Book Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Kaz knew, of course.

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Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Genre: Fantasy, YA
Series:
Six of Crows #2

Goodreads: Kaz Brekker and his crew of deadly outcasts 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.

REVIEW

In the final instalment of the popular duology, the famous six are back both fighting for their lives and the lives they had planned with the money they should have won for the heist in the first book. The first half acts as a second book in a trilogy and I considered DNF’ing because it was a whole mess. Later, I understood that it acted as a set-up for the action-packed and exhilarating finale that is the auction. On a more personal note, I don’t want to discourage authors from writing duologies because I would prefer to read a duology over a trilogy.

*** SPOILERS BELOW ***

Matthias and Nina Are the Jon Snow and Ygritte of YA Fantasy

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  • Like Jon Snow, Matthias is from the North, and they both had/have a wolf that is unlike other wolves. Similarly, Jon and Matthias are both very grumpy, serious and honourable.
  • Nina, like Ygritte, is a sensual and bold redhead.
  • Like Ygritte with Jon beyond the wall, Nina very literally cosies up with Matthias in their initial meetings.
  • Like the wildlings and the Northerners + the Night’s Watch, the Fjerdans and the Grisha share a history of animosity, and like Jon, Matthias learns that the other side is not as villainous and dangerous as the stories have made them out to be.
  • Nina talks about the infamous story/myth about a Fjerdan and a Grisha getting to, erm, know each other very well in a cave very similar to how Jon and Ygritte get to know each other very well in a cave.
  • Similar to Jon, Matthias is killed by a young boy who believes Matthias to be a traitor.

We Are Finally Given Chapters from Wylan’s POV

And we get a backstory in the first half of the book. All other five characters received a fleshed-out backstory in Six of Crows, and it was disappointing that Wylan wasn’t given more page space as his backstory is heart-breaking, but as a lot of action takes place in the first half, it would have been difficult to fit more in. Wylan is the more relatable of the six and preciously endearing. I don’t know much about dyslexia, so I can’t say whether the representation was done well, but I can say with certainty that I felt Wylan’s pain. Wylan’s father mocks his difference, but what is different about Wylan is celebrated and respected by the Crows.     

The Magic System

Grishaverse, when we separate the characters from the magic system, isn’t particularly interesting. I didn’t understand it nor could I bring myself to care. Personally, I would have appreciated some info dumping. The magic is in the characters, but, sadly, not in the actual magic itself.

The Finale

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Everyone has a role to play. I found Kaz and Inej’s chapters to be the most fascinating. I think in large part, for the former, this was because Kaz is the mastermind of the auction therefore we look to him as the highest source for information. Inej’s chapters, on the other hand, left me breathless. I would have thought I wouldn’t care much about combat, but Bardugo possesses a clear talent in depicting fighting scenes when it comes to Inej. Jesper’s chapter, sadly, was frustratingly drab as I expected so much more excitement. Fortunately, his earlier chapters with his father – who everyone will fall in love with – will touch your heart. In the midst of all this darkness, Colm Fahey is the only light that doesn’t dim. He’s sharply contrasted with Jan Van Eck, the Tywin Lannister of YA Fantasy fathers. To put it simply, it was very much Ned Stark vs Tywin Lannister.

Each character gets their happy ending (and fairly realistically), except Matthias and Nina. His death is sudden and not as hard-hitting as I wanted it to be. Matthias pleads mercy for the young Fjerdan who killed him because he has been taught nothing but hatred towards Grisha. This was especially interesting as I started to compare the differences between Matthias and Jon. Similar to Olly, Matthias lost his family at the hands of the enemy – the Grisha, but he eventually learns to understand that this is the way of war. Jon was ineffective in bridging the misunderstandings between the wildlings and the Night’s Watch. Matthias encourages Nina to help them understand, to teach them, and, in that way, as much as I love Jon Snow, he has greater practical sense.

Kaz and Inej

Their ending was the crowning glory of the series. I had fully expected, going in, that Inej would get her ship and leave. But, not quite. She gets her ship, but she is not leaving Kaz. She is not changing him either… because that’s not love. Love accepts. And love drove her towards putting an end to Pekka Rollins because she understood that, otherwise, the remainder of Kaz’s life would centre around Rollins. By doing so, she focuses on using Kaz’s strengths for the greater good. Together, they are an unstoppable force. A South Asian queen – don’t tell me otherwise, Inej is South Asian, for sure – and a Sherlock Holmes + non-villainous Littlefinger combination? Love it.  

My Rating: Four stars


What are your thoughts on Crooked Kingdom? Do you see the Game of Thrones parallel? Who is your favourite character and ship? Let me know in the comments!

