Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets – a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Narrators: Brandon Rubin, Jay Snider, Elizabeth Evans, Fred Berman, Peter Ganim, Lauren Fortgang, Roger Clark, Kevin T. Collins.
Running Time: 18hrs 4 mins
Publisher: Audible Studios
Audio Release Date: 27/09/2016
My Review of ‘Crooked Kingdom’: 4.5 out of 5
As with the first in the series (Six of Crows) the cover is absolutely wonderful and very artsy (note the hidden crown and city-scape beneath the raven. Very clever) and the blurb is enough to get the reader/listener (this listener anyway) eager to dive into the story.
In Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo introduces us to the Ocean’s Eleven of the fantasy world. The only difference is they are brimming with more character and oozing more cool than George Clooney and his pals ever could. There’s also magic. Danny Ocean couldn’t do that. Crooked Kingdom takes an already rich cast and focuses on adding to their depth rather than their number. This was a pleasant surprise, as many authors tend to dump extra characters into the reader/listener’s lap and hope it makes us feel all happy about what we’ve been given. Not here. Here we are given a truly deeper feeling of every character. We knew them before in Six of Crows, but now we are given an almost intimate connection with each one in Crooked Kingdom. And it felt good. Better than good.
The story, as with Six of Crows was a complex plan hidden within another complex plan buried deep within the twistedly brilliant depths of Kaz Brekker’s mind. He really is one of those characters that you can’t help but love but also can’t help but thank your lucky stars he isn’t a real person. He’s equal parts bad ass and just bad all at once. But he’s just the right mix that you can’t help but wonder why you can’t stop yourself from loving him.
For me, I felt Crooked Kingdom played upon a range of emotions, more so than Six of Crows. There is one scene in particular that I did not expect to happen but DAMN, if it didn’t hit me where I didn’t want to be hit!
As with the vast majority of my seemingly praise-gushing reviews, this one will not be all niceties. There is one crime against my ears that I just cannot keep hidden. I rarely use the word ‘hate’ but in this instance, and the instance of Six of Crows, I genuinely hate the voice used as the main narrator for Kaz Brekker’s bits. His voice is so bad, so gravelly, so ‘I’ve been smoking for fifty years and swallowing glass for another ten’ that I just hated it when Kaz’s bits came on. Honestly, his voice is so grating on the ear that I, an author myself, struggle to put into words how unsuitable it was for ANY character to have that as their actual voice. I couldn’t take it seriously. That fact was upsetting due to Kaz being one of my favourites. The rest of the vocals were on point and, dare I say, perfect. Matthias is very well-done, gives you the image of a strong man attached to the voice. Nina’s makes you think of a sexy young girl who knows exactly how to get what she wants. Jesper sounds effortlessly cool and cocky. Kaz just sounds … wrong.
But enough about my Kaz-voice hating. We can’t all be happy 100% of the time so I will be content with the 99% of the time in this book. I am sure there are some (admittedly odd people) who thought Kaz’s voice was just … lovely.
Another good point about Crooked Kingdom is that Leigh brings back a few characters from her previous trilogy (Grisha Trilogy), so fans of that series will get that little happy moment when reading about characters they remember fondly.
Bardugo does very well to keep the reader/listener guessing, even when they think they know what’s going on. Whether it’s the development of certain sub-plots (Wylan and Jesper, Nina’s power/struggle with Jerda Parem) or simply the overlying main plot. The amount of times I thought I knew what was going to happen and was shocked that I was wrong, is incredible. For instance, certain bits with Kaz were teasingly dangled in front of me and I was given something I didn’t expect instead.
All in all, I am very glad to have listened to the Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom duology. Kaz Brekker’s band of thieves have made for excellent literary companions and I hope they make appearances in future books from Bardugo. I’d find it hard to believe they won’t … but it’s not like I haven’t been wrong about plot direction where Bardugo’s books are concerned.
PS the only reason I did not give this a 5 is because of the voice of Kaz. Thoroughly enjoyed everything else. Even the bits I wish hadn’t happened.