CROOKED KINGDOM: A Book Review

Usually, sequels suck. BUT SOMETIMES, SEQUELS ARE AMAZING.

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Crooked Kingdom is the sequel to Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. I greatly enjoyed Six of Crows (you can read it about it here) but I LOVED Crooked Kingdom. This review is probably going to be short because I raced through Crooked Kingdom in 3 days and I’m still trying to process how I finished this series in a week. So much happens, and it all happens so fast, which keeps the reader thoroughly invested and engaged. All of the slow parts from Six of Crows evaporate: we already know who these characters are, so we don’t need character introductions and relationship establishments. Of course, we still do get background information, especially from Wylan who we didn’t hear from in Six of Crows, and from Kaz, who is the most broken of them all, but there’s less of it, so it feels more natural and it doesn’t feel like it’s slowing down the pace.

Crooked Kingdom is written in a smart manner. Whereas Six of Crows had the intensity slowly build throughout the book, leading to a long, climatic battle, Crooked Kingdom is intense all the way through. There isn’t really a “moment of peace” in the text, and the only things that bring lulls in the action are either backstory or scheming scenes. Crooked Kingdom feels urgent, and I absolutely love that.

As I mentioned in my review of Six of Crows, this series is plot driven rather than character driven. It’s great, and I love that, but the characters are still fleshed out fully, into real, broken people. Everyone has a tragic past, in some way shape or form, and they all develop into better people throughout the books, but in a very realistic way. I wouldn’t say any of them are “cured” of their ailments, or that they all come out better people. I wouldn’t even say that most of them are happy. But they are more loving, more supportive, and a bit more kind to themselves. They change and develop, but in a way that still feels realistic and true. It might just be my favourite thing about the series.

Okay, I have one thing to complain about, and just one. There are a lot of missing scenes in this series, or scenes we only hear about after the fact. I understand why: these books are about scheming and lawbreaking and intricate plots. To have all these little scenes– which mainly develop character– would ruin the plot twists and (fantastic, amazing, breathtaking) reveals. But is it really so bad that I want to see more of Wylan and Jesper? Or that I want to see exactly how it is that Kaz’s mind works? Overall, this isn’t a big deal and it does not hinder the books, but when you grow attached to characters, you wish that there was more.

Six of Crows is fantastic, but Crooked Kingdom is better. If you have the chance, pick up these books and give them a read. They might not change your life, but I guarantee that their twists and spins and lovable characters will be the escape that you need this holiday season.

4.5 crows out of 5.

So, let’s talk! Who’s your favourite character? Least favourite? Any twists you didn’t see, or any you saw coming from a mile away? Let me know your thoughts!!

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SIX OF CROWS: A Book Review

A good ending can make or break an entire book.

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Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is one of those books that I see floating around the Tumblr book sphere. I didn’t know much about it, but my roommate revealed it was her favourite book series so I decided to give it a shot. And now I’m going to share my thoughts with you:

Six of Crows throws you right into the story, and you end up feeling like Mr Krabs.

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It’s not necessarily a bad thing. When you’re writing in a fantasy setting, you have two options: you can throw the reader in without explanation, or you can have your reader follow the protagonist who is also an outsider to this world. It takes some time to orient yourself in Six of Crows, and to figure out what the hell everyone is talking about, but it’s not too hard to make sense of the world. So if you’re confused at first, just keep on swimming.

It took me about 3/4 of the book before I really got into it. I liked it, and I liked the characters, but it wasn’t until we approached the climax that I really held tight to the book and audibly reacted to every twist and reveal. I like the way urgency builds up near the end, and how the stakes keep getting raised higher and higher, but I didn’t really like having to wait so long to get there. But once again, it’s worth it! I swear!

So Six of Crows is more plot-driven than character-driven. This is a bit different from most of the books I choose to read as I prefer character pieces over fast-paced plot. That isn’t to say that the characters aren’t fleshed out. The reason why the middle of the book feels so full is that it’s full of flashbacks and (tragic) backstories. It’s nice to get to hear from most of the characters and to really understand who they are and why they are the way they are but sadly we hear so minimal about the two characters I liked best (thank God for sequels). All the characters are unique and have very different backgrounds and are quite likable. I didn’t dislike anyone, but I did prefer some to others, which is how I think it should be with any ensemble piece.

