Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo: A Murder of Crows

“Crows remember human faces. They remember the people who feed them, who are kind to them. And the people who wrong them too. They don’t forget. They tell each other who to look after and who to watch out for.”

Crooked Kingdom

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.

This book is.. I don’t even know where to begin praising this one hell of a book. This is a masterfully written sequel to Six of Crows and the final book of the duology. I was nowhere near ready to finally end my immersion in the world of the outcasts and thieves. There was no way to prepare for a book such as this.

There may be possible spoilers in the review, go back now if you haven’t read this one yet.

Crooked Kingdom is as good as the first book and more. It was as fantastic as Six of Crows but it does have its own villainous charms. Not only does it gives you an action packed narrative but also the roller coaster of emotions that you would come to hate and love. You think you know what will happen but then you don’t. You think they’re done for but it turns out it’s just the opening stage for the final performance.

The plot is not as clear-cut as it seemed. It was complex and layered and worthy of a criminal mastermind’s planning. No wonder Kaz is such a smart and cunning character, he probably takes after the author himself. Bardugo has outdone herself in this one. I can barely keep up as to what exactly was happening while reading. And when the mind games are done, the manipulation and double-crossing revealed, and the dust finally settled, you’ll realize how masterfully written this book is.

The main characters are dubbed as thieves but this book is more planning and scheming on their part than actual thievery, which makes it all the more interesting. It keeps you at the edge of your seat and fears that they’re done for but of course they’re not, how silly of you. Then you think it’s all going to be okay in the end until it’s not. Bardugo is the master of mind games. I was reeling by the time I finished this book.

“This is the city I bled for. And if Ketterdam has taught me anything, it’s that you can always bleed a little more.”
“There are no good men in Ketterdam. The climate doesn’t agree with them.”

“Has anyone noticed this whole city is looking for us, mad at us, or wants to kill us?”
“So?” said Kaz.
“Well, usually it’s just half the city.”

The characters from the first book already made themselves comfortable in the space that they claimed in my heart and this book just proved how precious each of them are. Precious not in a way that they must be coddled and stored safely away but the preciousness that speaks of their value and rarity. It reminded me ironically while writing this review of Ralph (Wreck It Ralph) and his declaration and acceptance of his nature: “I’m bad, and that’s good. I will never be good, and that’s not bad. There’s no one I’d rather be than me.” 

Aside from the Crows, Crooked Kingdom was made all the more interesting by the introductions of several characters. Like Jasper’s father who made them feel like errant kids and less like the badass outcasts they are. And also other characters — Stormhond, Zoya and Genya — who I understand are part of the books from Grisha Verse set in the same world of Six of Crows. There is also Inej’s Sankta Alina who she mentions quite often and I am growing terribly curious that I might just pick up Shadow and Bone one of these days. Dunyasha aka The White Blade is another character introduced in this book and it is a pity that we only got a glimpse of another curious character before she was bested by Inej.

There’s just something about Kaz fanarts that I love. (Art by Merwild)

Kaz is still the same cunning and cruel character he is in the first book but this time he’s on edge and a little desperate. His vulnerability in this book is partly because of his Wraith and his haunting past that will never truly be gone. But don’t mistake Brekker for being the typical bad boy in a story who is tortured by his demons and will be healed by his lady love, because that is not who he is here. He is broken and beyond redemption, he is cruel, greedy, bordering on evil and a brilliant master manipulator. But one thing you can be sure of is his loyalty to his crew.

“Everything is a negotiation with you, Brekker. You probably bartered your way out of the womb.”

Inej is such a strong and brilliant girl. I think I see her as Kaz does — a girl who has suffered through so much but still manages to have faith and believes in something. Strong, brave and fiercely hopeful is what she is. Her Suli preaching is one of her endearing traits for me. Her stories and words of wisdom is what makes her more than the spy and assassin that she is. Inej and Kaz’s relationship in the book is also one of things I enjoyed reading. It is intense, painful, and more intimate than that of the other pairs. It was intimate, even when they’ve barely even touched, because it was obvious that they deeply care for each other. Just the ending itself will tell you how much. Oh Kaz, you Heart-Brekker.

Jesper in this book is who I believe the one who made leaps and bounds in his development. He is still the flirtatious (only to Wylan) and funny character that he is, but he is also someone who has been hiding and running way from who he is and his responsibilities. His father’s appearance in this book was what prompted him to try to come to terms with his abilities and him seeking forgiveness for everything.

