Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo Review + Discussion

Hey guys. I’m Trina and this is my book review of Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. There are going to be spoilers in this video because I just need to kind of talk out my thoughts on it. I would rate this book like three stars but every time I think back on it I just kind of feel like let down. Now this is the second book in the Six of Crows duology and I did not make a separate full review video of Six of Crows but I didn’t review that one in my February Wrap Up, which I will link in the description for you guys if you want to know more of my thoughts on the first book. I do have a spoiler-free duology review up as well. This video is going to be full of spoilery thoughts so if you have not yet read this book and don’t want to be spoiled, don’t watch. I do want to be fair and talk about the things that I both like and don’t like but I feel like the things I liked about Crooked Kingdom, this book by itself specifically, are just really quick things to say: I enjoyed the characters, I enjoyed the heist element to both of these books, I enjoy Leigh Bardugo’s world-building. One of my favorite things about getting into Crooked Kingdom was characters that I didn’t like that much or felt like I didn’t really get to know in the first book – I love them in Crooked Kingdom! Especially Wylan, because we didn’t really get to know him in the first book because he didn’t have his own point of view. I thought that the story and the plot that were happening here were exciting. I do find that I enjoy heist type stories. One thing that I really like about the way in which these heists always pull off is that Kaz is a character who always has the upper hand, and this is also something I’m gonna talk about my dislikes section but I’ll start out with what I like about this and then I’ll move into that. Things happen in this book and you think the whole group is just doomed. Everything has gone wrong. They’re captured, there’s no chance of escape, and then all of a sudden Kaz pulls out something else and he’s like, ‘actually, I led us all to this exact point because I predicted that this and this and this we’re going to happen and hey I also have a back-up plan for this and here’s our out.’ Like, he’s just a master manipulator. He’s pulling all the strings even when you don’t know that he is and that does make it an exciting story to me. However, there is a point in Crooked Kingdom where things are revealed to be not what they seemed and it was actually a big thing that I did not like about the book. There is a scene where they are all – all six of our characters – are sitting around talking about how they’re going to plan out this auction of Kuwei. So they’re planning and they’re saying in the dialogue, ‘we need to set up a fund, take the money, and then funnel it to Ravka so that Ravka can have the funds to bid on him.’ And then later on they get caught and all of our characters are like, ‘Eh, actually that’s not what happened. We funneled that money to the Shu so the Shu people would take the fall for it. I don’t mind that the change was made, that made it very interesting, but when I found that out I felt like, you know, like all the stakes that I had just gone through, that I thought everything was at risk, I feel like that just was all taken away from me. Another thing I want to talk abouttwhat I didn’t like in terms of the plot and the events that happened was I did not like the character death. We saw one of our six main characters die: Matthias. And I feel like this came out of nowhere. I don’t have a problem with him dying. I don’t have a problem with writers killing off any of their characters. I had a good feeling that someone was going to die in the story and my bets were that it was going to be Matthias. I just don’t like how it happened. They pull off this big master plan, they get away with it, and he’s just literally walking down the street and some kid who doesn’t even know him, that we’ve never met before, just walked out with a gun and shoots him for something that Mathias did like a long time ago and it just felt so random and out of place. In terms of the writing of this book, something that I really didn’t like about it was the particular narration style. Leigh Bardugo is using a third person point of view but each chapter starts out with a character’s name so we are following that specific character in each chapter but I was finding myself thinking this more often as Crooked Kingdom went on: I noticed that she would be describing a scene happening with like, you know, two or three characters by giving us the point of view of a character that was not involved in that scene and while I kind of appreciate that as a narration style because you’re getting an overview, that in itself also prevented me from really getting to know these characters in a way that I wanted to. I did feel more removed from them. I felt like if one of the characters that was actually actively involved in the scene was the one narrating that maybe I would understand their motivations, their feelings, their emotional reactions to things better than just having an outsider overview. And then the final thing that I want to discuss: I felt like the text of Crooked Kingdom made a couple of jokes that just made me really uncomfortable. On page 70, near the beginning of the book there is a chapter where Jesper and Wylan are going to like Ketterdam University, this college campus, and one of the plot points early on is that Jesper has lost his prized guns. So as he’s walking onto this college campus he’s kind of bemoaning the fact that he’s lost his guns in his head and in his italicized internal thoughts he says: “Well it’s not like I could have worn my revolvers on this errand anyway.” And then the narrative returns to normal, not inside of his head anymore, and it says: “Students and professors didn’t go from class to class packing powder. Might make for a more interesting school day if they did.” I just stopped and was like wait a minute did this just say that a school day would be more interesting if people brought guns to school? And I started to get angry about this. Why would you say it would be a more interesting school day if people were shooting each other? That’s that’s what I’m inferring from it. I found this pretty insensitive. I was pretty disappointed by that line to be honest with you guys. The other one that I did not enjoy is a joke that I felt was made at the expense of mental illness. So this is on page 347. There’s a scene where Kaz is explaining that he wants Kuwei to put himself up for auction and Nina reacts to this by saying “Are you mad?” And Kaz replies:
“I’d probably be happier if i was.: I get it. It’s a joke. Happy. Mad. They’re opposite emotions. The word mad is very commonly, historically was used to describe somebody that had a mental illness and it just it gave me the impression as if this reply was saying that “if I had a mental illness I would have fewer cares in the world. I would have fewer things to deal with and my life would be easier and happier.” (belittling) There’s a whole article that I recently read from Disability In Kid Lit, which I will link in the description, about how language can very commonly be ableist. Using language like “that’s crazy,” “that’s insane,” “that’s mad.” That is used throughout this book too. I think those words are kind of habitually ingrained in a lot of people to be used flippantly but using words that are commonly associated with either disability or mental illness in just a flippant way can be very harmful because it casts a stigma on them. Here’s another example of this that I’m going to edit in so excuse the voiceover, but I did not actually notice this one when I first read the book. This one was pointed out to me through somebody on Twitter, her username is @swingingstorm. I’m gonna leave the entire thread that she mentioned about why this one it was problematic down in the description but in this scene we have two characters, Jesper and Wylan, talking about something horrible that Wylan’s father has done. And the text in the scene is Jesper telling Wylan that “Normal people don’t…” do that. “This happened because your father is a lunatic…” and so the meaning that you can infer from this example here is that only people with mental illness are responsible for bad things. His father is an evil person but that doesn’t mean he has a mental illness and I don’t think it’s responsible to credit acts of evil with people with mental illness because people who are neurotypical, meaning they don’t have a mental illness, can do acts of great harm and great evil. This is kind of scapegoating bad actions on to people who have a mental disability and none of the cases that I’ve pointed out here that I took issue with, none of them were challenged. In fact in this scene Wylan says, “That’s true…” I don’t think this is what she (Bardugo) intended. I’m just saying that these are things that I noticed that made me stop and think, that made me examine it and that’s not a bad thing, examining what we read. Examine the way that things are worded sometimes and like is this made at the expense of a certain group of marginalized people? That is all I have to say on the topic of Crooked Kingdom. Like I said in the beginning, I didn’t hate this book. There are a lot of things I really liked about it and that I really enjoyed but then there were a lot of things that I didn’t enjoy. I know a lot of people loved it, I totally respect that. So if you guys have read this one please let me know what you thought, if you notice any of the things that I did and you didn’t like those either let me know that too so I know if i’m not alone or not. But I probably am pretty alone. Thank you all so much for watching and I will see you in the comments. Bye!