Last comment: there’s 6 of them…. which means they pair off into couples very easily… which the novel does not try to hide at all. Which I kind of love.

I’m going to start the sequel today, so I will keep you updated. As I said at the beginning of this piece, an ending can make or break a novel, or a series. I have high hopes. Don’t let me down.

I’ll see you on the other side.

4 crows out of 5  

UNSPOKEN: A Book Review

Sometimes, a light read is all you need.

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I picked up Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan on a whim, and also maybe because there was a fanfiction I wanted to read that was inspired by it. On Goodreads, it had mixed reviews so I took a chance and dove right into it, not expecting much.

And, surprisingly, I kind of loved it.

The writing is basic: it’s not poetic, filled with beautiful metaphors and imagery, but it is very clear. It’s easy to follow the story due to the clarity of the prose, which means that it’s easy to lose yourself in the plot. Speaking of which, the plot is surprisingly good. Maybe it’s not life-changing or world-crashing, but it is a decent story and intriguing enough to make you want to turn the page. It does have that dark, gothic feel to it which I love: gothic fiction is the best. This is a I’ve-had-a-bad-day-and-I-want-to-turn-my-mind-off type of book and it is very easy to slip into. You won’t rush to get to the end, but you will digest it slowly, when you need it most. It’s a good book, okay?

So now I’m brought to the characters. Alright. Kami can be kind of annoying but in that cute, annoying little sister kind of way. She’s smart and independent and (spoiler?????) totally doesn’t fall for the romance plot while everyone else does. It’s kind of brilliant that way. It feels like everyone else is falling in love and hoping for romance (for themselves and each other) and Kami is just kind of like GUYS, WE HAVE A MYSTERY TO SOLVE. Give me more women like this in fiction.

The side characters are all extremely interesting. Especially the Lyburns. Personally, I am a little bit in love with Lillian and I hope, if I choose to read the sequel, she’s in it a bit more. She’s a very complex, complicated character and I want to hear more about her life. Ash and Jared are also very interesting, and I feel like there are still many secrets that need to be revealed regarding their lives and their relationship with each other. Angela is also a fantastic character who hates everyone and is thus totally relateable.

And last but not least, there’s an organic queer relationship! I was not expecting it until about midway through when something smacked me across the face and I went ‘oh, duh!’ It’s great, really, really great. I love how YA fiction is becoming more inclusive in this regard and including queer relationships that aren’t central to the plot.

In summary: Unspoken is a light, easy read full of interesting and mostly likable characters. The plot, while not mind-blowing, is fun and intriguing, and I found this book thoroughly enjoyable, especially when you want to relax and think about nothing.

3 Lyburns out of 5

(see? That rating is perfect because of how there are 5 Lyburns! And I only like 3 of them!)

Some thoughts re: art, history, and election

Yesterday, my campus was grieving. We are Canadians yet the impact of the US election was felt no matter where you went. While Canada, last year, stepped ahead and elected Trudeau, America took a giant leap backwards.

In my class on Jane Austen, my professor opened by telling us he was in no mood to think today. His mind was a mess, a hurricane, with thoughts colliding rather than connecting. We briefly shared our thoughts on the election, then my professor made a segue into Mansfield Park.

What proceeded to happen was the best literary discussion of my academic career.

We were all mad and hurt and upset, yet discussing Austen seemed to organize our thoughts in a way that wasn’t distracting, but revealing. Austen allowed us to talk about slavery and racist in the early 1800s. Her work and our discussion allowed us to see how literature, how art, is used to demonstrate the politics of the day. Maybe Austen had a political agenda, or maybe she didn’t. Either way, Mansfield Park reveals the concerns and the hope– the hope!– that existed in this time period.

Mansfield Park allowed us to heal and hope for a better tomorrow. It let us see beautiful art is made from the pain of today. This art expresses everything we want to say, but can’t, or everything we don’t know how to convey. The most beautiful art is brought forth from pain.

Don’t let the election results hinder you. Let them be the fire in your veins.

For with literature and art, we can mark our history and change the day.