8 Cunning Things about Leigh Bardugo’s “Crooked Kingdom”

“Crooked Kingdom”

Grishaverse #5; Six of Crows #2

by Leigh Bardugo

NIKKI’S RATING: 8 OUT OF 10

Summary: Double-crossed by a merchant and the man who killed his brother, Kaz Brekkar is preparing to go to war. As his gang of misfits come together to save the Wraith and even the score, Kaz will need be the ruthless monster of The Barrel as they take on not just two men but the whole town of Ketterdam as word gets out that Kaz is protecting the only person who can create parem, the super addictive and deadly drug that gives Grisha god-like powers.

8 Cunning Things about Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Grishaverse

“Crooked Kingdom” features characters from the Shadow and Bone Trilogy and even though it is a brief glimpse, it is always to see previous characters again. It is like bumping into an old friend.

2. World Building

Bardugo has done an amazing job of building the Grishaverse world and she continues weaving the tapestry. One element of world building that is very prominent in “Crooked Kingdom” is the politics in Kerch. It is drastically different in comparison to Ravka or Fjerda making her universe believable and brings diversity to her fictional world.

3. LGBTQ

As with her previous novels, Bardugo includes characters who identify as LGBTQ. Jesper and Wylan are adorable and thankfully Wylan gets his own face back to keep Jesper from making mistakes again.

4. Raising the Dead

While Nina grieves the loss of her original powers, her new powers are pretty badass while also disturbing. Basically a necromancer, Nina can control the dead in certain aspects, a perversion of her Corporalki powers after consuming parem.

5. Balance

One of my favorite elements of the Grishaverse is the universe’s mandate of balance. This was seen in the Shadow and Bone Trilogy in many ways, the Fold being created by the Darkling on accident, a place where his powers were utterly useless and then when Alina attempts to become super powerful, her powers are scattered amongst thousands of others and she is left with nothing. In the Six of Crows series we see this with the madness and death usually brought on by the consumption of parem or in Nina’s case, since she survived, her powers were altered. There is a cost, a balance to be maintained.

6. Emotional

“Crooked Kingdom” kept me on my toes mostly because I was so afraid of one or more characters dying and then when everything seemed safe Matthias was killed. I’m still upset about this death, Nina and Matthias were meant to have a happily-ever-after. It was so devastating to read their goodbye scene, absolutely killed me!

7. Hope

Regardless of the pain, turmoil, and trauma that all the characters have gone through, especially Kaz and Inej, “Crooked Kingdom” ends on a positive note. The book concludes with each character planning for the future, a brighter one, each of them grasping onto hope.

8. King of Scars

With the glimpse of the characters from the Shadow and Bone trilogy, it is only fitting that Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse continues with those characters and a return to Ravka in “King of Scars” book 1 in the Nikolai Duology.

What were your favorite things about Crooked Kingdom?


Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

9 Skillful Things about Leigh Bardugo’s “Six of Crows”

“Six of Crows”

Grishaverse Book 4; Six of Crows Book 1

by Leigh Bardugo

NIKKI’S RATING: 9 OUT OF 10

Summary: Ruthless and monstrous criminal Kaz Brekkar is the best there is. A picklocking master, Kaz is truly a devious genius and trickster who only wants more. More power, more money, more respect. And when the opportunity presents itself, Kaz grabs at it. Faced with the impossible task of breaking into the Ice Court of Fjarda, Kaz picks his team of rogues and misfits carefully. But upon arriving to Fjarda, Kaz and his team realize that they may have gotten more than they bargained for as rival teams attempt to take them out and the Grisha they come across are powerful beyond anything they have seen and completely strung out on a new drug.

9 Skillful Things about Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Grishaverse

The Grishaverse is a fantastic universe and it was a pleasure to have “Six of Crows” take place outside of Ravka and in Kerch. Bardugo does a great job of having Kerch feel distinctly different from Ravka in culture, economy, traditions, religion, etc. but making sure that they fit cohesively in the same world.

2. Disability

Often in the media, people with disabilities are overlooked and are usually a side character but Bardugo includes a main character with a disability, Kaz limps and uses a cane to aid him. This inspiration stems from Bardugo’s struggle in her own life with osteonecrosis in which she sometimes needs to walk with a cane.