By Sophia Ismaa

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26 Comments

  1. You got wayyy more out of this book than I did, maybe because it took me so long to read. The first book was excellent and this one kind of let me down. Your GOT parallels are on point though!

    I was also stoked that Wylan got some chapters! And the Jesper/Wylan ship was so perfectly innocent it made me feel things! But I think the whole Inej accepting Kaz as he is because that’s real love and Kaz taking strides to improve himself make them my favorite ship.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is quite a long read, I was surprised by its length! I think perhaps that because the first book focused primarily on backstories with such rich depth and characterisation that this expectation perhaps carried through to what we wanted in the final book? Thank you! 🙂

      That’s the word: innocent! Their relationship is so wholesome and feel good and pretty much more what we’d see in real life. And yes, I agree, I think Kaz and Inej are such a unique love story that we can only find in a book which makes them so special! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t read any of Bardugo’s books, but The Girl loves loves loves ’em! I may check ’em out one of these days, but I fear they’ll be too good for me to crank on, and as you’ve remarked a couple’a times recently, I do love to crank on some books!

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    1. I’d feel a bit intimidated to recommend any fantasy books to you, Denny, as I’m only an amateur and you’re an aficionado. Though, if you do decide to read it, I think you’ll love Nina! She rather reminds me of Rachel Green. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Love the Game of Thrones parallels. For me much like Thrones regardless of the plot it lives and dies with its characters who I fell in love with. I agree to the ending was what made this book standout for me heartbreaking though it was in many ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think we’ve lucked out with Game of a Thrones because we have interesting, multi-faceted, flawed characters, fascinating plots, excellent worldbuilding, an expansive magic system with dragons, wargs, witchcraft, etc. George R. R. Martin is ‘the gift.’ As much as I love the characters in this duology, that and the romances are it’s two major positives. But yay to the ending!

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    1. I can’t believe you still haven’t read it! It’s one that won’t disappoint. You’ll love the romances, I think you’ll love Wylan, but, I will be shocked to my core if you read the series and fall for Kaz too! Nope, ten books I think is ACOTR? Or something around that number. This is only two books and I hope we see more duologies instead!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. The series is finished, so there won’t be any more to add… and this one’s less fantasy and more characters, so you’ll like that (and girl, I will be so shocked if you end up fancying Kaz 😔)! 11 weeks, you know! Enjoy it when you read it! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s how you know they’re lovable and wonderfully fleshed-out, you can’t decide, it changes every day! I know King of Scars focuses more on the Grishaverse, however, I’m struggling to understand the system and that’s something I feel that’s lacking in the series, I simply can’t wrap my head around it. Have you read it or are you planning to read it?

      By the way, I received your interview, I’ll be posting it in August and can I just say that I was grinning from ear to ear because this is literally what so many of us Bengali’s feel and experience! 💛

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The magic system was explained mostly in the Grisha Trilogy. I have read King of Scars and it’s lovely. It’s not as fast-paced as Six of Crows, but the characters and dialogue are amazing.
        Thank you! 🙂

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          1. I didn’t like the first two books in the Grisha Trilogy, but I did like the third one. The main character and the love interest are kinda boring, but the side characters are brilliant.
            I hate seeing my favorite characters sad, but I also want bad things to happen to them when things are going well.

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            1. I don’t think it’ll be a read that’ll be of interest to me – other than the side characters, it sounds like a mediocre read.

              Bruh! As long as my favourite characters are happy, I personally don’t care how the other characters are doing. 😂

              Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m glad you enjoyed reading the six of crows overall because, i think, i remember seeing your updates for the second book and correct it seemed as if you weren’t enjoying. Anyway, i never realise the similarities between Nina & Matthias and Jon & Ygritte. And i agree Kaz and Inej’s ending was just perfect. I totally expected her to have her ship and leave. And she doesn’t try to change him and he tries and that’s what makes all the difference. I thought by the end they both will be all over each other. I love Wylan and Jesper and I ship them. Wylan is a sweetheart! ❤
    Do you remember that bastard who kissed Jesper? I can't recall his name!

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    1. The first half of the book was all over the place and a bit tedious, but the second half had me like woah and the ending destroyed me – I was in tears. 😂 Thankfully I didn’t see any spoilers about Kaz and Inej’s ending so I fully expected her to leave with her ship too, so their ending was a wonderful surprise! Wylan and Jesper are the most relatable and realistic couple though, the kind you might see in real life. ☺️

      Kuwei – I actually really liked him, you know, he was just chaotically bizarre. 😂

      Like

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