Thursday, July 6, 2017

REVIEW | Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Publication Year: 2016
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Series: Six of Crows #2
Awards: A bunch of local YA awards
Format: Audio (from Audible)
Narrator: Jay Snyder, Lauren Fortgang, Roger Clark, Elizabeth Evans, Fred Berman, Peter Ganim, Kevin Collins and Brandon Rubin

**SPOILERS AHOY!  This is the second book in a series and there will be spoilers for book one though I'll try not to reveal anything too earth-shattering. **

WHY?:  After the stunning first volume, Six of Crows, I snatched this bad boy up immediately.  I have never been so glad that I waited to start a series until it was done and all books available!

SYNOPSIS:  Kaz and the team have finished the biggest heist job of their lives but they are unsurprised to be welcomed home to Ketterdam with treachery and double-dealing.  Kaz needs all his wits and his team's talents and loyalty to turn the terrible situation to their advantage and get what they deserve.  It's David vs. Goliath but David has never been so wily nor had such friends.  


I am in awe of authors who write heist novels.  They must have so much fun mapping it all out but it must also be so hard.  I think the key might be to make sure your players are interesting and charismatic, so if the pieces of the puzzle aren't an airtight fit, the reader is too busy making heart eyes at the relationship dynamics to even notice.  As far as I know, Leigh Bardugo built several great heist operations, but I'm not sure if I would've noticed if there was a flaw because of Kaz, Inej, Mathias, Wylan, Nina and Jesper. I was so completely sucked into all of their lives that I doubt I would have noticed if I got carried away by a tornado in the middle of reading.

So, you know, not a bad book, lol.  This book takes book one, brings all the unresolved things from that book to a head and throws in a whole barrel full of other issues.  Jesper must face his good-hearted, farmer father; sharp-shooting pistols and gambling debts in hand.  Kaz has had one goal in mind from the beginning, r-e-v-e-n-g-e, but he is starting to wonder whether it is really what he needs. Nina, after one dose of a new dangerous drug, is an addict and is struggling with that and the self-loathing it brings while Mathias desperately tries to help her and overcome the brainwashing of his youth. Wylan is trying to come to terms with his Father's cruelty and learn that he does have talents to offer.  Inej has conjured a dream for herself but it doesn't take her back to her family nor keep her with the difficult boy she has come to love.  And that's just the personal struggles!

Kaz's personal ambition and desire to gain back control of their own lives is further complicated by the presence of this drug that turns Grisha into super Grisha but also kills them and makes them slaves.  Resisting and getting their own back puts them up against the most powerful and wealthy people in Ketterdam.  They can't afford to be divided but it takes all of Kaz's scheming to see a way through.  There are heists galore with complications and clever moves and death-defying feats  - paired with the personal journeys each character is navigating, alone and as a team. It is a non-stop and completely engrossing ride. I couldn't read it fast enough.

I haven't enjoyed a YA series so much since The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.  It's a completely different style and setting but there is the same emphasis on characters that are real and damaged, a found family, beautiful prose, and romantic scenes so intense, subtle and fraught with emotion you almost feel like you should look away.  It's as close to a perfect fantasy duology and I can't wait to see what Bardugo has for us next!!   

Final note, the audio version of this series is great.  Each character gets their own voice actor which works well as the perspective rotates through and all the voice actors were good to great.  I recommend consuming the books this way!

FINAL VERDICTSO SO Good. The Grisha series was great and I enjoyed it but it had some missteps, it missed its footing from time to time. But THIS series - like Inej Ghafa on a high wire, it had perfect balance. Or if it did bobble? I was too wrapped up in these characters' lives and Kaz's devious and audacious schemes to notice. 4 out of 5 stars

OTHER OPINIONS ARE AVAILABLE: Paper Fury |  Star-Crossed Book Blog

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