Typically when I finish reading an amazing book, there’s an apprehension that fills me when I hear of a sequel. Many might hear of a sequel and be overjoyed to learn that the story continues, but there have been many that end horribly so. Thankfully Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo turned out to be an amazing and satisfying read that I loved.
This may be my favorite band of misfits I’ve had the pleasure of reading their adventures. With a cast this large and diverse, I expected that one or two of the character plots would be weaker in favor of strengthening the others. But I was pleasantly surprised to see that every one of the crows ended up having a fully fleshed out story. What surprised me most was how much I loved seeing Kaz’s development. His story, in my opinion, was one of the more complicated arcs with several issues and I deeply enjoyed seeing his character progress throughout the story. Each of the characters were given time and focus to develop into their own. You can see by the end of the book how well thought out the stories and relationships between the characters was planned. One of the character arcs though I wish had a bit more concrete conclusion, but the ending was still satisfying to read.
It’s always incredibly satisfying to see world-building elements actually used as part of the plot. Everything established both in book one and two comes together in an incredibly satisfying way as nothing is wasted. What I especially loved in Crooked Kingdom over Six of Crows, was how much more world-building was done. I felt like I learned so much more about Zemeni, Ravkan, and Kerch as the characters plotted and schemed to use the different aspects of each culture. I wish I got to learn a bit more about some of the other elements presented but what was presented was still fantastic.
The story starts off strong with the rescue mission and grows into something far grander and exciting. At no point does the story feel like it stutters as the action surges when it has to for moments of excitement but also allows for quiet moments of contemplation. Characterful insights into what’s transpired and what is yet to come litter the novel and felt welcome as they help create a greater impact to what’s happened. The stakes always felt high and it’s hard not to feel nervous as everything could go wrong in an instant.
But gushing aside, the plot is well thought out with clear transitions as the story progresses. The pacing is a bit slow but on reflection it helps to allow what’s happened to settle in both for the readers and the characters. It’s refreshing to see the story move at a pace that is easy to follow but also fast enough to not become boring. The build up to the climax is well executed and how the different plots intertwine felt great to read.
The writing follows the usual Young Adult formula with being easy to follow and fun to read. There are plenty of allusions and metaphors within the story to help keep the reader engagement alive while not being so overt and distracting. At no point in the long story did I ever feel that I wanted to put it down. Each chapter serves to progress a character’s arc and it was easy and fun to get lost in this world of lovable lowlifes that face off against all odds together.
What Writer’s can learn from this book
This is a very long story. One of the dangers and disadvantages of a book this large is that it’s very easy to have the reader lose interest and wander off. When a book is like a tome, it’s easy for a lot of unnecessary filler to be kept in that might just be too much to read through. But in Crooked Kingdom nothing felt irrelevant as it all served a purpose in the end. Whether it was world building, character motivational moments, or insights the characters have about themselves or the grand plan, everything came to a satisfying conclusion in the end. This is one of the benefits of having a book this large. With this amount of coverage, you as the writer have the potential to flesh out everything in a way that ties together for a satisfying package. I can’t recommend Crooked Kingdom enough for anyone who wants an excellent example a well thought out long story.
Without a doubt this book will stay as one of my personal favorites as an example of plot and character development done right.