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••• The International Writers Magazine: No mourners - No funerals

The Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Paperback, 536 pages
Published September 27th 2016 by Orion Children's Books
(ISBN13: 9781780622309)
Series: Six of Crows #2
• Sam Hawksmoor review
“Before you finish that sentence, I want you to think about what a promise from me costs and what you're willing to pay for it.”

Crooked Kingdom

Trusting the wrong person can get you killed.

The long awaited sequel to Six of Crows does not disappoint. Kaz Brekker and his wayward skilled thieves, Nina, Inej, Mathias, Jesper and Wylan need revenge on the crooked merchant who betrayed them after their daring raid on the ice fortress. They have an ace up their sleeve but everyone wants their reluctant hostage, the son of the man who developed the drug that can destroy the Grisha. Schemes are made, but of course nothing goes to plan and Inej has been taken hostage. New fantastic secrets will be revealed. Leigh Bardugo writes with extraordinary style and her visualisation of her special world of Ketterdam are so detailed, after reading Crooked Kingdom you feel you have always known this city and could walk it blindfold. Each character is newly vulnerable and all stand on quicksand. We fear for Inej, the petite spider girl and love her just the same. Taken hostage she fears Kaz will never come for her - always doubting his love, but fear not, Kaz has an extraordinary and elaborate plan:
“I would have come for you. And if I couldn't walk, I'd crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we'd fight our way out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that's what we do. We never stop fighting.”

I love the language Bardugo uses, it flows like poetry yet it is cut with fine tension and wit. Mathias and Nina clearly love each other but it is conditional and Nina is an addict and addicts can never be trusted:
“I am grateful you're alive", he said. "I am grateful that you're beside me. I am grateful that you're eating."
She rested her head on his shoulder.
"You're better that waffles, Matthias Helvar."
A small smile curled the Fjerdan's lips.
"Let's not say things we don't mean, my love.”

Wylan is the son of the crooked merchant and many question his motives for being so loyal to a bunch of thieves but Bardugo sums it all up so well: “Until this moment, Wylan hadn't quite understood how much they meant to him. His father would have sneered at these thugs and thieves, a disgraced soldier, a gambler who couldn't keep out of the red. But they were his first friends, his only friends, and Wylan knew that even if he'd had his pick of a thousand companions, these would have been the people he chose.”

There are further revelation in the chracters relationships and their exploration of sexuality. That said, the sexual tension between Kaz and Inej is so tightly wrapped it hurts to read.

Crooked Kindgom is hugely rewarding and an urgent read. Highly recommended. Bardugo grows in stature as a writer and surely Hollywood will be making 'Six of Crows' into a movie soon.

Kaz, as ever has the best lines: “I don’t hold a grudge. I cradle it. I coddle it. I feed it fine cuts of meat and send it to the best schools. I nurture my grudges, Rollins.”
© Sam Hawksmoor - author of The Heaviness and Toz

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