3. Inej

Inej is a great female protagonist as she is a badass. She is both feminine, even slight in stature, and deadly. Inej has been traumatized and abused in the worst of ways but still remains spiritual and hopeful for a better future. She is a great example of resiliency and grace in the face of adversity.

4. Kaz

A devious con artist, Kaz is an intriguing protagonist as he is not really a “good guy.” He is feared amongst the Barrel gangs of Ketterdam, is ruthless with his enemies, and is constantly looking for ways to swindle more money from unsuspecting tourists; overall a crook through and through. And yet, you want Kaz to have the upperhand in the end and win.

5. Matthias & Nina

Probably my two favorite characters in “Six of Crows,” I love the story between Matthias and Nina. What is so powerful about their story is the discrimination that they must both overcome to eventually realize how they truly feel about each other. Both of them are able to come to terms with the fact that they have been misguided in what they were taught about each others’ people. It’s a great lesson into thinking about our own bias and judgments that may be completely false.

6. Twists and Turns

“Six of Crows” really is a masterpiece of twists and turns. It is a true adventure of misfits with high stakes gambles and impossible situations that keeps readers on their toes.

7. Humor

With all the dire situations they are put through, the characters throughout “Six of Crows” keep a hilarious and believable banter between them. Bardugo has a great sense of humor and she effectively uses it throughout all her novels.

8. Writing

As always, Bardugo’s writing is superb. “Six of Crows” moves at a quick pace with compelling and colorful characters with great character development and an exciting plot.

9. Crooked Kingdom

The gang’s fate concludes in the next Grishaverse book “Crooked Kingdom.”

What were your favorite things about Six of Crows?


Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

9 Rewarding Things about Leigh Bardugo’s “Ruin and Rising”

“Ruin and Rising”

Grishaverse Book 3; The Shadow and Bone Trilogy Book 3

by Leigh Bardugo

NIKKI’S RATING: 9 OUT OF 10

Summary: Unable to use her powers, Alina Starkov is a prisoner once again but this time to the cunning Apparat, the spiritual leader of Ravka who tends to change sides whenever it suits him. While Nikolai attempts to keep the Darkling busy focusing on him, Alina’s allies come together to help her escape. As they travel across Ravka searching for the last amplifier, Alina comes to discover that the cost may be too high. In order to stop the Darkling, Alina will have to destroy herself and kill the man she’s loved since childhood.

9 Rewarding Things about Leigh Bardugo’s Ruin and Rising

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. Genya

Genya’s storyline is tragic and yet beautiful. While her looks get ruined she not only remains true to Alina and what she believes in, she eventually shows the same confidence and sassiness she had prior to her punishment, looks be damned. Genya gets all she deserves in the end, her man David, a pardon, and a leadership role.

2. LGBTQ

The Shadow and Bone Trilogy included the LGBTQ community through the characters Nadia and Tamar who were an openly lesbian couple. And I loved that in the Grishaverse this was not seen as abnormal, no one commented on it, made a fuss, and the characters weren’t trying to hide their feelings. Hopefully our world can become that accepting one day.

3. Writing

“Ruin and Rising” was written well with great pacing and was absolutely emotional. It was a hard book to put down and it was difficult to say goodbye to the characters in the end.

4. Sun Summoners

The great twist of the three amplifiers, power multiplied a thousand fold but not in one person but shared amongst many otkazat’sya. This twist was so unexpected and yet, made sense with Morozova’s story and the need for balance in the end.

5. The Darkling

Aleksander, the Darkling, another tale of tragedy. While he needed to be stopped, his end is truly sad. All he wanted was to not be alone but he always would be in his power, in his greatness, he had no equal. The Darkling was evil, he did horrible things but there was a goodness to him, a human quality of wanting to be loved, accepted, and cherished.

6. Mal & Alina

OMG! Just an emotional rollercoaster with these two! I’m so relieved that Mal and Alina ended up together in the end, I was really unsure if they would both survive. After everything they had been through with each other, they deserve their happy ending.

7. The Future

While Alina is no longer in the picture, I love that Nikolai embraces her ideas for the future of the Grisha. The leadership for the Grisha will be shared amongst representatives from each order and together they will lead the Second Army, maintaining a safe haven for the Grisha in their world.

