It's been over a week since I finished reading this masterpiece, and I still fumble as I search for the words to accurately portray how incredible Crooked Kingdom is. (And even incredible feels like an inaccuracy. It feels like an understatement.) Six of Crows was my favorite book of 2015, so this sequel had a lot to live up to - and it exceeded any expectations I might have had prior to reading it. In Crooked Kingdom, the stakes have gotten higher and the fight has gotten personal. The Crows - Matthias, Nina, Jesper, Wylan, Inej and Kaz - must find a way to outsmart the gang leaders, the city politicians and the foreign enemies who want them all dead. Exciting, compelling and utterly brilliant, Crooked Kingdom is the perfect companion to its predecessor.
What makes this novel so brilliant, to me, really rests in two things - character intimacy and clever plotting (though I'll also admit that the setting development is also incredibly spot on).
Six of Crows was the formal introduction to the six Crows; Crooked Kingdom takes it one step further by allowing the reader to get to be in the present with the characters and experiencing their lives right when they did. It allows for an additional intimacy that I didn't think would be possible, and yet, this novel is proof that it is. We get to see what happens after the events and decisions made in Six of Crows, and Bardugo does a bang-up job of letting these characters lives change with the consequences and circumstances. I fell even harder for all of them - Kaz and his reticent personality; Jesper and his inability to face his wounds; Wylan and his discovery that he is worth something more than he thought; Nina and her acceptance of her new circumstances; Inej and her strength and courage; Matthias and his dedication. It was a beautiful thing to get to know them each a little better, and I just feel like they're even more alive to me than they were before. That, too, contributed to making their relationships (with each other and a few other characters) even more interesting to read about, and all too easy to get invested in.
And then there is the story itself. In a series of expert maneuvers, Bardugo successfully navigates this plot and makes it just as exciting and breathtaking and compelling as the story that came before it. I didn't know what sort of situations the Crows would have to face (except for the fact that they'd likely be dangerous and messy), but I'm so impressed by what Bardugo chose to do. In complete contrast to the fairly straightforward narrative of the first novel, Crooked Kingdom is a story built of layers. There are multiple heists and multiple situations to handle; there are many different factors, some of which are planned for and some of which are unexpected. The amount of work that must have gone into crafting something so intricate is definitely impressive, and I can certainly say that it paid off. I was glued to every single page and every single chapter, eager and nervous and gleeful and angry and sad at various turns depending on what was going on.
Honestly, saying I'm obsessed with Crooked Kingdom, with this duology, isn't an adequate way to express what this series means to me. It is certainly entertainment, a page-turner that I eagerly allowed to take me on a journey that took me out of real life for a time. But it is also inspiration, an impressively constructed set of books that will challenge me to really dig deep and write complex situations with equally complex characters. I am so, so in love with Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, both of which have earned a spot on my favorites shelf for life. I highly recommend checking out this duology as soon as you possibly can, and I can totally promise that it's worth it.
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Series: Six of Crows #2 | Previous Book in Series: Six of Crows
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. | Publication Date: September 27, 2016
Source: Hardcover purchased from The Strand
I was actually able to attend the launch party at The Strand (in the Rare Books Room, one of my favorite spots in that store) for Crooked Kingdom last, last Monday with Rachel! It was really fun to see Leigh in conversation with Jesse, and I tremendously enjoyed the Q&A portion of the evening. I also loved getting a chance to see Leigh again (and was pretty damn flattered that she remembered me). It was a magical evening, and I'm so glad we got the chance to go!