Spoiler-Free Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

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Title: Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Pages: 546
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: September 27, 2016

Buy the book!

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Quick Synopsis: *spoiler warning for book one* 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 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.

*Note: This review will contain some mild spoilers for Six of Crows, but none for Crooked Kingdom. If you’d like my spoiler-y thoughts, you can head over to my Tumblr where I have a very embarrassingly passionate post regarding my initial thoughts on specific events.

My Review: Oooh man, where to begin? Guys, this book. This. Book. I don’t even know how to properly articulate how much love I have for Crooked Kingdom (and this entire duology, really), but I’m going to try my best. Last year, I marathoned the Grisha Trilogy and then Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo all in a row. If my reviews of either were any indication, I was totally impressed, and Leigh Bardugo suddenly became my new favorite YA author. So, to say I was impatiently anticipating Crooked Kingdom is more than an understatement. Let’s just say I don’t recall looking forward to a book this much since Deathly Hallows. I realize that this much anticipation leading up to a book release is a sure way to be sorely disappointed, but I wasn’t disappointed. Not whatsoever. In fact, I was utterly blown away and floored by this sequel/conclusion. Ladies and gentleman, meet my favorite book of 2016.

I want to start first by just truly commending Leigh Bardugo for her ability to write such a fantastically complex, unpredictable, and layered story. Six of Crows‘s plot was fast paced and pure insanity, but it doesn’t even come close to the depth that is Crooked Kingdom. This novel made my jaw drop more times than I could count because I was surprised again and again and again with how intricate Kaz’s plan was. I thought I knew exactly what the crew planned to do in order to take down the antagonist and get their money and freedom, but I was proven wrong over and over. The truth is, I knew nothing. Just when I thought the crew was out of options or they couldn’t possible get out of a certain situation, they somehow did, based on plans that the reader had no knowledge of. I found myself wondering on many occasions, how did she even think of this? Yes, the writing in this book is phenomenal. Yes, the characters are superb and wonderfully developed. Yes, my shipper heart was satisfied. But when it comes down to it, the intricacies of the plot were what blew me away most. Absolutely well done, Leigh.

Now, I can’t talk about specifics because of spoilers, but the amount of character development the six protagonists go through is amazing and so, so satisfying. In particular, Kaz, Matthias, and Wylan really shined when it came to growing and not only recognizing their inner demons, but also actively trying do face them head on. I was so proud of my murderous, conniving Crows. Yes, they’re murderous and conniving, but this book really emphasized that they’re also just a bunch of teenagers trying to survive after experiencing so much trauma in their pasts. Kaz trying to work through his touch aversion, Mathias trying to work through the beliefs that came with his upbringing, and Wylan trying to work through his “affliction” and his less than spectacular relationship with his father were great moments to read. Emotional moments.

That’s not to say Inej, Nina, and Jesper don’t also grow and develop. I enjoyed seeing Inej come to terms with her own discomforts from being at the Menagerie, Nina fighting to overcome the parem addiction and other issues with her magic, and Jesper finding the strength to tell the truth to those who matter most to him. These characters tugged at my heart, and I found myself routing so hard for them, pulling for them to succeed and survive and finally get to live the lives they imagined for themselves.

Speaking of survival and pulling through, one of my favorite themes in Crooked Kingdom was the fight. Not the one-on-one, throwing punches type of fight (though there was plenty of that), but the fight to keep going. There’s one speech that Kaz gives to the crew that really got me, and it has to do with the need to never stop fighting. I think it was Matthias in Six of Crows who calls Kaz a survivor, and that quote always stuck with me because it’s true. And you can definitely see that in Crooked Kingdom. I mean, really see it. They’re all survivors, but it’s Kaz who doesn’t sleep, doesn’t eat, doesn’t do anything but focus on the goal. He fights his was through hell and back, and he still comes out a step ahead of everyone else. Because it’s his key to survival. And he passes that along to the crew quite a bit in this book. I loved it so much. And it’s sort of hard to explain, but if you read the book, you’ll understand perfectly what I mean.

 Another shining aspect on a list of never-ending shining aspects with this book was the relationships. The crew worked so well together in the first book, but they work even better together in this sequel. I mean, how could they partake in something as huge as the Ice Court heist and not come out the other side being closer and more trusting? The friendship between Nina and Inej is lovely, how YA female/female friendships should be. And Inej’s relationship with Jesper was sweet as well. I really just loved the moments were they would give each other heart-felt advice (Kaz/Wylan and Inej/Jesper coming to mind here) and be a shoulder to lean on in moments of heartbreak (Jesper/Wylan). Even if they won’t all admit it, it’s so clear in Crooked Kingdom just how much they all appreciate and trust one another. As far as ships, I won’t give any details away, but I was extremely happy with the romantic relationships that finally blossomed. This duology is by no means romance-heavy, but readers will definitely get satisfaction and a lot of feels from the relationships and more tender moments in the book.

Other amazing things that readers can look forward to:

  • beautiful writing and extremely quotable sentences on almost every page
  • more emotional character backstory
  • EXPLOSIONS
  • cons for days
  • the appearance of some VERY special characters that you may or may not already know and love from Leigh’s other series (I think people in space could have heard me flailing and yelling at this)
  • zombies??? or something??
  • hilarity strewn in throughout the intense parts (I laughed out loud on several occasions)
  • an epic scene involving Kaz that I won’t give any details on but that made me scared out of my mind followed by proud and impressed and WOW
  • a perfect ending

Really, there’s just way too many things to talk about. This book has everything. And somehow Leigh managed to warp it all up in under 600 pages and in a beautiful way. I don’t think any other part of the book made me cry more than the last few chapters. Seriously, I could not have asked for a better ending. I literally have zero issues at all. Of course I’m sad that it’s over, but I was one thousand percent satisfied with this send off.

What’s the take-away here? Basically, Crooked Kingdom is perfect, and everyone should go read it right this moment. It will tear your heart out multiple times, and you will inevitably cry or scream. But it’s worth it. Oh, is it worth it.

Thank you, Leigh Bardugo, for this masterpiece.

My Rating: The easiest 5/5 stars I’ll probably give for a long time.

5 stars

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Have you finished Crooked Kingdom? Are you in as much of a book hangover as I am now? Let’s talk about it! Leave me a comment with your *spoiler-free* thoughts or come to my Tumblr inbox to discuss specifics!

Until next time,

Veronica ⚡

NO MOURNERS, NO FUNERALS

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