YA Weekend Audio: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Series: Book 2 of Six of Crows
Publisher: Audible Studios (September 27, 2016)
Length: 18 hrs
Narrators: Brandon Rubin, Jay Snyder, Elizabeth Evans, Fred Berman, Peter Ganim, Lauren Fortgang, Roger Clark, Kevin T. Collins
I’m so pleased to say this was the ending I wanted and what this wonderful duology deserved. I think I even liked it more than the first book, even though I rated both books the same, because while Six of Crows may have come up short of my admittedly soaring expectations, Crooked Kingdom actually surprised me by shattering any doubts that it would deliver a satisfying conclusion.
By the way, if you haven’t picked up Six of Crows yet, avert thine eyes now because there may be mild spoilers for readers who have not caught up. We pretty much pick up right where we left off, so being a bit hazy on my memories of what happened at the end of the previous book, there was a brief period of confusion to orient myself to what was happening to all these characters. As you know, there are quite a few of them. First and foremost is the man of the hour, Kaz Brekker. As the leader of his own little gang of thieves, he’s taken it upon himself to plan a daring rescue of one of their own by the villain Jan Van Eck.
The crew’s only bargaining chip is the key to the powerful yet dangerously addictive drug known as jurda parem, but you can bet Kaz isn’t about to give that up so easily. Also at stake is his revenge on Pekka Rollins, the man who destroyed Kaz’s life and took everything away from him, but until they can get their teammate back, everything unfortunately has to be put on hold. Slowly, however, a plan starts to come together where they can potentially score everything they want and more—a payback and a payday in the same package, essentially—but only if they can manage to survive all the crazy schemes and hidden traps.
On an entertainment level, this one clearly wins. I felt the plot of Six of Crows stumbled over itself multiple times in its attempt to juggle the backstories of all these characters, and as a result, the big heist itself became overshadowed. Crooked Kingdom, on the other hand, had the advantage of being able to focus more on the action and adventure since we already got the character introductions out of the way. That’s not to say the complexities of their relationships and dynamics were diminished though, because if anything, I think those connections were only strengthened in this sequel. We only have to look at Kaz, Inej, Nina, Wylan, Jesper, and Mathias to see how far all of them have come since the beginning of the first book.
Weaving in more flashbacks, personal drama, and even surprise family reunions, the author has managed to grow these characters while still keeping up the tensions of the main story, and I feel she’s achieved this balance a lot better this time around. This is so important, especially when you’re dealing with as many as half a dozen POVs. It is very obvious when you have underused characters, like Wylan and Jesper in Six of Crows for example, or when you had Nina and Matthias whose roles were clearly there to provide romantic drama while doing little to advance the overarching plot of the first book. Happily, I found little to none of this frustration in Crooked Kingdom as all members of the crew kept their eyes on the prize for the most part, and they all had their important roles to play. Any detours into past memories or side plots were also kept to a minimum and integrated in a way that felt more natural. The pacing was also quick, powering through and hitting no slumps.
What we have here is more character development, as well as more thrills, and more suspense. Honestly, I have no cause for complaint. I know I had my issues with the first book, but I did say it was a great start with some serious potential, and I am glad that my anticipation for the sequel was supported because Crooked Kingdom in no uncertain terms met that potential. I also liked the ending, which was satisfying and provided closure without making it all sunshine and rainbows. It’s perfect in that it is a wonderful balance of joy and heartbreak. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Audiobook Comments: After my fantastic experience with the audiobook of Six of Crows, I once again opted to go with this format for the sequel. Needless to say I am quite fond of productions with multiple cast members, and I was glad to see that the production team had brought on no less than eight narrators, with many of them reprising their roles from the first book. It’s a feast for the ears if you’ve enjoyed other Young Adult titles performed by some of these narrators, and I’m particularly partial to Elizabeth Evans (of the Throne of Glass audiobooks) who does an amazing Nina, Lauren Fortgang (who narrated Bardugo’s other series The Grisha) who is great for Inej, and Fred Berman (whose gravelly voice I just adored from his reading of Morgan Rhodes’ Falling Kingdoms series) is simply perfect for Kaz’s chapters. Everyone delivered great performances.
More on The BiblioSanctum:
Review of Six of Crows (Book 1)