Crooked Kingdoms by Leigh Bardugo

Book: Crooked Kingdoms
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt (2016)
Format & Pages: Paperback, 546 pages
Series: Six of Crows #2

SYNOPSIS:
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 left crippled by the kidnapping of a valuable team member, 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.


MY RATING: 4 out of 5

RECOMMENDED FOR: People who like zippy and exciting high fantasy stories with unpredictable kick-ass characters.

I liked this book a little less than the first one, but by just a hair. I am however really glad I could read this immediately after finishing the first book. I loved how I felt the continuity between the two books. The characters were still the amazing bunch of people I grew to love, but their relationships have shifted somewhat. Some in bigger ways than others, but this new dynamic and loyalty between them was a joy to watch.

Inej is without a doubt my favorite character in this series because she is literally the glue that holds everyone together. I will miss her so so much now that I’m done with this duology! Another thing I will miss is the sizzling chemistry between Kaz and Inej. There isn’t too much room for romance with all that was going on in this book, plus both their painful pasts make it hard for them to become intimate with another person, but we definitely get a glimpse of where it could go in time. I need Leigh Bardugo to write another novella about these two, specifically when they’ve grown a little older.

By the way, I still find it hard to believe that these characters are teenagers.

I really appreciate the diversity Leigh Bardugo incorporated in these books. I’m not just talking about race here, but also because she included some really likable gay characters. Can I just say their romance is the most adorbs out of the three available? I’m going to miss all that funny bickering and all those times I rolled my eyes because gawd can they just kiss already?! HAHA!

I was pretty amazed by the plot twists and turns in this book, and frankly I want to know what Kaz eats for his meals so I can be just as clever and wily as he is. The boy has some pretty amazing foresight, and all his scheming and plotting bore fruit to a very satisfying degree as far as his enemies were concerned. And yes, that includes his beef with one Pekka Rollins. Kaz couldn’t have wrapped up his revenge more brilliantly than this. (And with a little surprise help from Inej, which made it even more satisfying!)

All in all, this was a pretty damn good duology as far as I’m concerned. I can’t say I’m happy about the ending and the tragedies that had to occur, but that’s the way it is I suppose. Seriously though, can Leigh Bardugo please make a Kaz and Inej novella? Pretty please?

[Top Book Pick] Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Book: Six of Crows
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Indigo (2015)
Format & Pages: Paperback, 491 pages
Series: Six of Crows #1

SYNOPSIS:

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court. (A military stronghold that has never been breached.)

Retrieve a hostage. (Who could unleash magical havoc on the world.)

Survive long enough to collect his reward. (And spend it.)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.


MY RATING: 4.5 out of 5

RECOMMENDED FOR: People who like zippy and exciting high fantasy stories with unpredictable kick-ass characters.

WHAT I LOVE:

  • I don’t think there’s anything I didn’t love about this book. One of my favourite reads from the last few years for sure!
  • It’s been a while since I’ve felt this much enthusiasm for a bunch of fictional characters. It’s difficult to follow 6 “main” characters at a time (plus all those side characters) but it never felt like that here. This crew was so well-balanced, each character so well-written! There’s nothing more I could ask for in that department.
  • Everybody loves a gray character these days, and I never felt for a moment that Bardugo forced to humanize any of them through their backstories just to justify their actions. These characters know who they are fundamentally. They also know what they want. It’s nice to see characters that are consistent and who don’t suddenly change for the sake of adding a “plot twist”. (I mean, that’s what having a solid plot is for right?)
  • The flow of the story never breaks nor does it get derailed even though the author chose to write it in multiple perspectives. And let me tell you, this moves at breakneck speed! The plot is solid enough to support its pace though.
  • The chapters have their distinct voices, and I love how we get a little closer to each character as the story progresses and we continue to see through their eyes. There were many make or break moments throughout this book and Bardugo used those to really flesh out her characters while at the same time staying true to them.
  • The subtle moments that showed the deep relationship between Kaz and his beloved Wraith were so wistful and lovely I had to stop myself from rereading and rereading. (I’m a shipper obviously.) But then there were these defining moments that I just could not help but DEVOUR. Repeatedly. It’s amazing how bad Brekker has it for Inej and yet his self control is still intact.

