Book Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (5/5)

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.
And… wow. That’s my overall reaction to this book.
For those that don’t know, Crooked Kingdom is #2 in a duology (#1 is Six of Crows).
And I now know why every mentor in Pitch Wars had this book as a comp. Because it’s AMAZING. It’s dark, gothic, romantic, and filled with gritty streets, Victorian-esk gangs, clever characters, revenge, thieving, and some of the best writing I’ve read in a while.
First – the world building. Oh my heart, the world building in this book (and the first) is absolutely incredible. The world itself is original and packed with lore and character. Ketterdam may not be a place I’d like to visit, but I feel like I should reread this duology just to study how Bardugo’s world building. It’s expertly crafted.
And then there’s the characters. They are horrible people, liars and thieves and murderers and con artists and gamblers, but they are so likable – I fell in love with Kaz and his madness on the first page. I love how Bardugo crafted his role in the books; she presents him, but she does not give away how he thinks or what he thinks. She implies.
Every character is their own person. They are not side characters with limited personalities whose sole purpose is to provide emotional fodder for the main character; they each had lives and reasons and back stories.
And then there’s the twisty, turny plot. There was never a moment during this book where I rolled my eyes because of some cliche scene or situation – everything felt natural and original in the best way.
And Bardugo nailed the multi-POV. Each character’s POV presented another step in the story; they did not repeat scenes or information like some tend to do.
Everything in this book was done so amazingly well. I adore the relationship between Kaz and Inej; it’s sweet and traumatic. Bardugo turned a simple touch of the hand into something intimate and genuine and special. And then there was Jesper and Wylan, the dear boys. Now, I’m not the reader who gravitates toward the gay romance, but these boys stole my heart.
And this story – both books – are storytelling at its best. The writing is fantastic; it’s never plush or purple; Bardugo is a master at implying rather than stating. Everything about this series is GREAT: the characters, the plot, the twists, the romance – a masterfully written story.
It felt like “Oliver Twist meets Harry Potter.”
The ONLY gripe I can find about this book is that it did at times drag – just a little bit. I’m not a fan of the longer passages of explaining the hows and whys of the Ketterdam economy, however it felt so rich. Everything about this world has been thoroughly thought out and explored.
So, overall, Crooked Kingdom gets a 5 out of 5 from me.

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