Book Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Posted July 17, 2019 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Genres: Fantasy
Published by Orion Children's Books on September 27, 2016
Pages: 536
Format: eBook
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Six of Crows, Shadow and Bone , Siege and Storm

Second in the Six of Crows fantasy series for Young Adult readers (and sixth in the Grishaverse) revolving around a crew of teen-aged thieves.

In 2016, Crooked Kingdom was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction.

My Take

Scams, plots, greed, and a desire for revenge drive this series. The tension is intense with plenty of drama and lots of action with Kaz and company in hiding as they plot and plan their revenge to get that payoff Van Eck had promised.

Yep, this one is a potent blend of characters and action pushing this story with Bardugo using third person global subjective point-of-view from each of the crew’s perspectives. It’s an opportunity for us to see into each mind, feel their emotions. And there are plenty of emotions as chaos erupts all over Ketterdam. The hunt is on for Kaz and his people. Lies, that aforementioned greed, and ego driving it all.

There’s a good bit of back history on Wylan and how he escaped his father, how he survived. And I want revenge almost as bad as Wylan!

Inej is making an interesting point about Jesper’s addiction to gambling after she finds out about Jesper’s betrayal. I had wondered about Jesper and Wylan, and this relationship is quite sweet. The pain between Inej and Kaz is so brilliantly written. The drama and tension of it. The hope I held for them.

It’s a fast pace that I didn’t always pick up on, partly due to Kaz’s twisty brilliance. He reminds me of Francis Crawford from Dorothy Dunnett’s The Lymond Chronicles and Nicholas vander Poele in her The House of Niccolò. Another couple of characters who conjure up long-term, sneaky plotting. And you’ll love that ending, snicker. Elaborate and oh, so perfect, lol. Until that drüskelle crosses with Matthias.

The Story

Kaz Brekker and his crew of deadly outcasts 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 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.

The Characters

Ketterdam is…

…the capital city of Kerch.

Black Veil Island is…
…considered haunted…and safe for the limping Kaz “Dirtyhands” Brekker, who can’t bear to be touched, and his crew to hide out in. Inej Ghafa, a.k.a., the Wraith, was born to wire walk, is brilliant with knives (she’s named them: Sankt Petyr, Sankta Alina, Sankta Marya, Sankta Anastasia, Sankt Vladimir, and Sankta Lizabeta), and she’s in love with Kaz. Who loves her back. (Inej’s family included Hanzi and Asha.) Nina Zenik, a Corporalnik who may be becoming a Fabrikator, and Matthias Helvar, a big Fjerdan, a drüskelle, who’s seen the light. Wylan, the unwanted son of a merchant, is brilliant with explosives. Jesper Fahey, a Zemeni, is a sharpshooter addicted to gambling. Colm Fahey is his farmer father. Aditi had been his healer mother. Leoni is the girl she died to save. Leoni also has a gift.

Kuwei Yul-Bo is an Inferni, a Shu boy they stole from the Ice Court in Six of Crows, 1. Bo Yul-Bayur is Kuwei’s father, a Fabrikator, and he has created a valuable and dangerous drug, jurda parem, in his position as the Chief Chemist of Bhez Ju.

The Barrel is…
…the worst neighborhood in Ketterdam with gangs, pleasure houses, gambling joints, etc.

The Dregs are…
…a gang led by Per Haskell. Kaz had been a lieutenant. Captain Specht is a former navy seaman, and a member of the Dregs, as is Rotty. Muzzen, a bouncer and enforcer, had volunteered to stand in for Matthias. Seeger is one of Per Haskell’s favorite bruisers; Teapot, Keeg, and Pim are more bruisers; Anika; Roeder; Bastian; Varian, Swann; Red Felix; Milo; Gorka; and, Beatle.

Danil Markov, an Inferni, works at the Anvil. Imogen had been a tease. Beni a two-bit brawler who owed Per Haskell money. The Wraith is the boat Kaz found amidst Wylan’s father’s fleet.

