By: McKenna Graham, Assistant Arts & Life Editor
Title: “Crooked Kingdom”
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: Five stars
Warnings for series: Abuse, murder
“Crooked Kingdom” is the sequel to Leigh Bardugo’s hit Young Adult novel, “Six of Crows.” As rare as it is for there to be a YA duology these days (it’s all mostly trilogies or more), Bardugo’s newest series is a smash hit, and it’s left me wanting more.
The two books follow the stories of six teenagers working to pull off a heist, and then dealing with the aftermath, in a beautifully crafted world that sucks you in immediately.
The world was founded in Bardugo’s other series, “Shadow and Bone,” which I never got into—the plot felt juvenile, the characters underdeveloped, and the relationships insubstantial. But Bardugo comes into her own with this series, which depicts a much more beautiful, complex, and dangerous version of this world, with characters I immediately got attached to and a plot that honestly kept me both interested and surprised the entire way through.
I’m not going to say I predict a lot of things that happen in YA books, but it’s been awhile since I’ve read a young adult novel that really made me react. Describing the plot without spoiling is difficult, because almost every chapter leaves off on a cliffhanger, but that’s what’s so great about it is that Bardugo has created a story with twists and turns and real emotion and a feeling of urgency, a feeling of “this matters.” You get sucked in. You get hooked. You get turned into a mindless zombie the next day because you stayed up all night to finish this wonderful, gripping book.
It’s not only the plot. The writing is just as strong, and Bardugo’s distinctly enigmatic and unforgiving tone is the vehicle for characters you find yourself rooting for despite yourself. They fit together well. They work cohesively despite conflict and provide readers with a truly comforting story about people overcoming ignorance and bigotry.
Two characters, Nina and Matthias, come from feuding nations but manage to work together despite prejudices. Inej is a young woman who is freed from slavery and vows to spend the rest of her life freeing others trapped by oppression. Jesper is a gambler who fights to overcome addiction in an inspiring (though admittedly, possibly unrealistic) fashion. Wylan is a young kid who finds strength in his own shortcomings.
The ending is beautiful without being clichéd, well-planned without feeling forced, and Bardugo has the strength and audacity to pull off a plot twist that, for this genre, is pretty risky.
Needless to say, I loved this book. It was the best YA I’ve read in a while, and it’s the reason I keep coming back to a genre I feel like I’ve outgrown. Even if you’re like me, and you feel like you’ve moved on from a genre that just feels honestly juvenile, give this book a shot.