Review of Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In theory, a duology shouldn’t suffer from the traditional “second book” syndrome that plagues trilogies. It’s a sequel – the completion of a thought. All of the loose ends knot together. Again, in theory.

Unfortunately (and it genuinely pains me to say this), Ms. Bardugo tripped up this time. You turn that final page and start checking for torn or missing pages. Too many questions remain for the tale to reach a logical conclusion. I actually checked to ensure I hadn’t missed another book, an announcement of the third installment. That would make sense and ease some of my unease at the dangling threads.

The Kherguud? An introduced element that rises, creates suitable havoc, and then – what? Is the reader meant to forget their existence? Was there no other way to bring complications to the caper? Adding characters to the board isn’t unheard of, but they need backstories, a grounding in the world. Otherwise, it feels like “divine intervention.” (Even if you choose to eliminate them) Sure, the tension and conflict added a heightened enjoyment – to say nothing of the brilliant scheming of the Crows – but WHY? Where did they all come from? And what was their motivation? Without full development, they feel like cardboard chess pieces.

As much as I adored the tale, it lacked the complexity of the first book. Delving into the stories behind the primary characters added dimension to them, but at what expense? I wish Ms. Bardugo had thought through more of her secondary plots. Or (better yet) made the third book to carry the remainder of the story I can feel lurking.

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