YA Review: Crooked Kingdom

Title: Crooked Kingdom
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Edition: Paperback
Rating: 5/5

With the second book in the Six of Crows Duology, we’re back in Ketterdam for the fallout from the events of Book One. It’s hard to review this instalment without giving away spoilers for both books, so I’ll keep my comments as general as possible!

Like Six of Crows, this is an intense read. Complex, long, and full of twists, the plot is exciting and never predictable. There are some extremely perilous moments, and some reveals that had me catching my breath. As the action heats up, each chapter ends on a cliffhanger as the point of view jumps to another character and another thread in the story. This is a serious page-turner!

As the story intensifies, so do the relationships between the characters. Everyone has a history, and everyone has secrets, complicating their abilities to form friendships and romantic attachments. The friendships that are formed are that much stronger for overcoming these obstacles, and the romances are that much more fragile and dangerous.

Family is a strong theme in Crooked Kingdom, with parents, siblings, and children acting as incentives, protectors, and obstacles for the central characters. This is a more introspective book, examining relationships between and beyond the main characters, and digging deeper into their home territory.

The central characters feel more developed in this follow-up story. This is partly because the reader has met and followed them through a dangerous adventure in Six of Crows, but also because they are asked to step up their commitment to each other, and to their cause. Everything feels more dangerous, and more personal, than in the first book. This is partly the result of working more closely together, but also the result of working in their home city. The city almost feels like another character in the story, and another member of the gang.

Ketterdam, the setting for the first part of Six of Crows, feels more real and more developed in Crooked Kingdom. The city, with its gangs, merchants, and districts of rich and poor, is one of the stars of this book. The world-building is fantastic – I could smell the canals and the sea, and feel the wind on the rooftops. I could sense the difference between the gangland areas and the respectable districts, and feel the fear and awareness of the characters as they navigated the streets and canals.

I found the third-person past-tense narration distancing in the first book, but I found it less of a problem in the sequel. This is partly because of the intensity of the story and the setting, and partly because reading both so quickly in succession gave me time to adjust to the author’s writing style.

I gave Six of Crows four stars, but I’m very happy to give Crooked Kingdom a five-star rating. The unpredictable plot, the constant danger and tension in the story, the more rounded characters, the cliffhangers, and the incredibly vivid setting, all came together to produce an emotional, immediate reading experience. This is a highly satisfying conclusion to the duology, and one that stayed with me after the last page turned. If you like your fantasy dark, and your world-building strong, head to Ketterdam and allow yourself to be drawn into the story. You’re in for a treat.

Have you read Crooked Kingdom? What about the other books in the GrishaVerse? What did you think of the story, and the setting? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.

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