Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo

27840861Returning to the dark and twisted streets of Ketterdam was something I was hugely looking forward to. After how much I enjoyed Six of Crows, I was really looking forward to the second volume in this duology, waiting to see how Kaz and his motley crew would bounce back from the blow they were dealt at the end of 6oC and hoping that they would end up rich as kings and living happily ever after.

Well, Ketterdam is a dark and dangerous place, and even the best-laid plans of master criminal Kaz Brekker were bound to go awry, as happens so often.

When you can’t beat the odds, change the game.

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 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 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 the Grisha world.

I really loved this book. It’s shot up onto my favourites list, accompanied by Six of Crows, and will stay there for a long time, I’d say. It’s really stunning the difference in quality between this duology and the Grisha trilogy – I said it in my review of 6oC, but it bears repeating – the Grisha trilogy was good but forgettable, but these two books were superb, and will linger for a long time.

All six of the main characters were distinct in how they were drawn, damaged and broken, both by the circumstances before the book started, and the trauma they went through in the Ice Court and at the end of the last book. Double-crossed and betrayed, they’re a man down and trying to claw back the respect (and the cash) that they were expecting after the feats of their adventures in Fjerda.

Crooked Kingdom takes place almost entirely in the city of Ketterdam, and the close and dark streets add greatly to the atmosphere of the book – that the city itself is turning against them. Each character has their own motivation and aims, and they’re not necessarily always the same as the rest of the crew, but they’re all compelling, and I was enthralled from start to finish.

The mood of Crooked Kingdom is very different to what came before. Kaz and the crew are out for revenge, out to destroy, and not out to save the world the way they were with the first book. There’s a lot at stake here, and nobody can be trusted – plans collapse as easily as they’re made, and there’s a hell of a lot going on.

This entire book was like a breathtaking ride through Ketterdam, with a blindfold on, while someone was shooting at me. But I really loved it. Lots of gorgeous little snarky moments, some beautiful romances, and one particularly heart-rending scene (although not the one I’ve seen people talking about online) combined to make this, for me, a really superb conclusion to the story of the Dregs.

It was left with plenty of scope for follow-up, but the story was complete in a way that I found very satisfying. Definitely my favourite book this month. In fact, when I finished it, I was suddenly torn in how I had voted in the GoodReads Choice Awards for YA Fantasy and Science Fiction – I really loved A Torch Against The Night, but was Crooked Kingdom enough to knock it off the top spot?

In the end, no, I didn’t think it was, but it was still absolutely superb.

Five Stars
*****

 

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2 responses to “Crooked Kingdom – Leigh Bardugo

  1. Pingback: November Round-Up | Much Ado About Books

  2. Pingback: Best Books of 2016 | Much Ado About Books

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