Crooked Kingdom

Crooked Kingdom
by Leigh Bardugo

★★★★★ (5 out of 5 stars)

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.

WOW! Oh wow! This was so good! This book, like the previous one, is many different points of view that switch chapter to chapter, with the opening and closing chapters being from two characters that are not our main protagonists. The biggest change is that we get Wylan’s viewpoint in this book. So in this story we read all 6 perspectives.

This book begins one week after the last book finishes and immediately we are set upon with scheming and action. Unlike the first book, with just one heist, this story has many various schemes, cons, and heists happening throughout. Just like with the last one there were times when this book became too much and I had to set it down, breathe deeply (maybe pace the house), and resume.

The characters! These books are what they are BECAUSE of these brilliant, ambiguous, rough-edged, and beautiful characters. The connection they share and the friendships they’ve created are lovely. Inej and Nina are what every female book friendship should be: loving, respectful, loyal, kind and understanding. There are no princes and princesses fighting to reclaim their rightful place here. No special, unequaled  warriors who are facing adversity yet will, at some point, eventually overcome it. No. These are the forgotten, broken, lost children of the world. They are just trying to survive and find where they belong. And I love it.

In this installment we are able to delve further into Kaz’s mind. He is still enigmatic, still making ruthless decisions at the expense of others for his own gain. But we also see more of his humanity, more of his suffering, his weakness and how much those weaknesses cost him. It hurts my heart to read the passages where he wishes he could overcome his fears and make any sort of contact with Inej like the others can; a hug, an arm thrown carelessly over her shoulder, anything. He desperately wants to but he can’t release his past and so he suffers. These little things make him less “monster” and more “real”.

Inej is amazing. We really get to see here how resilient she is. Throughout the story we get more glimpses of what her life was like after her kidnapping. There were some flashback passages in her chapters that were so freaking hard to read. My stomach churned and I felt sickened by what she was forced to endure. But she is strong and she is smart, and she spends this book planning and working towards a purpose, a goal, to help save all the hurt and misused people of the world.

Oh Jesper. For most of this book Jesper is forced to face the consequences of his actions. As it progresses we see him first try to run and hide, and eventually begin to face his misdeeds head on. He really starts to explore who he is and what has caused him to become so self destructive. He is such a lively character, full of humor and constant jokes, but it masks a great deal of pain and insecurity. Also, I loved reading his budding romance with Wylan.

My little cinnamon roll Wylan. Goodness I liked being able to experience Wylan’s POV in this book. His perspective is a breath of fresh air. He is thoughtful, considerate, gentle, and kind. He is a part of this crew and wants to help the others (and himself), but he wants to do the least amount of damage as possible to other people along the way. Of course he has been living with a bunch of criminals and conmen for months and there are moments where we see a growing deviousness inside him.

I still loved Nina and I still didn’t love Matthias. Nina is an incredible character. She is wholly true to herself. She knows who she is, what she wants, and what she deserves and she doesn’t waver or bend. Even when dealing with the consequences of taking parem in the first book she seems effervescent and full of life. Nina has helped change Matthias’s mind about grisha and their powers and has shown him a different way of life than blindly hating an entire group of people, but I still couldn’t come around on him. He does change a lot throughout the book, ultimately finding grisha’s powers to be wondrous/beautiful. It just wasn’t quite enough for me to forget his bigotry so quickly.

And then there was the last chapter!  *No spoilers, I promise!* Oh my goodness! If someone had reached inside my head and extracted EXACTLY the perfect ending to leave me feeling happy, sad, deeply satisfied, and yearning for more this is what they would have written. Oh jinkies, I loved this book.

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