dregs then kidnapping a political prisoner out of one of the most highly guarded government buildings in the world.
The plot picks up from where we left off at the end of Six of Crows and we jump straight into the action. The great thing about these books is the Leigh Bardugo always manages to create problems that seem larger than life. As a result, the plot is multi dimensional, layered and keeps you guessing until the last page. There are so many things that could go wrong with any one of the ridiculous plans that spark from Kaz’s mind (do we really want to know what goes on in there?) and that sense of risk, urgency and vulnerability is even more prevalent in Crooked Kingdom then it was in the first book.
All in all, Leigh Bardugo writes a winning combination of world building, plot and characters to make this duology one of the best there is. Whilst writing this review, I am making my way through a reread of the book because I FINALLY got a physical copy (this first time I read it, it was via audiobook because what is patience?). Anyway I expect that I am going to be rereading this duology for years to come because it is absolutely spectacular and YOU SHOULD ALL READ IT.
(The in depth review below has spoilers for Six of Crows but nothing for Crooked Kingdom! If you want to read my spoiler free review for Six of Crows, check it out here)
In Crooked Kingdom, we spend all our time in the city of Ketterdam and we get a BEAUT new map of the city at the beginning of the book to show for it. Although Ketterdam is where our story began in Six of Crows, we didn’t really get to spend much time in it with the majority of the first book transpiring either on the ship or in Fjerda. Leigh Bardugo expands her Grisha world in every book she writes and this was no exception – we travel all over Ketterdam and learn about it in depth.
We also get quite a few cameos from characters in the Grisha Trilogy which introduces elements of Ravka and the Second Army into this book. I read Six of Crows without having read the Grisha Trilogy (first book: Shadow and Bone) and there wasn’t much difference when I reread Six of Crows after having read the trilogy. However, I do recommend reading the Grisha before reading Crooked Kingdom because as I said, there are quite a few cameos and I think it would really add to the reading experience and the construction of the Grisha world as a whole if you had the knowledge of the characters and culture from Grisha.
Who would think that for the crew that broke into the Ice Court, surviving in their own city would prove to be the most difficult? When you read Six of Crows, you are taken on a fast-paced, high action adventure that leaves you thinking “really, how are they going to top this?”. Somehow, and I still don’t really know how she managed this, Leigh Bardugo added even more action, more thrills and even higher stakes to this book. In the first book, all we really had on stake was the money (and political motives for the more morally sound of our characters) but in this book, it feels like our characters are barely hanging on and plans could go disastrously wrong in an instant. Also, because we as readers and them as characters have developed relationships and bonds with each other, you continuously fear for their lives at every turn. Or maybe I am just way too obsessed with these characters.
Beyond the plot and beyond the fantastic world building, the thing that really brings the Six of Crows duology to life is its characters. All six of our main characters are unique and diverse in their own ways and so it made it really interesting in Six of Crows to get to know them all. Crooked Kingdom added to the characterisation and demonstrated the development of many of the characters from the first book. If you’ve finished the book, you know what happens and let me just say that I am still recovering. I am probably never ever going to be okay in my life again.
Sidebar: So Kevin Wada, the artist behind the original character designs for Six of Crows, created a set of character-based playing cards for the release of this book and THEY ARE SO GODDAMN BEAUTIFUL AND MUST BE APPRECIATED. LIKE HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE ALL THESE BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE?
Okay, back to the review.
Kaz is more problematic than ever and I LOVE it. Although it was obviously apparent in the first book that the characters were textbook anti-heroes, Leigh Bardugo really pushed the limits of her characters in this book and it was fascinating to compare all their development with how they were initially introduced to us. Kaz is both a lot worse in this book and a lot better. In the first book, Kaz was an unmovable presence – stubborn and confident to no end and with a complete belief that no scheme was impossible. With Inej in captured at the end of the first book and still so at the beginning of Crooked Kingdom, Kaz becomes…unhinged. He shows a lot more vulnerability in this book I think and I vast amount of development whilst still remaining the problematic fav we all know and love. e
In Six of Crows (and in Crooked Kingdom), we see a lot with Kaz dealing with Jordie’s death and the repercussions on his mental health of that period of his life. However, in Crooked Kingdom, we also get to see how Inej is dealing with her PTSD and the effects that it has on her character and thought process. A year of working in The Menagerie and all the work she has done for the Dregs has Inej seriously questioning her morals and we get to see a darker side of her in this book. Personally, this new side of Inej just made me love her more and it was nice seeing her deal with her own trauma and own “armour”. ALSO THE KAZ AND INEJ SCENES KILLED ME. Actually this whole book killed me, but their scenes in particular BECAUSE I JUST WANT THEM TO BE HAPPY.
Nina is an actual goddess as per usual but she is having a tough time dealing with a lot of her own issues – the effects of consuming parem and the resulting withdrawal are hitting hard and she’s scared to test her powers in case they enhance the withdrawal. Also, if she didn’t have enough problems, Matthias refuses to kiss her because HE CARES FOR HER TOO MUCH. Like there’s a time and place to be a gentleman Matthais. But seriously, I loved him SO MUCH in this book and I definitely think he is one of the characters that has undergone the most character development in the series. Whereas in Six of Crows, Matthias was really conflicted about where he stood in terms of his personal morals and his relationship with Nina (which provided for some delicious angst, don’t get me wrong), he has grown by leaps and bounds in this novel and the scenes he shares with Nina are the CUTEST. They had some of the most quotable lines and I was living for it.
ALSO JESPER AND WYLAN MY CUTIES. Wylan gets his own perspective in this book and HE IS MY LITERAL CHILD. He really comes into his own, finds his purpose within the Dregs and gets the chance to save all their asses on more than one occasion. Also he does it while still blushing at every slight innuendo and flirtation that Jesper throws his way (and Jesper throws a lot his way) and URGH HE IS JUST ADORABLE OKAY? Jesper also gets the chance to finally deal with the repercussions of his actions in the first book and I think working through these problems really allows Jesper to get to the root of his issues and exponentially changes him as a person.
I could go on and on about these characters because they are all my favs but I am going to wrap it up here because this review is already entirely too long! Let me know what you thought of the book in the comments below or talk to me on Twitter or IG (@headinherbooks) if you want to CRY ABOUT PARTS OF THE BOOK TOGETHER T.T
Until next time,