We learn to hold our heads as if we wear crowns. We learn to wring magic from the ordinary – Leigh Bardugo.
Picture this. A girl with a giant book in her hands sitting alone at a table in Costa, trying not to cry in public… My throat is constricted, like the bulb of a flower has lodged itself there and all I can think is Leigh Bardugo, what have you done to me?
The Crooked Kingdom is the second part of the bestselling Six of Crows duology and I have nothing but praise for the story of the Dregs – of the misfits that come together and make their own illogical, dysfunctional, savage gang. But, they aren’t a gang. They’re family, and that is far more dangerous.
The story takes off where the closing chapter left us hanging onto every single letter and space in book one. We are thrust straight back into the gruelling, grey Ketterdam that seems to become more and more of a home despite its crooks and its pleasure houses and its round-the-clock liveliness that is smitten with a slight reek of disgust. Inej has been captured by Jan Van Eck and Kaz has a murderous tint in his black eyes, alongside his ever faithful scheming face.
Again, we are thrust to and fro between each of the crows, including Wylan who plays a far more detrimental role in this book, and we learn a lot more about his life too, which helps blossom both himself and his growing feelings for a certain lanky, pistol-loving farm lad who is quite possibly my favourite character out of the lot of them. Jesper never does fail to make me smile.
Inej is as strong as ever, but we even see her breaking point, and we see her surprised which goes to show that these teenagers from the streets may be rough and ready for any fight that comes their way, but not every single one of them. It creates that edge of humanity that we are forever reminded of throughout the duology – nothing and no-one lives forever, especially the every day people who risk their lives for – what we hope – the greater good… and a lot of loot to go with it.
I can’t pinpoint one part or chapter or scene that was a particular favourite of mine as there were too many, which I expected. One thread of continuity that I adored – yet again – was the constant sarcastic wit and humour that each of the characters have stitched into their core. I found myself laughing out loud (literally lolling) at Nina’s attempts to make Matthias a glowing red shade, or her relationship with her cookies which she hates to share; at Jesper’s wild accusations that he affectionately throws around the hideout; at Kaz’s slyness and wicked smirk when, even he, lets his guard down and spikes an edge of humour through the narrative.
I have to talk about the gaping hole that Leigh Bardugo created with her pistols of words. Why? It was such a shock, such a twist and I genuinely thought that they were all going to make it out alive. I’m getting upset thinking about it now; I’m reliving that one moment that changed the lives of all the crows. I have to hand it to her: she knows how to: 1. Create a reverberating shock for every single reader and 2. Pull the crows together in a way that we haven’t seen before. I understand why she did it; it needed to be done to show just how much this band of misfits really had come to cherish each other in their own ways in such a short period of time. You need tragedy to illustrate true feelings. But I am still heartbroken over it.
One thing I wished I had seen at the end was another chapter dedicated to Nina; I feel like I needed more closure from her story. Everyone else had their last chapters – their final say – in a way, but Nina didn’t. I’m not sure if that is an opening for another book dedicated to her… because I would LOVE that, or if Bardugo, herself, wanted to keep wondering how Nina carried on with her path in life.
The Crooked Kingdom is an absolute joy to read, if you can use that adjective to describe a place as dirty and crooked as Ketterdam with a gang of teenage outsiders who are all wanted by the government. It is smart. It is brutal.
It is hope.
What are your thoughts of The Crooked Kingdom and Six of Crows?
Love, Faye xo