Book Review: ‘Crooked Kingdom’ (2016)

The short: 4.5/5 ✦.  A truly worthy successor to the amazing Six of CrowsCrooked Kingdom thrills the mind and delights the soul with its heart-pounding plot and incredible characters.

The long: 

HALLELUJAH, IT’S A GOOD ONE, YOU GUYS!

Seriously. When I went to read this, I was in a bad reading slump. Personal circumstances contributed to that, but everyone knows that if you really want to do something, you’ll find the time. It turned out that a big part of the reading block was because . . . I didn’t want to read the book I was reading. Simply put, I was bored. And I never DNF a book — ever! But I realized that that attitude, instead of motivating me to read, made me avoid reading. FOR MONTHS. And that’s sad. I love to read. But more specifically, I love to read good stories. And this brick wall in the middle of my reading path wasn’t a bad book — it just wasn’t for me. So I shelved it (re: gave it back to the library, along with some late fees) and started on Crooked Kingdom.

AND LO, THE CLOUDS OPENED AND SUN SHONE THROUGH.

I was excited to begin this book and that excitement took me through the whole thing. Because it’s great! Six of Crows was definitely a heist book, and the characters (those beautiful beings) didn’t quite know or trust each other, which added a flavor of mystery and suspense. In Crooked Kingdom, there’s still a heist (a couple, actually) and definitely some suspense, but now they do trust each other. They’re in a crappy situation and they’re all in it together.

And it’s GREAT.

As with the first one, the best thing about this book is the characters: Kaz, Inej, Matthias, Nina, Wylan, and Jasper. Though the cast is large and rotating, you find yourself deeply caring about each one of them. They’re not the nicest people, nor the the kind that would talk out their problems instead of finding instant revenge at the tip of a knife. But they’re young, scrappy, and hungry (heh) and loyal to something more than themselves: family, country, city — even each other, in the end. They will fight. They are crows. They will win.

And it’s hard slog to get that win, and nothing is guaranteed, not even their own lives. Despite its 400+ pages, the plot clips along at a tidy pace, never too fast or too slow, and the tension remains at a tantalizing high till the very last page. There’s something here for everyone: action, humor, black comedy, violence, sacrifice, friendship — and yes, even love. Bardugo blends it all seamlessly in her unique and effective style of prose and dialogue.

Finishing this book not only got me out of my reading slump, it also reminded me why I read in the first place: to enjoy well-crafted stories with well-developed characters. (I also read Grunt, by Mary Roach, which reminded me why I love reading non-fiction, so win-win all around!) Thanks, Crooked Kingdom, and thanks to all good stories everywhere! ♥

Header image: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, published September 20th 2016 by Henry Holt and Company

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