Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Crime, Adventure
Read if you loved: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo, Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan, A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas
Content warnings: Violence, addiction, sexual assault
When the Crows returned to Ketterdam, they expected to be lavished with wealth beyond their imaginations. Instead, they reeled from a painful betrayal while also trying to piece themselves back together. Battling criminal lords is one issue, but taking on the wrath of multiple nations is a whole other ball game, and the stakes have never been so high. Isolated and hopeless, they must use every resource at their disposal as well as their combined wits to sure any chance of survival. A gritty follow up to the heart-pounding Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom extends the legacy of its widely-beloved characters in multiple overlapping, intricate storylines, and a nuanced balance between generating plot-driven thrill and exploring an array of psychological and physical traumas elevates this book above others in the Grishaverse.
Bardugo knows how to write characters, and she really leans into those abilities in Crooked Kingdom. We get less of a standard YA adventure novel (albeit, elements of that certainly exist), but the bulk of the focus is on the characters’ emotional journeys following Six of Crows. There was a lot to unpack in that, and I thought it was done remarkably well. Nina battles the effects of jurda parem, Matthias struggles with his traitorous actions, Wylan confronts his abusive father, Jesper comes to terms with deep-rooted shame, Inej stands up to monsters from her past, and Kaz has a little bit of all of that. So many storylines, so many avenues to explore, and we truly got it all. When you take a step back, that is impressive. Moreover, lovers of Shadow and Bone finally get crossover scenes and it was *chefs kiss*. I was worried things would devolve into cheesy YA territory, what with this being the final book in the duology, but Bardugo maintains the integrity of her characters. If anything, she does not hold back from going darker and deeper than before, and I ate up every second of it. This is also possibly her best world-building thus far; there were so many small details included throughout to realistically construct and convey the political and personal dynamics that steered the narrative.
There is little that I did not enjoy in this book but I will say, it was a little too long. Certain scenes dragged quite a bit, the chapters were much longer than her other books (or at least it felt that way), and there was a lot that could have been cut. I don’t have an issue with long books (I absolutely adored Sarah J Maas’ House of Earth and Blood which rings in at a whopping 803 pages), but the space needs to be utilized in a compelling way. Another common criticism I want to highlight is that there really isn’t as much magic in this duology – it didn’t bother me, but it is something to note for those who might be looking for more fantasy.
I can confidently say now that the Six of Crows duology is far superior to Shadow and Bone (in my opinion). The characters, world-building, story lines, and sheer quality were more appealing, and this might be a book I re-read at some point down the line! My intrigue has been heightened for King of Scars so I’ll be getting to that once I take a short Grishaverse break with my next read. What is your favorite of Bardugo’s books? Let me know in the comments!