Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo: A Review

by Kassandra Flamouri

I’ll be honest. I didn’t love Six of Crows. It started off a bit slow and ended on a note that made me want to rip it apart with my bare hands—but it also made me want to read the sequel, Crooked Kingdom. And I am so, so glad I read the sequel. Crooked Kingdom hits the ground running and doesn’t stop until the (extremely satisfying) end.

Along the way, we fall in even deeper love with the nuanced, fun, believable characters we met in the first book. I love Inej’s unique blend of vulnerability and strength, both physically and emotionally. Her relationship with Kaz is complex and wrenching, but Inej never lets Kaz off the hook. She’ll have all of him or nothing, making her a great model for young women in the way she sets and maintains boundaries for herself while still acting with compassion and friendship.

Nina, too, shines in the sequel. I spent a lot of the first book rolling my eyes and gagging at her relationship with Matthias, but here I really appreciated Matthias’s character arc as his world view grew and shifted. Nina herself grows as well as she grapples with withdrawal and a delightfully unexpected (and totally badass) twist on her Grisha power.

The MVP romance in this book is that of Wylan and Jesper. Sweet but never sugary, anchored in sincere respect and mutual belief in each other, their relationship was infinitely more satisfying than Nina and Mathias’s hormone-and-banter flirt fest. They each have their issues, but they lean on each other and grow together in the most adorable way all through the book.

Kaz is delightfully twisty and conniving as always, fueled by a heady mix of revenge, justice, and greed. His vendetta against Pekka Rollins and Jan Van Eck comes to a glorious head in the climax of the novel, wherein the villains’ greed and general dastardliness come back to bite them in a big, big way. Kaz doesn’t rob them or humiliate them; he lets them do that themselves. He carefully portions out the rope and then gently—and genteelly—guides them like sheep into a noose woven from every angst-soaked thread in the story. I’m so glad there isn’t a third book because the ending of Crooked Kingdom was, in a word, perfect.

Though there isn’t a third book, there is the Shadow and Bone trilogy to binge, which I’m going to do immediately.