September 2016 Reads, Uncategorized

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Happy publication day to Leigh Bardugo’s ‘Crooked Kingdom’, the sequel to the stunning ‘Six of Crows’! I’ve just finished this book and it was phenomenal! It was such a joy to spend more time with Kaz and his crew. I would definitely rate it five out of five stars.

Here’s an alphabet of reasons why you should be reading ‘Crooked Kingdom’ right now if you aren’t already!

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ACTION

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ is action-packed. It’s ceaselessly exciting and a complete thrill ride from start to finish.

 

BACKSTORIES

 

In ‘Crooked Kingdom’ we learn more about each of the six main characters and we see their backstories, particularly Inej’s, Wylan’s and Jesper’s. These develop the characters further and make them even more 3D.

 

CLIFF-HANGERS

 

The novel is divided into numerous sections with different titles and between these sections, and between many of the chapters, there are tense cliff-hangers. These make the book impossible to put down as you are desperately eager and impatient to find out what will happen next.

 

DIALOGUE

 

The dialogue in ‘Crooked Kingdom’ is snappy and realistic – it never feels staged. Leigh Bardugo is a master at showing us what characters are doing through dialogue as well as through narration – for example, when Kaz tells Matthias to ‘stop gawking’. She gets the perfect balance between dialogue and narration through the novel. I also love the fact that each character has a distinctive personality and voice, to the extent that if the ‘said ….’ bits that inform you who is speaking were taken out, I would still know who was talking.

 

EMOTIONAL

 

Several sections of the novel are very moving – particularly chapters 14 and 39. I cried a couple of times while reading. I always think it’s amazing when a book makes you cry because it shows just how powerful the writing is. In fact, I felt very emotional when reading the whole book because it is the final novel in the duology and I did not want to have to say goodbye to the characters.

 

FUNNY

 

While some parts of ‘Crooked Kingdom’ are very touching, some are very funny. Nina and Jesper in particular bring lots of humour to the novel. When things get particularly dark, they lighten the mood. I loved this amusing bit of dialogue:

 

‘Do you know what Van Eck’s problem is?’

‘No honour?’ said Matthias.

‘Rotten parenting skills?’ said Nina.

‘Receding hairline?’ offered Jesper.

 

I also loved the scene where Nina tells Matthias the ‘Princess and Barbarian’ story – it was hilarious and they have great chemistry together.

 

GRIPPING

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ hooks you from the first line and does not let go until the end. Actually, it doesn’t even let go then – you’ll still be thinking about it after you have turned the final page. It’s such a compelling and enveloping story. I found it impossible to put down.

 

HUSTLE

 

A few years ago, there was a TV programme in the UK named ‘Hustle’ about a group of grifters, and I absolutely loved it. Kaz and his crew remind me of the main characters from that programme, especially in the opening scenes of ‘Crooked Kingdom’ when they are all working together to pull off a con.

 

INEJ

 

To my delight, a few months ago I took a ‘Which Six of Crows Character Are You?’ quiz and Inej was the character that I got. Inej is my favourite character from this series, and indeed one of my all time favourite characters. She’s a quick-thinker and can get herself out of many scrapes. She’s resilient and strong in a manner which is quiet and understated but very palpable and admirable. She’s brave and loyal and I could read about her all day long.

 

JESPER

 

I liked Jesper in ‘Six of Crows’ but I didn’t love him. He definitely grew on me in this sequel. I loved the way that on the one hand he was fun, flirty and light-hearted, but there was another more serious side to him that was determined to make amends for his mistake in the first book.

 

KAZ

 

Kaz is one of the best characters I have ever read about. I have an incredibly vivid picture of him as I read – of the way he talks, the way he moves, the way he looks. He is such a striking and original creation, and he feels really believable because he has clear flaws as well as strengths. I felt very emotionally attached to him during both books, especially because of his back-story.