8. Bittersweet

Overall, “Ruin and Rising” had a bittersweet ending and it was fitting. Alina and Mal both lost their “gifts”, Nikolai and Genya are forever scarred, and they all have some serious PTSD. However, they all move forward and they appreciate and embrace the happiness that they are able to find. Such is life.

9. Six of Crows

While Mal and Alina’s story has ended with their happily-ever-after, the Grishaverse continues on in Leigh Bardugo’s “Six of Crows.”


Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.

9 Spellbinding Things about Leigh Bardugo’s “Shadow and Bone”

“Shadow and Bone”

Grishaverse Book 1; The Shadow and Bone Trilogy Book 1

by Leigh Bardugo

NIKKI’S RATING: 9 OUT OF 10

Summary: Caught in war with no end in sight, Alina and Mal are just trying to survive as soldiers and keep their heads down. But when they enter into the Fold, things go very wrong. Alina and Mal should be dead and yet somehow they miraculously survived. Alina’s unique hidden powers saved their lives. Now the Darkling, the ruthless leader of the Second Army, wants Alina for himself and to exploit her powers for his own means.

9 Spellbinding Things about Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone

(May Contain Spoilers)

1. World Building

Leigh Bardugo is a phenomenal world builder! There are so many wonders of the Grishaverse, my favorite being the Grisha themselves. Masters of the small science, the Grisha are broken down into three orders and then into categories of those orders depending on their specialty. So there is the order of the living and the dead, the Corporalki, with their Heartrenders and Healers. The Etherealki or Summoners that consist of Squallers who can manipulate air, Inferni who can command fire, and Tidemakers who can control water. Then there are the Materialki, the order of Fabrikators, that include the Durasts and Alkemi.

2. Russian Influence

While Bardugo’s Grishaverse is entirely fictional, Bardugo did pull inspiration for her world from our own and the nation of Ravka is deeply influenced by Imperial Russia. And the inspiration doesn’t end at just the artitecture, Bardugo uses Russian construction of plurals, Ravka’s economy and national state are similar to that of Imperial Russia with it’s mostly conscripted army and huge inequality between classes, and then the use of “kvas” as a stand-in for strong spirits.

3. The Darkling

The Darkling is incredibly intriguing and seductive. While ruthless, power-hungry, and manipulative, he also wants to protect the Grisha and do what is best for Ravka. He believes the ends justify the means regardless of how many have to die and that is what is so tragic about the Darkling, he wants to do the right thing, but he goes about it in all the wrong ways and therefore, the bad guy.

4. Humor

“Shadow and Bone” is a complex book with some very dark themes and is thankfully balanced with some very well-placed humor. The banter between the characters is often hysterical and really makes them all lovable.

5. Baghra

As mother of the Darkling, I love Baghra because she is constantly trying to save her son. As she says, “I will not let him put himself beyond redemption.” And while Baghra gave the Darkling his ambition and pride, she knows the value of life. She could have easily killed Alina to keep the Darkling from using her but instead arranges for Alina to run away.

6. The Fold

The Fold, the Unsea is terrifying and one of my favorite elements of the Darkling’s story. From his own arrogance, the Darkling created a place that his own power is useless and that is a reflection of his own dark soul.

7. Mal & Alina

I tear up every time I read Mal’s confession of love to Alina, it is so beautiful:

“‘I missed you every hour. And you know what the worst part was? It caught me completely by surprise. I’d catch myself walking around to find you, not for any reason, just out of habit, because I’d seen something that I wanted to tell you about or because I wanted to hear your voice. And then I’d realize that you weren’t there anymore, and every time, every single time, it was like having the wind knocked out of me. I’ve risked my life for you. I’ve walked half the length of Ravka for you, and I’d do it again and again and again just to be with you, just to starve with you and freeze with you and hear you complain about hard cheese every day. So don’t tell me we don’t belong together’”

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8. Writing

Bardugo is a wonderful writer with a creative and active imagination. Pacing throughout “Shadow and Bone” was done well, character development was amazing, and overall the book was very enjoyable.

9. Siege and Storm

Thankfully the Grishaverse continues in The Shadow and Bone Trilogy Book 2: “Siege and Storm.”

What were your favorite things about “Shadow and Bone”?


Be Authentic. Be Unique. Be You.