WHAT I’M ON THE FENCE ABOUT:

  • I don’t even know if this counts but I seriously wish we had a little more on the romance department HAHAHA!

OVERALL THOUGHTS:

The last time a book made me stay up into the wee hours of the morning was when I read Eon/Eona a long long time ago. I wish I’d had the mind to read this during my slump last year because it surely would’ve helped me overcome it.

I didn’t read the Grisha Trilogy (yet), though despite that I had a solid understanding of how this universe worked as I read through the book. The story revolves around this Grisha ability enhancing drug called jurda parem which ties our main characters together and puts them into the path of a very meticulous heist. It wasn’t until the end that we figure out who the real enemy is, and even if you had an inkling you wouldn’t be able to guess how it could all possibly play out.

Leigh Bardugo has as many tricks up her sleeve as her main character Kaz Brekker does. But the most important of them is her ability to create one hell of a book that has the complete formula– great plot, great characters, great writing, and of course, a great storyline. (Okay fine, great mini romance too.)

This book is really just perfect to me. Everything from plot to story flow to pace and down to the characters were so well-done. After the ending of book one, I’m so glad I didn’t read this when it first came out. How could I have dealt with that cliffhanger without the second book in my hands?! Leigh Bardugo pretty much just became one of my must-read authors.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Book: A Monster Calls
Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: Candlewick Press (2013)
Format & Pages: Paperback, 206 pages

An unflinching, darkly funny, and deeply moving story of a boy, his seriously ill mother, and an unexpected monstrous visitor.

At seven minutes past midnight, thirteen-year-old Conor wakes to find a monster outside his bedroom window. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting– he’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the nightmare he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments.

The monster in his backyard is different. It’s ancient. And wild. And it wants something from Conor. Something terrible and dangerous. It wants the truth.

From the final idea of award-winning author Siobhan Dowd– whose premature death from cancer prevented her from writing it herself– Patrick Ness has spun a haunting and darkly funny novel of mischief, loss, and monsters both real and imagined.


RECOMMENDED FOR: People who enjoy a moody tale that feels like a quick-reading fable with a moral lesson.

WHAT I LOVE:

  • The fact that this book tackled grief, denial, and death is commendable for a children’s book. Those concepts are quite deep and even adults have difficulty getting a grasp on them.

WHAT I HATE:

  • The slow slow pace at which I had to sit through Connor’s spiraling out of control.

WHAT I’M ON THE FENCE ABOUT:

  • There’s something about tying in that element of the Monster with how Conor dealt with his grief and denial that made it less believable for me. On the other hand, having the Monster there added a certain dream-like quality to the tale that perfected the mood of this book.

OVERALL THOUGHTS:

I actually wasn’t interested in getting this book but changed my mind after the stellar reviews, so needless to say I had so many expectations. I went into this book thinking I would feel the same kind of emotions that I did with The Book Thief, but after reading about a quarter I knew it wasn’t going to be the case.

The main character wasn’t a very likable kid to begin with, and I guess my lack of a connection with Conor was what ultimately led me to not feel as much. He was sulky and very very difficult. I had to make myself remember that kids processed things a little differently than adults but it didn’t work. I think the problem is that children’s books and me, we simply don’t match up.

It’s not that I have a heart of stone. (I did get teary eyed with that scene at the end between Connor and his Mum!) However the stretch of time watching Connor self-destruct wasn’t pleasant for me and ultimately ruined the mood, if you will. I felt like his grandmother because I was having my patience tested too.