Wylan even being dubbed as the innocent merchling is one of the characters here who has been through so much especially when it comes to his family. The merchling grows a spine in this book and decided the future he wanted for himself. Being with the crows corrupted him a bit, but of course the blushing and naive Wylan never really goes away especially with Jesper to tease him.

Nina is a woman through and through. She knows it, she owns it and she loves it. Her relentless pursuit of Matthias and her flirtatious nature will just win you over. I also love the friendship between her and Inej. Her sarcasm and strength, her love for food and being the dessert-hoarding dragon (I approve!) She is also the queen of sarcasm and the only woman for one Matthias Helvar.

“You’re better than waffles, Matthias Helvar.”
A small smile curled the Fjerdan’s lips.
“Let’s not say things we don’t mean, my love.”

Matthias is the tough nut to crack as usual, but of course Nina is the exception to that. Even the Dregs could not truly corrupt this righteous character, but he is no doubt part of the crows. The Fjerdan who was always in conflict with his nature and was finally starting to see outside of his own beliefs. He was a character that is equal parts strong and vulnerable. When he gives something, he gives it all — may it be his strength, his devotion and his love. And in the end, even his life… It was ironic for Nina to gain power over the dead only to lose Matthias to death itself. It was like balancing the scale somehow.

“We like to keep our expectations low.”

A dark wink to the fact that there would be no expensive burials for people like them, no marble markers to remember their names, no wreaths of myrtle and rose.

At first I also foolishly thought that they will make it all to the end. But of course death would always follow the crows and it caught up to one of them. This in my opinion is also one of the strengths of this story because it made it more genuine. But it didn’t take away the pain of losing one of the beloved characters. It’s also one thing to know the meaning of their good luck, “No mourners, no funerals”, it was also another thing to actually see it happen.

THE SIX CROWS

“Where do think the money went?” he repeated.
“Guns?” asked Jesper.
“Ships?” queried Inej.
“Bombs?” suggested Wylan.
“Political bribes?” offered Nina. They all looked at Matthias. “This is where you tell us how awful we are,” she whispered.
He shrugged. “They all seem like practical choices.”

Art by MORGANA0ANAGROM

Jesper ran a finger up Wylan’s forearm, and Wylan flushed a vibrant pink. Matthias couldn’t help but sympathize with the boy. He knew what it was to be out of your depth, and he sometimes suspected they could forgo all of Kaz’s planning and simply let Jesper and Nina flirt the entirety of Ketterdam into submission.

“I would have come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.” (Kaz to Inej)

This is a solid second book to the duology of Six of Crows. I’m still reeling but I know I will go for a reread of this soon. I can’t find it in myself to leave the crows alone and knowing that it’s only a duology made me appreciate the story more.

The ending was bittersweet and full of hope and in a way, a perfect end to this imperfect crew. The Six of Crows started this series as a dark book and I daresay that Crooked Kingdom is even darker than the first one. But it will also offer you more – friendship, adventure, wickedness, humor, romance and a story like no other.

Be careful getting lost in this book because the crows may steal you away and you have no hope of escaping!

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10 thoughts on “Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo: A Murder of Crows

  1. this book was just so good. i’m so glad you loved it and the FANART!!!! RASPY KAZ MY LOVE!!!!! & jesper and wylan were the cutest couple in the entire world. *sigh* and I will never get over the end. nothing is fair or right in this world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All what you said and more!! I really love the banter and the ‘ships’ and literally everything this book has to offer. It’s just too bad about Matthias.. 😦 My heart broke for Nina..

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This book- oh my god, this book…. It broke me a lil (a lot) after I finished it, and I’m still yelling whenever I remember what happened at the end 😦
    I agree with so many of your points! This is honestly one of my current favourite series. Oh, and about Shadow and Bone, don’t head in with many expectations… The writing and characters are nothing like Six of Crows (although I loved Sturmhond with everything I have, oh my god). Also, by reading this duology first you’ve kinda spoiled the entirety of the original trilogy for yourself, oops?
    Great review though! <e

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really don’t feel I was spoiled of the story ? I mean I know Alina was the main character of said trilogy but other than what became of her I pretty much know nothing about them all.

      Thank you 😊

      Like

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