 

LONG

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ is considerably thick, which is wonderful both because it gives time for a detailed and exciting plot and because I love spending time with these characters. What’s really impressive is that, despite its length, the novel never drags or feels slow. It’s perfectly paced.

 

MAP

 

I don’t know who designed the maps at the front of the novel, but they are stunning. I love fantasy books with maps. It’s great to be able to track where Kaz and his crew are on the map and to see where each character is from.

 

NINA

 

Nina is another striking character from this book and this series. I love her confidence and her ‘banter’ with Jesper, as well as her friendship with Inej and their mutual support. I really like the fact that this series has two very different but equally strong and brave female protagonists and a great female friendship.

 

OPENING

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ will grab you right from the start. The opening, which is from the point of view of a character called Retvenko, is hugely tense and dramatic. I loved it!

 

PACE

 

As I said before, ‘Crooked Kingdom’ never drags. The pacing is superb – it’s fast paced enough that you will be turning the pages as fast as you can, but there is also time for reflection and character development as well as plot advancement. It’s not so fast-paced that it gets at all confusing, overwhelming or difficult to keep up.

 

QUOTABLE

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ is beautifully written and there are so many striking and memorable lines in it, both in narration and in dialogue, from Kaz’s explanation of why he likes crows to Nina’s comment about fear being like a phoenix.

I loved the quote below:

 

‘He didn’t have to look to know she was beside him – silent, sure-footed. She could have outpaced him in an instant, but they ran in tandem, matching each other step for step.’

 

My favourite line of the whole book is the final line from the last chapter from Inej’s point of view – I think it’s a beautiful metaphor.

 

ROMANCE

 

The romances in this series are slow-burn. The romance never takes over – the plot comes first and the friendships are equally as important and enjoyable as the romances. That said, the romantic scenes that are in the novel are brilliantly written. Sometimes there’s sizzling chemistry; sometimes your heartstrings are being tugged at. My One True Pairing comes from this series.

 

SETTING

 

Leigh Bardugo has written five fantasy books set in the world of the Grisha now and I have adored them all. She has a wonderful imagination and her world-building is fantastic – very detailed, original and enveloping. I can always visualise all of the settings.

 

TENSE

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ had me right on the edge of my seat throughout. There’s almost constant tension: the stakes are very high and the characters are always in dangerous situations. There’s a particularly tense set of scenes between Inej and a character called Dunyasha.

 

UNPREDICTABLE

 

‘Crooked Kingdom’ is full of twists and turns and you can never guess what is going to happen next. That makes it really exciting and addictive. There’s a particularly fantastic twist concerning an action that Kaz claims to have taken.

 

VAN ECK

 

The protagonists of the novel are very vivid and striking and so are the antagonists – in particular, Van Eck. In some of the novels I have read this year, the villainous character has not been very scary or alarming at all, but Van Eck is truly threatening and petty, particularly in the way he continually mocks Wylan’s illiteracy. I think it is really important for the antagonists to be just as developed as the protagonists, and ‘Crooked Kingdom’ certainly achieves this.

 

WRITING STYLE

 

I love Leigh Bardugo’s writing. It’s absolutely captivating and compelling, whether she is writing an action scene, an emotional scene or a romantic scene – or all three rolled into one. Her writing just keeps getting better and better with every book.

 

I’ve talked about how much I love the characters in ‘Crooked Kingdom’ and I have to say that Leigh Bardugo is, in my opinion, the best YA writer there is when it comes to characters. She has a real knack for creating striking, vivid and original characters that you grow very attached to. When someone asks me my favourite characters, her characters are always the first that come to mind.

 

XENOS

 

I must admit I really struggled to think of words that began with ‘x’ so I had to resort to my knowledge of Ancient Greek for this one! ‘Xenos’ means ‘stranger’ and I chose it because ‘Crooked Kingdom’ introduces some fabulous new characters. We also get to see some old friends, and it is wonderful to be reunited with them!

