A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Leigh Bardugo's Crooked Kingdom, the follow-up to the riveting Six of Crows, is related to her Grisha trilogy, but you can read Six of Crows and this sequel without reading the other series first. As with Six of Crows, the content is consistently mature and a better fit for mature teen readers -- high schoolers, not middle schoolers. Characters are complex, flawed, and sometimes responsible for some of the worst violence. While there's no arena fighting in this one, there are a few jarringly gory moments, the worst being a gunshot in an eye socket: "[T]he blast didn't just take her eye but most of the top of her skull." An important character is shot and killed, a torture scene includes a mallet that almost shatters a leg, and main characters take some truly bloody beatings (killing some in the process, including a man with broken nails in his windpipe). They are also shot at repeatedly and pelted with knives and throwing stars (one time on a high wire with no net). Explosions injure people, and corpses turn zombie-like or are taken out of morgues. Other mature content includes kissing and flirting, both straight and gay, and some drinking and drug and gambling addiction among teens. Strong language is pretty infrequent, with only one use of "f--king." Characters are driven by revenge and the fight for their own survival but also by a need for connection. They work to protect each other from those preying on the powerless.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In CROOKED KINGDOM, Kaz and his crew are still reeling after being double-crossed by the very crooked merchant Jan Van Eck. Not only did they not get their money for breaking into the Ice Court and retrieving Kuwei, a Shu who can make the dreaded drug jurda parem, but also Inej has been kidnapped and held as leverage. Of course with control over the manufacture of a powerful drug that turns Grisha into unstoppable soldiers on the line, there are plenty more enemies to make -- whole countries and gang bosses alike. Kaz's team's difficult rescue of Inej is just the beginning. Then Jesper's innocent father is lured to town -- more leverage -- Grisha such as Jesper and Nina are hunted down in the streets, and their faces turn up on wanted posters all over Ketterdam.
Is it any good?
Like the amazing Inej on a high wire, this satisfying sequel is both incredibly exciting and well balanced. Crooked Kingdom may have a bit less action than the nonstop Six of Crows, but readers who feel invested in these fascinating and flawed characters won't mind fewer gladiator-style prison fights in favor of a better grasp of Wylan's fear of his evil father or Jesper's fear of his good one and his gambling addiction. Between plotting and scheming to stay ahead of absolutely everyone -- gang bosses, merchants, police, whole foreign kingdoms -- readers are treated to a real understanding of these characters, of the nature and power of addiction and PTSD, and even of the damaging effects of slavery, prostitution, and prejudice.
And then we get back to the action. Yes, Kaz stays one step ahead even though it always looks as if he's not. But were it not for Nina's frightening new gift, Inej's ability to dodge knives at unspeakable heights, Jesper's unerring shooting accuracy, and the astounding talents of the rest of the crew, all of Kaz's uber-complex plans would go nowhere. It's a nail-biting joy to watch it all unfold and to see this ultimate team of underdogs best an entire city of enemies.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the two addicted characters in Crooked Kingdom. How are gambling addiction and drug addiction similar? How are they different? Do you have more empathy for those struggling with addiction after feeling invested in the lives of the characters in this book?
Nina and Matthias both struggle with prejudice, each against the people of the other's country. How do they work to begin to overcome it?
What do you think is next for these characters? Will you keep reading about them? Why, or why not?
- Author: Leigh Bardugo
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Henry Holt & Company, Inc.
- Publication date: September 27, 2016
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 560
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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