Hello, everyone! Today, I have some wallpaper goodies for you in honor of the magnificence that was Crooked Kingdom. I hope you like them!
The wallpapers will be followed by a spoilery discussion of the book. If you do not want to be spoiled, don’t read past the section that begins after the wallpapers section. Just a warning!
Note: The characters and quotes belong to Leigh Bardugo. The art is not mine– it belongs to Kevin Wada, and I have used his work for a commercial-free purpose. All credit goes to him for the fan-art.
- Please do not redistribute these wallpapers; if you’d like to share them with your friends, link them back to this blog post.
- If you are sharing these on social media, please provide proper credit to Leigh Bardugo, Kevin Wada and me. 🙂
You can find more of my bookish wallpapers here. If you have any requests for books, do let me know in the comments. If I’ve read it, I’ll consider making something. 🙂
For overhyped books, I sometimes wonder whether a review is necessary after so many people have read and reviewed the content before you have. Everything that needs to be said about Crooked Kingdom or Six of Crows has been said before- everything bad, everything good, so I don’t feel it is necessary for me to articulate the pros and the cons in a non-spoilery way. But I also know that after I finished reading this book, I had nobody to talk about it with, and I could have done with an extensive discussion. So this is mostly for me rather than for other people- just an unnecessarily long preface.
Crooked Kingdom is Bardugo’s finest work to date. The plot was incredible- fast-paced, entertaining, gripping but well-balanced so that you had just the right amount of excitement, and just the right amount of breathing room. I know many people were disappointed by the end, but I felt that the bittersweet taste of it is what made it such an incredible book- realistic even, despite being fantasy. I can’t possibly discuss everything I want to talk about in such broad terms, so let me break it down by characters.
“At some point, Jesper realized Kaz was gone.
“Not one for goodbyes, is he?” he muttered.
“He doesn’t say goodbye,” Inej said. She kept her eyes on the lights of the canal. Somewhere in the garden, a night bird began to sing. “He just lets go.”
Kaz is arguably one of my favorite characters I’ve ever encountered. He has such depth to him- his past and the way Bardugo maneuvers around it is so realistic. I loved getting to see his development from this cruel, ruthless person to a softer man who still retains that quality of intimidation. However, I did think his character was bordering on “Gary Stu” territory. He was so perfect… even his flaws make him endearing. It’s like he has this invincible mind that nobody can ever get around. His plan at the end fell too easily into place, but I was so captivated by his development that it didn’t bother me much.
Personally, if it were up to me, I would have preferred it if Kaz had died. Now hear me out- I love Kaz. He’s my favorite character in the series, but his death would have been realistic. Perhaps if he had sacrificed himself to ensure that the job worked out, leaving behind some sort of instruction to the crew to fully bury Pekka Rollins underneath the ground- that would have been the extra umph that would have gotten this book to my ‘favorites’ list. I didn’t think Matthias was the viable death. Matthias’s death felt a lot like fan-service because I know not many people liked him, which is why he ended up dead.
Kaz could have died and still gotten that full closure. He could have gotten the revenge he needed with Pekka Rollins, he could have built up his empire, leaving behind a name for himself, avenged Jordie’s death. As of right now, his relationship with Inej isn’t given the closure that people expected – and I really liked that. But when considering the context, I feel that he could have done everything he did at the end – get Inej her ship, found her parents, etc – without having to stay alive. I don’t know… I just feel like it would have been incredible had Kaz died instead of Matthias.
But I also have to talk about a few scenes here:
- Kaz and Inej’s bathroom scene was so beautifully written with just the right amount of angst, anguish and longing. I almost felt that Kaz would overcome his PTSD but he couldn’t, and although it was tragic, it was also one of the most realistic things I’ve ever read. Made me cry, honestly.
- Kaz calling Jesper Jordie accidentally- I don’t think this scene gets the attention it deserves. Just because Kaz immediately shuts down after letting Jordie’s name slip, leaving everyone to wonder about that piece of Kaz’s past. Beautiful because it’s obvious that Jesper is the closest thing Kaz has to a brother, and the subconscious lets Kaz know that very thing. Speaking of Jesper and Kaz, I really loved the non-closure of their relationship too; Kaz has obviously forgiven Jesper. “He is missed around the Slat.” That was such a profound moment for Kaz’s character- opening up and letting another person in without ever sacrificing who he was himself.