The Dime Lions are…
…a gang led by Pekka Rollins who, as Jakob Herzoon, had killed Kaz’s brother, Jordie, years ago. Filip was the boy who had lured Jordie and Kaz in. Margit had played the wife while Saskia had played the daughter. Doughty, Eamon, Shay, and Gerrigan are some of his gang. Properties he owns includes the Kaelish Prince, the Emerald Palace, and the Sweet Shop. His son is Alby.

Dunyasha, a.k.a., the White Blade, is a formidable assassin hired by Rollins. She claims Lantsov blood.

More gangs include the Razorgulls, the Liddies, Harley’s Pointers, and the Black Tips. Tante Heleen, a.k.a., the Peacock, is a brutal madam who runs the Menagerie. Hubrect Mohren is the Master Thief of Pijl.

The Kerch Merchant Council runs…
…Ketterdam. I think the Council of Tides is a similar governing body of grisha who manage the harbor. Jan Van Eck, a wealthy merchant and Wylan’s jerk of a father, has kidnapped Inej. Adem Bajan, a Suli music teacher, is indentured to Van Eck and is Inej’s jailer. Alys is Wylan’s stepmother. Rufus is her terrier. Marya Hendriks was Wylan’s real mother. Martin Van Eck is Wylan’s great-great-grandfather, a ship’s captain.

Cornelis Smeet likes high stakes and is Van Eck’s attorney and property manager. Hanna is his daughter. The family has three dogs: Duke Addam Von Silverhaunch, Fuzzmuzzle, and Maestro Spots. Neighboring children include Albert and Gertrude. Miggson and Prior were to “escort” Wylan to Belendt, the second-oldest city in Kerch.

Emil Retvenko, a Grisha squaller from Ravka, had a job with Councilman Hoede. Karl Dryden is the youngest councilman. Jellen Radmakker is one of the wealthiest investors in Kerch; he’ll also be the auctioneer.

Gillis is a guard at the harbor. Judit Coenen is picking up a couple of coats. The Geldrenner is a hotel where Johannus Rietveld is registered. Saint Hilde’s is a hospital with a haunted reputation where Betje is a nurse. The Gemensbank holds the loan. Jesper had had a date with Madeleine Michaud, back in Six of Crows. Cirkus Zirkoa has useful equipment. Olena is a hapless gambler.

The nations against Kaz and the rest include…

…the Fjerda, the Shu Han, Novyi Zem, the Kaelish, the Kerch, the Zemeni…

Fjerda is…
…a nation who employs soldiers, drüskelle, to hunt and execute Grisha. The Ice Court is an ancient, impenetrable stronghold at Djerholm harbor. Commander Jarl Brum had been Matthias’ superior. An isenulf is a wolf trained to help the drüskelle he’s partnered with. Trassel “Trass” was Matthias’ isenulf.

Ravka is…
…a bankrupt kingdom full of Grisha whose young King Nikolai Lantsov is rebuilding his Second Army. Zoya Nazyalensky is a legendary Squaller and a soldier who served the Darkling, then the Sun Summoner, and is now a member of the king’s Grisha Triumvirate. Another member of that triumvirate, Genya Safin, the First Tailor, knows poisons; she’d been Nina’s teacher. David Kostyk, a Fabrikator, develops weapons and is a member of the triumvirate. Tamar, a Shu, is a Heartrender. Sturmhond is a legendary privateer.

Alina Starkov was one of the most powerful Grisha to ever live. Zowa is another word for Grisha, people with power, such as Heartrenders, Fabrikators, Tailors, Inferni who work with fire, and Corporalki deal in life and the taking of it.

The Suli are…
…a people without a country, think gypsies.

The Kherguud are a new kind of soldier being tailored from Fabrikators who became sick from the parem.

The Cover and Title

The cover has a sepia-toned background with a fascinating silhouette at the bottom of tall towers spearing into a black crow, wings spread wide and acting as background for the text. At the very bottom of the cover is another row of buildings silhouetted in black against the tall towers. I do like the impression of a crown in the center. Just below the start of the wings is an info blurb in white. Below that is the author’s name in red, followed by the title in white. Spanning that center tower is an epigraph in white.

The title is all about Ketterdam and what a Crooked Kingdom it is.

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