Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

      “How many times have you told me you’re a monster? 
     So be a monster. Be the thing they all fear when they close their eyes at night.” 

*Becky’s thoughts*
The ending of Six of Crows guaranteed that Crooked Kingdom would be about one simple but necessary thing: revenge. And hey, the revenge in this book was sweet

Crooked Kingdom plays out in quite a different way from Six of Crows – where the first book shows the gang’s planning and journey to pull of one main heist in the Ice Court, Crooked Kingdom is made up of many smaller heists, tricks, sabotages, escapes and bargains around Ketterdam, leading up to the final play in a long game. It is written in an even more complex style than the first book, with more point of view characters, more of Kaz’s hidden tricks and plans, and in some ways, even higher stakes than in Six of Crows. In the first book, the dangers of Fjerda and the Ice Court added pressure to the gangs mission; in Crooked Kingdom, they are fighting for their lives in their own home, many of them fighting for a way out of the country without getting a bullet through their head due to the numerous wanted posters scattered around Ketterdam that feature their names and faces. 
Although a good chunk of Six of Crows was set in Ketterdam, and there was an incredible amount of world building of the city in that book, Leigh manages to expand it even more in Crooked Kingdom. I feel as though I know that city so well that I’ve visited it a few times, am planning my next trip, and considering buying a holiday home in West Stave. 
Now, onto the main focus of Crooked Kingdom: the characters. I absolutely adored all six members of the gang in Six of Crows, and after Crooked Kingdom, I just love them all even more. The character development in this book was out of this world, as well as the building of the friendships and relationships between them all. Characters that already had multi-layered stories are given even more complex pasts, and with those pasts come their weaknesses. On the topic of character development, I am so happy that Wylan had his own POV chapters in this book. I loved being able to finally see into his little innocent brain. 
All three ships that were established in Six of Crows, in my opinion, played out perfectly (for the most part). Nothing is rushed between any of the couples and it is just so realistic, something that you don’t often see in relationships in young adult books.
By the end of Crooked Kingdom, I definitely wasn’t ready to say goodbye to Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Wylan, Nina and Matthias. However, if I had to say goodbye to them, the ending of this book was definitely the best way to do so. I won’t go into detail, but the second to last chapter left me with happy-tears pouring down my face in the middle of a packed train (a girl opposite me later asked if I was enjoying the book I was reading, and I think I sort of hiccuped in her direction. Hopefully that’ll be a good enough recommendation and she’ll be stuck into this series right now). I’m still kind of hoping that some sort of spin-off will be announced (Ms. Bardugo, I hope you’re listening), but for now, I’m just going to go and cry in a corner again and fondly remember my favourite gang of misfits. 

*Angharad’s thoughts*
Unfortunately for me, Crooked Kingdom was released during my biggest reading slump this year which meant it took me about twenty years to complete. I’m going to start off by saying I did not enjoy the plot itself as much as Six of Crows, however, the character development in this sequel was off the charts – both the characters as individuals and their friendships/romances. I thoroughly enjoyed the heist in Six of Crows as the whole book worked up to that one heist, whereas in Crooked Kingdom, it was about the gang dismantling various players in Ketterdam. There were a lot of twists and turns and a lot of things going on which is difficult to do as readers, such as myself, can enjoy some aspects more than others.

The characters of this duology are probably some of my all time favourite fictional characters. Kaz, my super intelligent, beautiful, damaged crow boy who secretly cares so much about his Dregs but can’t show it. Inej, my darling Wraith with her beautiful Suli proverbs and incredible skill-set who is the kindest person ever. Nina, my curvy bisexual princess who is literally me when somebody takes away her chocolate biscuits. Jesper who will flirt with anyone with a pulse but is too in love with Wylan. Matthias, my blond wolf boy who spends majority of his time drooling over Nina (same) and finally Wylan, who is a golden retriever puppy in human form. Even Kuwei who the gang take under their wings. They make me so happy, they are all so damaged and broken and have had such hard lives but they come together and they understand each other, they work together to achieve the impossible and most importantly, they love each other. My little misfit children will always have a special place in my heart. I mean, Kaz is a morally-grey, disabled character, both Inej and Jesper are confirmed POC and Jesper and Nina are bisexual. The diversity in just two books is fantastic.
There are three main ships in this duology and although they were set up in Six of Crows, they developed beautifully in the sequel. None of them were rushed and no couple were the same. The relationships are built on trust and are slow-burning. Nina and Matthias have a beautiful domesticity amongst the gang, completely comfortable in their love for each other. Wylan and Jesper just constantly flirt and Wylan constantly blushes but it’s the most innocent and lovely thing ever. Kaz and Inej are perfect for each other – two sides of the same coin and their slow-burning relationship (which made me happy cry in the end) has made them one of my all time favourite YA couples. I have to also mention the friendships in this group – Inej and Jesper having this beautiful understanding, Nina and Inej comforting each other like sisters and Matthias finding his home amongst people who he was taught to hate. Amongst the fast-paced plot was the Dregs and their trust in one another and to me, that was the heart of the duology.

Show Spoiler

Overall, I did enjoy this book but if I had to choose, I preferred the events of Six of Crows. However, Leigh Bardugo has once again put herself at the top of YA fiction – her writing is flawless and her characters are diverse. I have fallen in love with the universe she has created and just pray that she is planning on more novels set in the Grishaverse. For now, I’m going to go ahead and reread the Grisha trilogy whilst missing my Dregs terribly.

Have you read this duology? If so, what are your thoughts?

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