9 thoughts on “Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo Review + Discussion

  1. Finally! I liked SoC but not CK. 💔someone gave you a thumbs down for this review …. because you didn't like parts of this book? Love this review Trina. It voiced some thoughts I had but couldn't put into words so thank you!

  2. Interesting thoughts! I was entertained by Crooked Kingdom (and I thought Six of Crows was a lot of fun), but I had issues with it as well, although not the same issues (I actually like that Matthias died outside of the main plot, because at that point I felt like the constant "this was part of their clever plan!" saves had killed any sense of suspense for me, and I was pleased to see that at least someone was at risk for something in there). To be honest, I feel like I would have liked both books more if I'd heard less hype. There were so many people calling them great books, so when I read them and thought they were great fun but not great writing I ended up feeling disappointed even though I actually did really enjoy them as entertainment.

  3. There are annotations on this video. If you are viewing on mobile and can't see them, here is a copy.

    @6:51: "@swingingstorm is an editor for Disability in Kid Lit and worked on the article I previously mentioned."

    @8:32: "This was an opinion based review and not everyone has to get the same meaning out of the included quotes as I did. I've been open about having anxiety, and that definitely played into my interpretations. This is in no way an attack on Leigh Bardugo. Leigh has acknowledged the situation and apologized in a reply to @swingingstorm's tweets. She's an amazing author!"

  4. I really enjoyed this book. I was still in trying to get over a book slump when I read it, but overall I still was able to ended up loving this book, but not as much as the first one. I really like how even though you did have a problem with this book, you still liked some parts of it. I feel like most readers won't see what you was in the book because of all the hype that surrounds this book, myself included. So your review is breath of fresh air, because it's honest but your also not bashing the book of the author. Which is something some people have a hard time doing when reviewing a book.

  5. as to that gun comment, I get that its fantasy but the publishers should know better then to publish a book that says guns in schools will be more interesting considering the book is written and published in a time where school shootings are happening. its kind of insensitivite though it is not intentional.

  6. Thank you, Trina for pointing those things out. I completely missed them when I read Crooked Kingdom but I appreciate you for bringing them to my (and other people's) attention and discussing them more in depth.

  7. The sad thing is I probably wouldn't have picked up on those quotes because honestly (as I imagine is the case with Leigh Bardugo herself) it's so normalised to say some of those phrases so it almost becomes swept away and normalised. Thank you for voicing your opinions, I appreciate it

  8. I totally understand your opinion on this book. I know I am late with this comment but I recently finished this book and I personally loved it. Though I don't feel like Leigh meant to be offensive and ableist, you talking about this definitely opened up my eyes. I viewed these comments as something normal, when people do something evil they are called lunatics, and I understand how that is offensive, but I have also grown up with a society that makes these accusations regular. As for Matthias's death, I was very shocked too, but then I watched an interview with Leigh were she stated that Matthias was killed by a younger version of himself, someone he tried to change for the better and it all kind of just came full circle. I was also discontent with the sudden "Haha! This was planned all along!" moments too, but I feel as if that was more on Kaz's behalf then the whole crew.

  9. I absolutely hate myself for not being vigilant enough to catch Jesper's joke about school shooting and the slander of mental disability (both stayed unchallenged, so they ended up normalising these issues). I originally gave this book one out of five stars because I was bored beyond words, but now I'd give it a negative rating. Thank you so much for this review. I've resolved to read more critically and closely. Boredom cannot be an excuse.

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