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October 05, 2016

Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Crooked Kingdom
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Orion Children's Books
Publication Date: September 27th, 2016
Genre(s): Young Adult, High Fantasy
Source: Borrowed
Pages: 561
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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 left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, 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 magic in the Grisha world.

This review has very mild spoilers.

With Crooked Kingdom, I somehow experienced the full spectrum of human emotion and loved every wretched second of it. I don't want to analyze this book, I just want to talk about how perfect it is. This book is perfect in every way that I can think of. It's a book me that makes me stop thinking about what's happening and makes me live the story. I was so disappointed with Ruin and Rising that I feared that Crooked Kingdom would finish the way Ruin and Rising did, like a spluttering flame that someone stomps out.

But in Crooked Kingdom, Bardugo has woven some otherwordly magic, a plot that is relentless and seamless, prose that makes you want to stop and go over every word you read so you don't miss anything, a world that is detailed, diverse, and multicultural, so real and believable that I only want to see more of it, and a band of characters that are vibrant, complex, flawed and brought me to my knees.

While the plot of the book is a lot of fun, super gritty with all the fighting and badassery and perfect in every way I can think of, (the loudest of shoutouts to Inej and Nina, literally the bravest characters I know), the real winner here was the characterization. It seriously blows my mind how Bardugo packs so much character detail and backstory in two books involving SIX characters and multiple POVs. I ended the book completely in love with all of them. Like I said in my review of Crooked Kingdom, there are three, three glorious ships and STUFF happened in all of them.

Wylan and Jesper are quite literally the CUTEST. Jesper's dad showing up was a surprising...surprise (wow I really how know I review a book) and I loved watching him interact with Jesper and Wylan and support them. How often do you see supportive parental figures in a high fantasy seriously? Wylan was so freaking relatable. An underdog, but a quiet, loyal, hardcore Hufflepuff who always came through for Jesper and supported him exactly in the way that he needed to be supported. I also liked how we get to learn a lot of Jesper's and Wylan's childhoods and about Zemeni culture. Like I said, not only do all the characters have detailed character arcs in the book, there is a lot of backstory involved as well. Obligatory HOW-did-you-accomplish-this-Bardugo-HOW.

A lot of people didn't warm to Matthias as well, but his arc was very important to me. Matthias was
all about reconsidering his Fjerdan ways and culture and trying to reconcile them with what he was
experiencing in Ketterdam and his feelings for Nina, and watching him overcome his prejudice and
reading the resolution of his arc absolutely destroyed me. In a very Froi-like manner, I loved how
he started off as resolutely believing what he had learnt about the Grisha from the Fjerdans and how
he learnt to unlearn all of that. To me, his arc meant that those people can change and learn and are absolutely worth saving and rooting for.

I don't....know how to talk about Inej and Kaz without melting into NOTHINGNESS. Inej Ghafa is made of some otherworldly magic and grit and bravery. I am in awe, I have no words, and I feel like anything I say about her will not do her justice. I have quite literally never read any character like her, made of quiet courage and will one hundred percent. Her family is present in her mind all the time, and she both longs to see them and wonders what they would think of the person she is now. Both Inej and Kaz have been affected by Ketterdam, Inej because of the time she spent indentured to Tante Heleen and Kaz, because of how he was scammed by Rollins, and the way they deal with that pain is in sharp contrast. They are definitely the most fleshed out and well developed of the gang, fighting to recover from their past and they deal with it in very different ways. Where Inej is quiet, fierce hope, Kaz is relentless and fixated on his goal of destroying Rollins and afraid of what lies after.

I really wanted this book to have more kissing. But I'm even happier that Bardugo refused to indulge me. This book is a shining example of how an author really, really listens to her characters lets them find their own way to each other. It would have been super unrealistic for Kaz to overcome his apprehensions of starting a real physical relationship in such a short span of time, or for Kaz and Inej to spend the book dwelling on each other for ages since they were literally running and fighting and scheming for their lives every other chapter. Yes, there was progress, and I'm very happy that the book ended in the hopeful way that it did, without resolving in either of them kissing because I would not have bought that.

IN CONCLUSION, I could talk about every page and chapter of this book for hours. The prose is so quotable, the world is so intricate and the character development is off the charts. There is so much I know I haven't talked about. This review is a very inadequate description of my feelings. My heart is SO full. Of awe, of wonder. I can't believe that books like this exist, books with worlds and cultures and characters that make me feel so, so damn much. Bardugo is a genius and that is fact. I can't wait to see what comes up next.


  1. Oh wow, this sounds like a good one. On my to be bought list it goes. Thanks for the lovely review and thanks for the heads up on the mild spoilers.

    1. I cannot recommend this book enough. Yeah I considered leaving it out but I didn't want anyone to get a nasty surprise--people have a variety of preferences when it comes to how much they want to know from a review.

  2. Lovely review Arshia :D I'm glad you liked it so much :) YAY. I cannot wait to read this book. <3 I love Leigh SO MUCH. But.. oh. I feel like you mean there are zero kissing with Kaz and Inej? :( Sobs. I hope not.. heh :) Thank you for sharing your thoughts. <3

    1. Ahhh I'm replying to this so late but BE ASSURED my love for Crooked Kingdom has not wavered. As for the Kaz and Inej stuff, read itttt!

  3. 5 STARS I LOVED THE FIRST BOOK!!!! YAAAAY NOW I'm taking this off my shelf.

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