Crooked Kingdom

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled of 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 loyalties. A war will be waged in the city’s dark and twisting streets – a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

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It’s hard to know where to even begin talking about Crooked Kingdom, the obsessively anticipated sequel of Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology.

Much like its predecessor, Crooked Kingdom gave me ALL THE FEELINGS.  It made me laugh (and it made me sob, but we’re not going to dwell on that…), it got me so invested, I almost dropped the thing on multiple occasions from trying to turn the pages so fast. I threatened my family with bodily harm when they interrupted my reading.

And the ships. Oh my god.

To be totally honest, I veer toward the cynical and have some difficulty engaging with fictional romances (that said, once you have me I am loyal #KlarolineFOREVER*), BUT there was not a single relationship in Crooked Kingdom that I was not 100% invested in.

Jesper and Wylan were my favourite. I got Wylan – not so much in the sense that my dad tried to have me murdered (lol), but in the wallflower way. In the oh god this is terrifying but I hope it never stops sense. I loved how he found himself – and I mean like he found his purpose, his truth – in a place that he never expected to. In a boy he never expected to. Let’s be honest, every quiet person dreams of a brightly dressed hottie exploding into their lives like a car crash but in a sexy way – and that’s what happened when Wylan met Jesper. It was the small touches with which Bardugo wove their relationship that really gave me butterflies. There were momentary looks (eye contact can be sexy, okay?!), fleeting physical contact – when Jesper unwound Wylan’s bag strap on his shoulder? I melted – juxtaposed with Jesper saying something heavy handed and flirtatious, leaving Wylan blushing.

Sigh. LOVED IT.

I think what made the relationships in this book work so well was that every moment was earned. So frequently I read characters who will lay down their lives for one another seemingly on the basis of nothing. I want to feel for them as intensely as they do for each other but there is no grounding for me to do so. In Crooked Kingdom every moment is deserved, and I savoured them all. One of my favourite episodes in the whole book was when Jesper (if it wasn’t obvious already: I LOVE HIM) and Kaz fought. For the entirety of Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, Jesper has wanted Kaz’s approval. He’s wanted forgiveness for his screw ups. He’s wanted to be on equal footing. Kaz knows how badly he wants it, and he refuses to give it to him… until he does it by accident and calls Jesper by his dead brother’s name. In that second every difficult moment of their relationship suddenly makes sense and you know exactly the space Jesper occupies in Kaz’s heart (mine could HARDLY TAKE IT).

This whole scene was emblematic to me of Leigh Bardugo’s genius. She has the tension between Kaz and Jesper reach its apex, the revelation of how these boys feel about each other (Kaz stresses about Jesper like he did about his brother! Is it weird that this maybe gave me even more feelings than things that were happening with Inej?) and then completely diffuses the situation with Jesper’s dad telling the crows off like they’re children. It’s an emotional roller coaster and the whole time I was reading it I was thinking how great it must feel to be able to write like this.

Books like the Crows duology remind me why at almost 24 (oh god), I am still an obsessive lover of YA. In Barudgo’s writing there is so much adventure, growth and heart. And, honestly, this book is also comforting in the current political climate. The six crows are all of different ethnicities, religions and political beliefs, and yet they can work together as an almost unstoppable team. They can coexist with their different belief systems and even learn from them. This is no more obvious than in Matthias’ journey to overcome his hatred of the Grisha. When he actually meets the people he has been taught for so long to despise, the lessons of his indoctrination crumble. I was so impressed too, with how Bardugo didn’t pretend that his transformation was complete. Still, even as he acknowledged his love for her, Matthias found those old words like ‘unnatural’ and ‘threat’ rising to the surface as he witnessed Nina’s powers. The difference though, was that, rather than giving into that fear, he viewed it critically before ultimately rejecting it.

Crooked Kingdom is a richly imagined adventure with a cast of characters I physically miss now that I’ve finished reading. It is YA at its finest. I hope everybody reads it.

 

*loyal in the sense that I trawl TVD spoilers for any sign of a reunion, not that I tell actresses to go die of cancer on Twitter. Those people seriously need to do better.

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October Wrap-Up

Where has this year gone? Why does my total shock at the passing of time increase with age? When will I get a job that I keep for more than a week?

I have answers to none of these questions.

I do however, have a summary of the month’s events, in book form:

Where has this year gone? Why does my total shock at the passing of time increase with age? When will I get a job that I keep for more than a week?

I have answers to none of these questions.

I do however, have a summary of the month’s events, in book form:

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This month I reviewed:

Lair of Dreams – Libbra Bray

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Feelings: This didn’t quit live up to expectations. I think I loved the first book too much. I am hoping for more Evie in the next book.

Asking For It – Louise O’Neill

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Feelings: An important and powerful book about rape culture and sexual consent. Everybody should read this.

