Review: Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom


We take a look at Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows sequel, Crooked Kingdom.

Sequels make for tricky business in any medium. Not only do you have to insert some brief refreshers here and there, you have to wrap up loose ends, introduce new ends, and, if there will be a third entry, keep some of those loose. Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom doesn’t actually face all of those issues. (Instead, Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom make a duology.)

But still, it’s tricky, especially when Crows turned out to be intricately plotted as it was. Somehow, the sequel manages to pack even more twists in.

We pick up not long after the events of Crows, with Kaz Brekker and his crew still trying to bounce back from a nasty double-cross. One of their own is missing, so they have to rescue her and also handle that little matter of revenge.

More from Books

I’ll have to say that on the general strength of its plot and characterization, Crooked Kingdom is stronger than Six of Crows and gets a recommendation from yours truly.

The Good

On the whole, I found the characterizations and storylines for each character pretty fascinating. With rotating perspectives, it’s tough to sell every single character to a reader, but Bardugo manages it. I didn’t dare skip even my lesser favorites among Kaz’s crew, because they all engaged me somehow. (Also, I worried that I’d miss some crucial plot point that would tip me off to what was coming next.)

Having read Crows, I knew to expect plenty of twists and turns. For the most part, the story kept me guessing. In fact, it even pulled a surprise or two that I didn’t see coming at all, especially towards the end. Though some might find the ending itself unsatisfying, I found it led from the storyline and the world built over the two books nicely. No spoilers, but it worked for me.

Although the subject matter itself is pretty dark — addictions and recovery play parts in the story, and characters all have some sort of horrible past event in their lives — Bardugo also manages to inject humor into the story, both in the narration and the dialogue. It didn’t make me laugh, but it made me smirk. That feels far more appropriate.

The Not-So-Good

It’s my understanding that this duology follows Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, but also stands alone, sort of like the Marvel Netflix shows. While reading Crows, I never felt really locked out for not having read the other three novels. There are some plot points in Kingdom, however, that were a bit lost on me because I haven’t read the other books.

It didn’t make me laugh, but it made me smirk. That feels far more appropriate.

(If the ploy is to get me to read the Grisha books, well done. I’ve added the first to my to-read list.)

It perhaps took a bit too long for the “here’s what you need to remember” chapter to show up for me. Overall, though, that’s a small point.

One new character seemed hastily introduced, and though the narrative treated her as a serious threat, I found her more of a distraction. More accurately, I found the repeated use of “ivory-and-amber” to describe her slightly irritating. Because I read this book in large chunks, it stood out to me more than it might to someone who reads only a bit at a time. However, the quibble remains, no matter how pretty a turn of phrase it is.

The Recommendation

Due to the general intricacy of the plot, which ends up being far more complex than many others in YA, I recommend reading Crooked Kingdom directly after Six of Crows. Think of it as a reading version of binge-watching a season of your favorite show.

In short, though, Kingdom stands out as the better book. It especially suits those who enjoy heist-style stories, dark humor, and twisty plots. Although it is a YA book, it doesn’t feel like one when you read it, and I suspect that’s a feature, not a bug.

Next: 21 Star Wars Books You Should Read

You can find Crooked Kingdom at your favorite bookseller.