**This is the second book in the Six of Crows duology - so that I can bleat about this to as many people as possible, there aren't any spoilers in this review for either this or Six of Crows so unless you're particularly cautious about that type of thing and don't even want to know which characters are still around in Crooked Kingdom, you're safe! If you decide not to read on, please just know this: this is one of the best books I've read this year and a new favourite. The series is a triumph and one that should be held up to the naysayers about how amazing YA fantasy can be when done really, really well.
I really enjoyed Six of Crows when I read it in September last year and it really stuck in my head after I'd finished it (something I find quite rare with YA fantasy). I decided to make the most of the momentum, ignore the hefty page count of Crooked Kingdom and just read it. It turned out to be one of my better decisions of the year and I've been banging on about it ever since. Six of Crows is a great book; Crooked Kingdom is just something else. Outstanding. I don't have the words to express just how much I adored this book (although that won't stop me trying).
The plot carries on almost straight from where Six of Crows left off and the pace is relentless. In the best, dark and brooding kind of way. The story continues to be told in multiple perspectives, with narratives shifting to keep readers wrong-footed and to disguise those parts of the plot that the reader isn't privy to. Not in a way that you notice at the time but in a way that means that when the twist comes, you're just as stunned as everybody else. The writing and plotting is so clever and I would absolutely never have guessed that it was written by the same author that penned the Grisha trilogy book that I was so underwhelmed by if I hadn't known. I have a lot of respect for Leigh Bardugo for writing a duology and not trying to drag the series out into a trilogy. Both books are tightly put together and nothing feels like filler. Sure, I wish I'd been able to have more but only because I'm greedy and I loved the books so much. I'd much rather be left wanting more than have had to tolerate a mediocre middle instalment that watered down this gut-wrenching finale.
And the characters! They're some of my absolute favourites. Not "for this year" or "for YA", my actual, all time, Hall of Favourites. Every single one of the main group is unique and is developed in a way that makes absolute perfect sense. Their flaws are deeply rooted and they aren't the kind to be cured by a well-timed kiss or a motivational pep-talk. Kaz Brekker breaks my heart. Jesper's battle with a gambling addiction is so well written and his banter with Wylan makes me grin like an idiot. Inej's struggles with what she's had to do to survive are quietly painful. I hate when I start reading a book full of characters that have darker sides only to find that their quirks are ironed out over the course of the plot. Not all of the characters got the ending that I so fervently hoped for while I was reading and yet I find that instead of being disappointed, I'm convinced that the endings that Bardugo chose are utter perfection. I can't think of a single thing that I would have done differently. I read the last 150 pages or so in one evening and I must have looked like a complete barmpot clutching the pages ridiculously hard, gasping, laughing and crying to myself.
I didn't start a new book properly for a good few days after I'd finished this one because I couldn't shake it off. I didn't want to read about new characters or fly straight into a new story. I wanted to wallow in my feelings and cling to these characters. I still do, actually. Every time I see the book in my living room (I haven't had the heart to ditch it back onto my 'Read' pile upstairs), I'm reminded of how bloody brilliant the whole thing was and how sad it is that I'll never get to read it for the first time again.
Only one word of light warning on this one – if you haven't read the Grisha trilogy yet and do plan to, this book does have a pretty significant spoiler for the ending of that trilogy so you might want to get that finished before you get to this duology. Weirdly, now that I've read the ending to the trilogy, I am now tempted to go back and give it another try!
Overall: I really don't think that I need to say anything here but honestly and really and truly, this book is so worth your money and your time. It's one of the extremely few books that I can genuinely say that I might re-read at some point in the future. If Leigh Bardugo writes anything else, I'll be pre-ordering it without a second thought.