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

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Feelings: I loved every second of it.

Is It Just Me? – Miranda Hart

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Feelings: One of my very favourite audiobooks for insomnia.

Dracula – Bram Stoker

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Feelings: Stoker isn’t half as scared of vampires as he is female sexuality.

I also read:

Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling

Everything Everything – Nicola Yoon

The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories – Angela Carter

Currently Reading:

Carry On – Rainbow Rowell

Six of Crows

Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo is so much fun. It’s a classic heist, told from the perspective of five of the six participants. The cast of characters are diverse, coming from all areas of the land of Grisha familiar to us from the previous books in the series. They are of differing backgrounds, abilities, sexualities and motivations, and yet the group gelled straight away.

Kaz Brekker plans to do the impossible: He’s going to break into the Ice Court, a prison famed for its impenetrability. With thirty million kruge at stake, he reckons he and his gang of criminals, The Dregs can pull it off.

Kaz: Notorious criminal mastermind. He controls vast areas of Ketterdam at only seventeen.

Inej: Also known as the Wraith. Silent as a ghost, she can scale any surface. You never know when she might be nearby, listening.

Jesper: A crack shot with a weakness for the card tables.

Nina: Grisha. A heartrender who can choke a man at twenty paces.

Matthias: A lost fjerdan with a weakness for a certain Grisha.

Wylan: A merchant’s son looking for adventure in all the wrong places.

23437156Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo is so much fun. It’s a classic heist, told from the perspective of five of the six participants. The cast of characters are diverse, coming from all areas of the land of Grisha familiar to us from the previous books in the series. They are of differing backgrounds, abilities, sexualities and motivations, and yet the group gelled straight away. The changes in perspective that came with each new chapter really added to the coherency of the gang. For much of the novel, we knew how they felt about each other even when the characters themselves were unable to see it. Experiencing each character in such an immersive way made the novel a totally absorbing experience. Now that I’ve finished reading, I actually miss these imaginary people and – in a way that is highly out of character for me – I can’t wait for the sequel.

Like I’ve mentioned, getting both characters thoughts on a relationship – as well as the judgements of everybody else in the group – meant that we were really allowed to experience all the complexities of the feelings everybody had about each other. What this also meant, is that this book is simmering with potential romance. And I’m not referring to cringe-ey instalove either. Sometimes I worried that the weight of all that sexual tension might sink the boat before they even made it to the Ice Court. We get some forbidden love, complicated bad boy love and the slowly emerging crush that comes from flirty, shipboard banter.

I also loved the scenes exploring Inej and Nina’s friendship. There are few moments where it is only the two of them, and fleeting as they are, I was the left with a concrete sense of how much these two girls cared for each other. They are totally different people – Inej is quiet and reserved where Nina tends toward the loud and dramatic, but rather than conflict they seem to draw mutual strength from their differences. I have read so many adventure stories where the only two girls involved totally hate each other, so it was refreshing to see such a deep friendship that had not emerged from a place of aggression. Plus it leads to my favourite exchange in the book, between Inej and Matthias:

“Are you worried about Nina being out there?” Inej asked.

“No.”

“She’s very good at this, you know. She’s a natural actress.”

“I’m aware,” he said grimly. “She can be anything to anyone.”

“She’s best when she’s Nina.”

“And who is that?”

“I suspect you know better than any of us.”

He crossed his huge arms. “She’s brave,” he said, grudgingly.

“And funny.”

“Foolish. Every last thing needn’t be a joke.”

“Bold,” Inej said.

“Loud.”

“So why do your eyes keep searching the crowd for her?”

“They do not,” Matthias protested. She had to laugh at the ferocity of his scowl. He drew a finger through a pile of crumbs, “Nina is everything you say. It’s too much.”

“Mmm,” Inej murmured, taking a sip from her mug. “Maybe you’re just not enough.”

I don’t think I need much further evidence to prove that Inej is the best.

Obviously, I can’t end this review without talking about the heist. I love a good heist. Even in my sort-of adulthood, I still daydream about getting caught up in some ridiculous scheme. The adventure Leigh Bardugo takes us on does not disappoint. Kaz’s primary heist technique is pretty much to be as vague as possible. No one can wreck the plan, he supposes, if they don’t quite know what it is. This philosophy has varying levels of success. The Dregs simply have to believe that Kaz always knows what he’s doing. I’m not going to lie – their trust in this definitely wavers. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that some serious shit goes down. There was not a moment where I didn’t feel like everything was about to go catastrophically wrong. Again, the shift is perspective did a fantastic job of maintaining this. So many times Bardugo would end a chapter with someone in peril, before starting a new one from a different perspective and place. Reading it was the best kind of pain.

This book grabs you by the shoulders and drags you ever forwards. Sometimes you’re running to keep up. No matter the circumstances, for me at least, I was simply happy to be there.