Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Spoiler alert: If you haven't read Six of Crows, don't read this review.
After enjoying Six of Crows so much, I leapt straight into book two. With what I do here at GdM meaning the series on my to read list are often broken up by ARCs, it's a rarity that I get to do it, but I couldn't help myself on this occasion. I'm so glad I didn't wait.
We pick up almost immediately where Six of Crows left off. Inej is in trouble. Kaz is trying to pick up the pieces of his last failed heist and get his crew together to get her back. Jan Van Eck has put a target on Kaz's head and is leveraging Inej's imprisonment to get Kaz to hand over Kuwei Yu Bol and the secret to Jurda Parem so he can control the grisha (mages), the farms that make Jurda, and hit new heights of power in the economic instability he will create in Ketterdam.
The story once again jumps between Kaz's crews' points of view, giving us insight into each character's view of the world, hiding and revealing plot points to some and not others, and--importantly, as a point of difference between Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom--delves far deeper into the lives of our protagonists than previously shown. This, I think, is where some readers will be irreversibly hooked, and where others who loved the relentless pace of Six of Crows may find themselves not as engaged in the reading experience. For me, I found myself in the "irreversibly hooked" camp as we found out more and more about why these broken people are who they are.
This slight change of pace peppered throughout provides some breathing time for a longer read than Six of Crows, as when we're not in these reflective moments, the story progresses at Bardugo's standard breakneck speed. Overall, the story is gripping, reminiscent of Lynch's Gentlemen Bastards series in nature, but darker, with more broken and engaging characters struggling, fighting to grow. There is plenty to get your teeth into plot-wise, and when Bardugo brings it back together at the end I finished the book completely satisfied. A bit crushed, by a certain twist she snuck in there if I'm being honest, but I loved the ending even more for having my heart stomped on a bit--that sort of thing is a reason people like me love to read this kind of fiction (tip of the glass, Leigh, for that one).
Bardugo's writing is clean, easy to rush through because of it (I had to back track sometimes because I got too excited to find out what happened next), and full of imagination. She definitely knows how to get her hooks in to you.
Crooked Kingdom is a brilliant read: engaging, well-planned and wonderfully written. I highly recommend it for lovers of dark fiction, and think most grimdark fans will thoroughly enjoy it.