I can’t completely blame Conor though. There were a lot of decisions made by his parents that contributed to his behaviour and the way he handled the things going on in his life. His Dad had pretty much abandoned him and his Mum for a brand new family in America. Meanwhile, his Mum just kept hiding the extent of her condition thinking that Conor couldn’t handle the truth. It just goes to show that it’s not always true that adults know better. Also, honesty in the first step towards acceptance.

Maybe for my 26 year-old mind it simply wasn’t as effective as it could have been on someone younger. All in all, for all the hype this book enjoyed I found it to be just okay.

Half A King by Joe Abercrombie

Book: Half A King
Author: Joe Abercrombie
Publisher: Del Rey Books (2015)
Format & Pages: Paperback, 368 pages
Series: Shattered Sea #1

A classic coming-of-age tale set in a vivid and richly imagined world.

‘I swore an oath to be avenged on the killers of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath’

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, and traps and tragedy…


MY RATING: 4 out of 5

RECOMMENDED FOR: People who enjoy novels with a medieval fantasy setting but don’t want to sit through something as long as Game of Thrones.

WHAT I LOVE:

  • First of all, I didn’t know what to feel or expect going into this book. But as I continued reading it, I went from being annoyed with Yarvi to feeling sympathetic for his plight to eventually cheering him on. Yarvi isn’t necessarily a character you can easily connect with at the beginning. He’s prickly and very bitter about his whole existence because he has a deformed hand. He became the laughingstock of the royal family and I can understand where his insecurities were coming from. When he was thrust into the throne you could see how naive he was because growing up he just wanted someone he could trust. But he gets a good dose of reality check in the worst possible way, and that’s when you start seeing him change and grow and become wiser. An unlikely hero, in other words. The way the author incited a change of heart in me was quite commendable.
  • When I started reading this, it was during a horrible reading slump. But it was so interesting I decided I would pick it up again when I got my groove back. The plot is simple enough with a theme that we all enjoy (revenge!) but it’s presented in such an absorbing way.
  • The story is well-paced. It’s not exactly a full-length action adventure (because Yarvi is a whimp as far as fabtasy heroes go) but you get bits of action in one place, bits of adventure in another, plus a good dose of emotional reflections. I would call this a well-balanced book.
  • I really like the secondary characters in this novel and how they managed to form friendships with Yarvi in the end. They started off in the absolute worst way, but they were forced to put their heads together to survive, and they just clicked. I quite enjoyed the friendly banter!
  • There was a twist near the ending then another twist during the ending scene itself. Both were rather unexpected but the last one was soooo Yarvi! I loved it. 👍🏻

WHAT I HATE:

  • The villains were as one-dimensional and stereotypical as you can get. This is not something I’m used to in the fantasy genre. Particularly, Grom Gil-Gorm was verging on comical. I was told that he was a ferocious killer but I didn’t feel threatened by him at all because he didn’t seem like someone with wits. I dunno. The other villain was just pure evil, while the main driving force of Yarvi’s revenge was your regular old throne-stealer. There wasn’t much depth behind these characters because the focus was more on making sure the good guys were well-written. I like a story with a good villain so I was disappointed in this aspect.

WHAT I’M ON THE FENCE ABOUT:

  • After reading a lot of high fantasy books, I felt that the world-building here was kind of basic. You get some ideas about how the different kingdoms are related to each other and how they all have to bow down to a more powerful High King, but that’s about it. Maybe in the next books we’ll get a clearer picture?

OVERALL THOUGHTS:

I enjoyed this book in a way that felt like 4 stars despite finding it to be High Fantasy Lite. The story keeps your attention, and I like how I get to be emotionally in touch with the main character. I think that’s the strength of this novel– you feel as much frustration, anger, exhaustion, fear, and triumph that Yarvi does.

And another thing I really admire was how the author convinced me that Yarvi had changed from this annoying brat into someone cunning; someone who could beat his terrible odds by using his brains instead of his brawns. I really didn’t like him in the beginning but Yarvi just unexpectedly grows on you in his own weird way!