Also by this author: Six of Crows, Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories
Published by Henry Holt and Company on September 20th 2016
Pages: 546 •Goodreads
When you can't beat the odds, change the game.
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.
I pre-ordered Crooked Kingdom a LONG time ago, but when it came it became lost in my never ending TBR pile, usually being passed over for shorter books because at 500+ pages, it was a book I was frankly scared to commit too. However, after many months of insistence from my bf who read and loved it, and after recently listening to a podcast featuring Leigh Bardugo, I was in the mood to dive back into her fantasy duology. After reading various recaps to job my memory on the happenings in Six of Crows, I cracked open Crooked Kingdom one cold winter Sunday and was sucked back in to Bardguo’s breathtakingly detailed fantasy world.
Crooked Kingdom picks up shortly after where Six of Crows left off. In an effort to keep this review spoiler free I’m going to be vague in talking about specific plot points (these are heist books, after all), but I can talk about all of the elements of Leigh’s writing style that I loved. Her character development in these books is PHENOMENAL. We have the original gang’s POVs as well as Wylan and one or two other characters have a chapter or two to help us get inside their head (Pekka Rollins, another Grisha, etc). I felt so intimately connected with each character in this book with the exception of Kaz- his chapters were much fewer and far between than in the previous book, and he honestly almost became MORE of an enigma while the rest of the characters became so much more intimate and vulnerable to the reader. As usual, my favorite POVs were Nina and Matthias (my OTP for life in Leigh’s universe) but I also enjoyed and started to like Inej and Wylan’s POVs more too.
This book was twisty and complex in the way you’d expect from a heist book, but it was almost harder at times to keep tabs on what was going on because instead of one giant overarching scheme or “job,” there were often multiple smaller one happening as the gang tried to obtain their due from the Ice Court job and constantly had to outmaneuver not only the other Barrel Bosses of Ketterdam, but the various other forces that arrived in the city in the wake of the first book’s events, from the stoic Fjerdans to the frightening Shu. I loved that this entire book took place in the city because I felt like I really got to know the setting and the unique feel and traditions of it, from the canals to Black Veil island to the University District to the temple/chapel that was laid out like Ghezen’s literal hand (so clever!). I loved how we got TWO maps at the beginning of this book, one of the larger world and one of just the city itself- I found myself constantly tracking back to it to chart the route of the gang’s most recent jobs.
With a high stakes heist book it’s always likely that there are going to be casualties, and Crooked Kingdom was no exception. I was expecting for one of the core members Kaz’s crew to die, but I was so unprepared for the how and the why and the when and it was positively heartbreaking View Spoiler »WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE MATTHIAS? LITERALLY WHY NOT KAZ OR INEJ OR JESPER OR ANYONE BUT MATTIAS/NINA?! I WAS ROOTING SO HARD FOR THEM, AND HIS NARRATIVE WAS SO IMPORTANT AS SOMEONE WHO IS OVERCOMING THE INGRAINED PREJUDICE HE’S LIVED WITH ALL OF HIS LIFE AND WORKING TO BE MORE ACCEPTING AHHHHHHHHH I’LL JUST BE OVER HERE CRYING IN A CORNER AND PRAYING FOR POOR NINA. « Hide Spoiler These characters literally grew to feel like family over the course of the 500+ pages that I spent with them, and though I doubt Leigh has plans to return to them anytime soon I will harbor hope that she’ll return to them one day.
Speaking of returning to the Dregs one day, I actually felt like this book left a lot of loose ends/openings for story continuations, especially for all of the folks who survived and weren’t originally from Ketterdam/didn’t plan on staying in the city after they received their cash. Also there’s a LOT of tie in from Leigh’s Grisha trilogy in this book which had me doing a happy dance because it was SO COOL to see how the political events of the first series tie into this one years later View Spoiler »Seeing Genya and Zoya was awesome and I literally started exclaiming loudly to my boyfriend when I realized Nikolai was in this book!!!! « Hide Spoiler
Overall: Crooked Kingdom hit the absolute mark for me for a five star fantasy read: It made me feel as though I was transported out of my real world and into the fantasy universe, among the canals and thieves and schemes of Ketterdam right along with the Dregs. It transported me in a way that reminded me of why I developed a love of reading in the first place, and how books will forever immerse me in a way that TV and movies cannot. It also had me laughing out loud as much as it had me stressed and anxious, and Leigh’s placement of rather black comedy against the high stakes of the plot was a perfect balancing act. If you ever hear anyone scoffing at YA or undermining it as a literary categorization again, please shove this book in their hands and I’m 99% sure the intricate plotting, in depth characterization and overall phenomenal writing will change their minds.