- The scene at the end!!!! Inej’s parents!!!! And Kaz asking Inej if his tie was straight because my smol son wanted to impress them and look smart and spiffy. I’m internally imaging how their interaction pans out. Kaz has never been more nervous in his life, it was so incredibly sweet. And that hand-holding. I LOVE that Bardugo didn’t opt for the gushy fan-service thing. Kaz and Inej are both such broken people- there is no fucking way they would have kissed. That’s not going to happen for a long, long, LONG time and that hand-holding felt more sincere than a kiss ever would have. BEAUTIFUL.
“Maybe there were people who lived those lives. Maybe this girl was one of them. But what about the rest of us? What about the nobodies and the nothings, the invisible girls? We learn to hold our heads as if we wear crowns. We learn to wring magic from the ordinary. That was how you survived when you weren’t chosen, when there was no royal blood in your veins. When the world owed you nothing, you demanded something of it anyway.
Inej raised a brow and slowly wiped the blood of kings on her trousers.”
I think the best thing about Crooked Kingdom is how Bardugo advances the characterization of each person. I liked Inej enough in the first book, but her development was kicked up so many levels in this one. Her bad-assery had no parallel, but she was also not this perfect woman with absolutely no flaws. I loved that about her. I love how she had ghosts in her past that haunted her, much like Kaz’s ghosts haunted him. I loved how she was almost bested by another ‘spider.’ I loved how she doubted Kaz’s depth of feelings for her in the beginning- the inner turmoil of wondering whether the boy she loved would have come for her if she couldn’t be of use to him. It was so wonderfully explored. I also really liked how she has that unwavering loyalty and support to both herself and her crew. She doesn’t put aside who she is – not then, not now – to be with Kaz.
Both of them are so obviously in love with each other, but I loved how Inej came to this realization that at the present moment, she wasn’t ready to heal Kaz. She would be there to support him just like he was there to support her, but she wouldn’t depend on him and she would make sure that he didn’t depend on her. Despite being very broken people – both of them – their relationship is healthy. And that astounds me.
I also really loved Inej’s relationships with the others- Jesper and Nina especially. Very well developed dynamics that gave Inej another dimension outside of individuality and romance, which is always so important in any book. Bardugo nails it.
- When Van Eck is asking his cronies to break her legs and that instant of fear, that instant where her calm just drains out of her. It was so human- and I mentioned above the emotional turmoil and doubt that follows. It was brilliantly executed.
- Her fight scenes and that internal monologue I put beneath my fancast. It was almost like Bardugo was taking a well-placed jab at the trope of The Chosen One in literature. I got chills…
“Meeting you was a disaster.” She raised a brow. “Thank you.”
Djel, he was terrible at this. He stumbled on, trying to make her understand. “But I am grateful for that disaster. I needed a catastrophe to shake me from the life I knew. You were an earthquake, a landslide.”
“I,” she said, planting a hand on her hip, “am a delicate flower.”
“You aren’t a flower, you’re every blossom in the wood blooming at once. You are a tidal wave. You’re a stampede. You are overwhelming.”
MATTHIAS, MY BABY. HE DESERVED BETTER, AND I HATE SAYING THAT BECAUSE I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH BUT HE REALLY DESERVED BETTER. HIM AND NINA DESERVED TO HAVE A HAPPY LIFE. THEY SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN MARRIED AND THEN UNITED THEIR TWO KINGDOMS AND GONE ON TO EAT ALL THE FOOD THEY COULD FIT IN THEIR BODIES. MATTHIAS HELVAR IS ALIVE AND WELL, I TELL YOU. I REFUSE TO BELIEVE IT.
*Takes a deep breath*
Matthias. He was the most hated character in Six of Crows, and I would be lying through my teeth if I said that he wasn’t my least favorite in the first book, but oh my GOD, the development he went through in Crooked Kingdom. Astounding. I mean, the way he grew to love each and every Dreg, from being that self-righteous prick into one of them. His love and appreciation of Nina was so overwhelming, and he had that inner turmoil going through him that he was learning to battle. He was almost there- he had learned to fight that honorable voice inside him that stuck to tradition and duty, and he was learning to be himself. Learning to want what he wanted, learning to strive to get what he deserved. He was the most complicated, the most human, the most conflicted character in the series and I know a shit ton of people hate him, but he was my second favorite. And he deserved better, let me tell you that.
