Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Ketterdam

It feels very much like we’re living in a dystopian novel at the moment, like many others I’ve been staying at home, worrying about family and glued to the news over the last week, yet at times it’s been necessary and calming to retreat from our strange, new reality into fiction.

Crooked Kingdom starts just after the events of Six of Crows (reviewed here); betrayed by the merchant Van Eck who hired them for the seemingly impossible prison break in the first book, the Crows are seeking vengeance while Van Eck attempts to eliminate them.

I have such a soft spot for rogues and underdogs who refuse to give up no matter how impossible it seems, and I loved seeing how this band of misfits fought back when Kaz’s carefully laid plans fell apart. What makes this duology so compulsive is that time after time the Crows are outwitted, ambushed and betrayed, yet somehow they always drag themselves out of it and refuse to give up. Although magic exists in the Grishaverse, I also really appreciated that most of the characters rely on a combination of skill and cunning rather than superpowers.

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The romantic subplots are a little bit neat in that all six of the main characters pair off, though not everyone gets their happily ever after. Kaz and Inej in particular have become some of my favourite characters, and I was fascinated watching them circle each other warily, trying to bridge the distance across their personal traumas.

Crooked Kingdom contains the same blend of humour, action, twists and romance as Six of Crows, but I enjoyed the second book even more than the first. When reality seems stranger than fiction, I’m grateful to have stories as absorbing as this to escape into. Hoping everyone is safe and well. X

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

A Conjuring of Lights

I’d been putting off reading the final part of the Shades of Magic trilogy because I’d fallen in love with the characters and their world so much that I didn’t want the adventure to be over, yet I finally gave in to the competing desire to find out how it all ends.

A Conjuring of Light starts immediately after the end of A Gathering of Shadows (reviewed here). There’s a certain sense of circularity in that the plot of the final book resembles that of the first, A Darker Shade of Magic (reviewed here) as once again magic incarnate spreads like a plague possessing or destroying all who come into contact with it, yet this time the stakes are so much higher. There’s a real sense of desperation as Kell, Lila, Holland, Rhy and Alucard battle to save the besieged city, and they have to set aside their differences and grudges to work together to fight a common enemy.

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A Conjuring of Light was full of enough suspense, betrayals, sacrifices, romance and humour to keep me hooked right up to an ending that felt both satisfying and bittersweet. This is one of the best fantasy series I’ve read in a long while, and a trilogy that I’ll happily re-read at some point. Have a lovely week. X

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows

Although I read a lot of fantasy, I’ve outgrown most of the stories about dragons, dwarves and elves, but one aspect that continues to draw me in is ordinary characters who find themselves caught up in epic events and I have a particular soft-spot for rogues and underdogs. Six of Crows kept getting recommended to me based on other books I’ve enjoyed and I regret waiting so long to read it because it was exactly the type of character driven fantasy adventure that I love.

Six of Crows follows a group of teenage thieves, misfits, orphans and runaways lead by the criminal prodigy, Kaz Brekker. Kaz and his handpicked team are hired by the merchant Jan Van Eck for a high risk, high reward heist: break into an impenetrable military stronghold to rescue a hostage – preventing chaos and war in the process.

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For a young adult novel, this was a little darker than I expected containing descriptions of torture and references to sexual exploitation, but it also ticks all the boxes for diversity with a cast made of different races as well as LGBTQ and disabled characters.

Six of Crows contains plenty of unexpected twists, action and suspense, romantic pining and humour, it’s a thrilling roller-coaster ride of a story that ends on a cliffhanger, and I can’t wait to find out how the final part of this duology resolves itself. Have a lovely week. X