 

YEAR

 

I waited a year for this sequel and the wait was completely worth it! I did not disappoint me in anyway – in fact I am delighted to say that it exceeded my expectations!

 

ZERO

 

There were zero things I did not like about ‘Crooked Kingdom’. I loved every page of it and I know I will reread it countless times. It’s one of the best books I have ever read and I think that it is the best book Leigh Bardugo has written to date (although that’s a very hard call as all her books are amazing!)!

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September 2016 Reads, Uncategorized

Girl Detached by Manuela Salvi

  • Girl Detached by Manuela Salvi (Translated from Italian by Denise Muir)

Rating: * * * * *

Publisher: Barrington Stoke (Bucket List Books)

Publication Date: September 2016

Format: Proof copy

Age group: Although this is targeted at YA, I would say that the content means that it is one for an older YA audience and I’d personally recommend it to those 16+. I would also forewarn about triggers for sexual abuse and grooming. 

Goodreads Synopsis: Aleksandra has issues with her voice. Stress makes her stutter, and her life is one of stress. She can only speak clearly on stage, freed by the words of the character she plays. Then, when Aleksandra befriends her new neighbour Megan, and through her meets charming, handsome Ruben, it seems she has discovered a doorway into a different world, and a different Alek. But Ruben wants Aleksandra to play a particular role for him, and it is one that will come close to destroying her. 

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I first heard about ‘Girl Detached’ at this year’s YALC (the Young Adult Literature Convention) and I received a proof copy of the book there. ‘Girl Detached’ was censored and banned from sale in Italy, but has been translated into English by Denise Muir (and I must say her translation is brilliant – it flows very well) and it is being published in the UK this year. The UK publishers believe that this is a story the world needs to hear and I completely agree with them. In three words, ‘Girl Detached’ is honest, powerful and heartbreaking.

‘Girl Detached’ tells the story of Aleksandra, a keen amateur actress who has lived with her gran for her whole life. After her gran’s death, she has to move back in with the mother who abandoned her and her new family, which includes a younger brother. Moving back into this house introduces Aleksandra to Megan, the pretty girl who lives next door and is always sneaking out of her window. Through Megan, Aleksandra is introduced to the charming, good-looking and influential Ruben, and her life begins to spiral out of control.

One of the things that really struck me about ‘Girl Detached’ was the skill of the character portrayals. Each character is very vivid and distinctive, from Megan, so eager to take Alek under her wing and to transform her and who seems outwardly very confident but can be bitter and lacks self-belief underneath, and her friends, who act hostile and competitively towards Alek, to Jonah, a fellow member of Alek’s theatre company who can be snide and irritating, and all the other members of the ‘Ship of Fools’ company. The scenes in the theatre company were probably my favourite – I loved it when Alek finally got her own back on Jonah for continually irritating her and sabotaging her performances, and I also loved the scene where Alek and Elektra were practising improvising because it was a time when she could really let loose and be completely free. The way that her fellow members of the theatre group reacted to the transformation Alek’ undergoes after meeting Megan really moved me. They are like a family to Alek.

Aleksandra herself was a protagonist to whom I was immediately attached. I loved her enthusiasm for Oscar Wilde and actually I felt that gave me something in common with her – like Alek, I acted in an Oscar Wilde play and really love his writing style. I found Alek’s ability to assume characters when acting to the extent that she lost her stammer fascinating. Her story is one that will tear at your heart strings because you are so attached to her.

‘Girl Detached’ is very hard-hitting and deeply moving. Parts of it will make you very sad and parts very angry; parts are very difficult to read because they are so horrifying and unsettling and that is why I would recommend it to the upper end of YA. The fact that it was censored in Italy probably serves to show just how well written it is – how impactful, thought-provoking and enlightening Aleksandra’s story is. Overall, ‘Girl Detached’ is a defiant, eye-opening and unforgettable novel that will stay in your mind long after you have finished reading. I predict that in a few decades’ time, it will become a classic.