Crooked Kingdom: A Gang of Misfits Up Against the World

 

A crow flying vertically in front of a gray background, with the words "#1 New York Times-Bestselling Author Leigh Bardugo, Crooked Kingdom." Followed by the words "When you can't beat the odds, change the game."

Image: Henry Holt and Co. via Leigh Bardugo

Genre: YA Fantasy

Synopsis: Criminal mastermind Kaz put together a crew of teenagers and used them to pull off an impossible heist–but instead of reaping the rewards, they were betrayed. Now they have to get back at the people who back-stabbed them, save one of their own, and hopefully come out with something to show for it. But every power in the city wants to get their hands on what–or rather, who–they stole. Making it ever more complicated to stay in control of the situation, as the crew’s resources and allies dwindle.

Series: Second in what I think is a duology. Six of Crows was the first book.

POV: Third person, from the perspectives of the 6 protagonists (and one other character for the prologue.)

Preview: Here. 

(My review of the first book here.)

This story is so much fun. It’s loaded with twists and turns, as both the protagonists and their enemies engage in a game of cunning, constantly trying to outsmart each other. I don’t know if there’s going to be in another book in this series, but I would love it if there were.

I’m especially invested in these characters, the six crew members who are practically on their own against the most powerful forces in the city. There’s so much to them, and each of them has engaging internal conflicts.

Inej was incredible in this book. Her personal history has a huge impact on who she is. Of the main characters, she’s one of the ones who thinks the most about her past experiences, and where they fit with her present and future. We see that in her perspective, in the way she feels about her family and her life as an acrobat. In her enslavement and how she used Kaz’s gang to escape it, applying her skills as an acrobat towards reconnaissance and spying. She’s quiet and focused, competent and determined, but with plenty of remaining self-doubt. There’s something awesome about her ambition to acquire a ship and hunt down slavers.

She has conflicting interests that she struggles to reconcile in herself–her sense of obligation to Kaz, her insistence on holding onto her remaining morality, the future she wants to build for herself. I’m glad that she doesn’t compromise her goals, and doesn’t ask anyone else to compromise theirs, but still manages to hold onto those relationships.

Kaz is always interesting. He’s built up this reputation for himself as a huge bastard, and he believes his own press. He needs to believe it, because being the one victimizing others makes him feel powerful instead of weak. It’s like he’s terrified of being anything else, of caring for anyone else. Of course, he does care about other people–and he’s still in the early stages of coming to terms with it, of having trouble admitting to it.

Jesper is a total sweetheart. His friendships matter to him, and he spends much of the book trying not to disappoint the people who matter to him–especially Kaz, whose trust he’s still trying to regain, and his father, who doesn’t know his son dropped out of school, fell into debt, and became part of a street gang. He struggles with a gambling addiction, which created many of his problems and is threatening to create more.

Wylan is the rejected child of a wealthy merchant, deemed an unacceptable heir to his father because of his dyslexia–despite being pretty smart and good at chemistry. He’s got a lot of internalized self-worth problems, where he’d been taught to doubt himself to the point where he finds it hard to blame his father for abandoning him. Some of his struggle is coming to terms with himself. Some of it is sorting out his feelings for Jesper. And the rest is figuring out a future that works for him.

Nina is recovering from the drug she had to take in the last book to save her friends’ life, and it isn’t an easy experience to get past. It changes her. It changes her power. Where she’d always been confident and happy with her abilities, she finds herself lost in how to handle them. Unsure if she can accept this change in herself.

Ironically, she gets support from Matthias, who’s been taught all of his life to hate people like her. Matthias’ story is about overcoming that conditioned hatred and becoming a better person. About doubting the things that he’d been told, and coming to see the goodness and beauty in what he’d thought was an abomination. He comes to want that same understanding for the people he’d left behind, the ones who still enveloped in that hate.

It’s just such a good story. There’s so much to love about it.

While each character has their own personal problems, those problems sometimes bleed out and affect their friends and the group dynamic. None of the characters are isolated from each other (even the ones who want to be), so their problems become part of a greater whole. It’s interesting to watch them sort out their issues with each other, or while pushing each other away–and all in the middle of a serious crisis.

Fantastic book. I loved it.

Favorite Quotes:

“You don’t ask for forgiveness…You earn it.”

“You could love something and still see its flaws.”

“What about the nobodies and the nothings, the invisible girls…? When the world owed you nothing, you demanded something of it anyway.

 

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One Response to Crooked Kingdom: A Gang of Misfits Up Against the World

  1. Pingback: Saturday Review of Books: January 21, 2017 – Semicolon

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