Book Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

BEWARE THE SPOILERS BELOW!!!!

“What is wrong with him?” Nina grumbled as they went back to the sitting room to drill Colm on his cover story. “Same thing that’s always wrong with him,” said Jesper. “He’s Kaz Brekker.”

Why did this have to be a duology? Why did this story already end? How am I supposed to go on without knowing what happens next in the lives of my favorite band of thieves?

She smiled then, her eyes red, her cheeks scattered with some kind of dust. It was a smile he thought he might die to earn again.

This book takes us deep into the minds of the characters. We get to know more about their past, the choices they have made, they guilt and uncertainty they have to live with everyday. We also see immense growth in all of them where they fight to overcome their personal demons and try to be better versions of themselves. We see the little glimpse of hope each of them have for a better future. But first, they need to get Inej back, take down Van Eck and Pekka, and get back the money they are owed. However, this time, everyone is against them – merchant council, the city watch, the gangs, foreign governments – but Kaz is not your run of the mill thief, he is a criminal mastermind.

“That’s where you’re wrong,” said Kaz. “I don’t hold a grudge. I cradle it. I coddle it. I feed it fine cuts of meat and send it to the best schools. I nurture my grudges, Rollins.”

The con that he plans this time is so outrageous that even his crew thinks he is out of his mind. But his confidence is so disarming, and his thinking being ten steps ahead of everybody, his plan just works. At least most of the time. The elaborate ruse to destroy the reputation of Pekka and take down Van Eck is so impeccable, I can’t say enough about it. You just have to watch it unfold. Leigh Bardugo has such wild imagination and a way with words that everything seems plausible. I became a part of the gang, and even for one moment, I never doubted that they would fail. So, when the death occurred, it was a blow to my heart that I am yet to recover from.

“You’re not weak because you can’t read. You’re weak because you’re afraid of people seeing your weakness. You’re letting shame decide who you are.

The book is more darker and violent and vindictive than Six of Crows but it is still filled with sarcastic one-liners, witty banter and memorable quotes that we have come to expect from Bardugo. We also see the characters suffer from the effects of disabilities (physical and mental), addiction (drugs and gambling), sex slavery and prostitution, but these themes are so intricately woven into the plot that it never comes across as preachy but lingers on in our minds long after we are done reading.

Jesper leaned in and said, quietly enough that no one else could hear, “I can read to him.” “He has a very soothing baritone,” added Wylan, and then the guards were hauling his father down the aisle.

And what can I say about the ships in this book. I never thought I will root for so many couples in a single book, but this is not your usual book either. The relationship between Wylan and Jesper is so cute and grows by leaps and bounds in this book, but no one even bats an eyelid because in this world, diversity is just the norm. There is not even a single moment of awkwardness when Jes’s father tells Wylan that he is good for his son.

“You look very beautiful.” “You mean I look like the enemy.” “Both of those things have always been true.”

The flirting between Nina and Matthias is so adorable and probably the most funniest part of the book. I laughed out loud so many times, which made it especially gruesome to handle the shock of this death. But it still felt right somehow, though I can’t figure out why.

“I would come for you,” he said, and when he saw the wary look she shot him, he said it again. “I would 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.”

Last but not the least, the best OTP ever – Kaz and Inej. I never thought I would shriek with joy when a couple will hold their hands for the first time, but I did. They both have overcome so much trauma to even reach this step in their relationship, that I think this scene was better than any other romantic scene I have read in recent times. I just hope that Bardugo decides to revisit them in the future because I would love to see the boss of the Barrel and the captain of the Wraith take on the big bad guys hurting and exploiting the innocents.

He didn’t deserve peace and he didn’t deserve forgiveness, but if he was going to die today, maybe the one thing he’d earned was the memory of her—brighter than anything he would ever have a right to—to take with him to the other side.

A very special mention of the most badass scene in the duology – Kaz taking on the Dregs and Per Haskell was a violent and brutal scene but it showed what Kaz truly is – someone who will go to any lengths to get what he wants, will never leave those behind who depend on him, but will never spare anyone who betrays him.

“In the Barrel, we don’t trade in safety,” Kaz said, the abraded burn of his voice carrying over the crowd. “There’s only strength and weakness. You don’t ask for respect. You earn it.”

And this review can’t be complete without mentioning that I was giddy with happiness like a teenage girl when my favorite Grisha and the irresistible charmer Nikolai showed up. Kaz and Stormhund in the same scene is something that I didn’t expect and will cherish for a long time to come.

“So hypothetically,” Kaz said, “you might be addressed as Your Highness.” “And a variety of more colorful names. Hypothetically.” The privateer cast him an assessing glance. “Just how did you know I wasn’t who I claimed to be, Mister Brekker?” Kaz shrugged. “You speak Kerch like a native—a rich native. You don’t talk like someone who came up with sailors and street thugs.”

Rating: Do I really need to spell it out…. 🙄🙄🙄

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