See, from a strictly storytelling point of view, his death was both unnecessary and made no literary sense. Let me explain. Matthias and Nina had the kind of relationship that could have mattered in the larger context, outside of their individualities. Kaz and Inej’s relationship was between those two. Jesper and Wylan’s was between them. Nina and Matthias’s relationship transcended their individualities and the question of two extremely hostile, rival countries came into question. They had the potential to go on and form some sort of tentative bridge between Fjerda and Ravka. They had the potential to do that.
Most of Matthias’s POV chapters in Crooked Kingdom were about his development. Even though I had initially thought (before reading CK) that Matthias would die, after seeing the amount of time Bardugo spent on his development and setting up a foundation for a future for Nina and Matthias, I was sure he would survive. IT JUST MADE SENSE FOR HIM TO SURVIVE, FOR HIM TO GROW AND MATURE AND LIVE WITH NINA. Which is why I felt that he died for fan-service. Fans didn’t want anyone else to die because they loved these characters, and even though it made MORE SENSE for Kaz to die, Matthias was given the brunt of it. 🙁 🙁 🙁 This is the only complaint I have of the book.
I love realistic endings. I do. Which is why I say Kaz should have died, despite him being my favorite character. Matthias’s death did not serve a larger purpose, and it made very little sense in the context of the story.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go cry my eyes out again. He died in Nina’s lap for fuck’s sake, leave me alone to wallow in my misery.
“I am grateful you’re alive”, he said. “I am grateful that you’re beside me. I am grateful that you’re eating.” She rested her head on his shoulder.
“You’re better that waffles, Matthias Helvar.”
A small smile curled the Fjerdan’s lips. “Let’s not say things we don’t mean, my love.”
I could have come up with a better quote that served Nina only, or one that served Matthias only but they’re very hard to separate. Their romance is so intense, so full of complications and shades of grey. There is no way that one exists without the other, which is one of the reasons why I’m so bitter about Matthias’s death. Because when he died, my main thought was, “What happens to Nina now?”
“Loving you made him better.”
Although I think Nina’s end was realistic given what had happened, I’m still not happy with it. I don’t like that everybody got their happy endings and this one romantic couple who had gone through so fucking much to end up together, to end up happy was broken. Nina rowing away with Matthias’s body lying next to her, going to Fjerda to bury him on his land. That’s so fucking depressing- don’t you think? Nina deserved better. She had so much potential, so much that she could and CAN do. I need some more closure…
I loved the development of Nina’s powers in this book though. I liked seeing her grow to become this fierce woman who embraced the darkness lurking inside her and used it to help her friends and others. I loved how she cared so much about her country, and I thought – as is with patriots in general – that her reluctance to recognize the flaws in Ravka was a great aspect to her personality. I just… I just think she deserved more… 🙁
“You’re stupid about a lot of things, Wylan, but you are not stupid. And if I ever hear you call yourself a moron again, I’m going to tell Matthias you tried to kiss Nina. With tongue.”
Wylan wiped his nose on his sleeve. “He’ll never believe it.”
“Then I’ll tell Nina you tried to kiss Matthias. With tongue.”
I loved Jesper in the first book, but he was so freaking phenomenal in this one. His complexity, his relationship with his father, his internal conflict with gambling, his guilt over Inej and his loyalty to Kaz. They all formed this well-balanced cocktail of phenomenal character development for Jesper. I loved seeing him realize that his sharp quips and that sense of humor that we love him for disguises how broken he feels inside. I know- that’s depressing af, but I like tragedy. It’s just who I am.
I think Wylan and Jesper’s relationship was a very codependent yet balanced relationship. Unlike Inej and Kaz (their relationship was very individualistic) and Nina-Matthias (who just sort of lived in their own little bubble), Wylan and Jesper had both qualities. I loved that Jesper helped Wylan get over his feelings of inadequacy and helped him feel more competent. Jesper never treated Wylan like a child, like someone fragile but he also was so understanding and sweet. And Wylan, in turn, helped Jesper get over his feelings of guilt and resentment, told Jesper that sure he made some mistakes in the past, but he shouldn’t be so hard on himself.
I wished we’d seen more of Jesper’s powers. I was excited to learn in the first book that he was Fabrikator, but apart from that bullet-bending thing at the end (which was fucking awesome, by the way), we didn’t get to see much of it. I loved seeing some of his past, though. It added a layer to his nonchalant personality and just showed that he’s not as easygoing as he tries to come across.
Wylan Van Eck
“Until this moment, Wylan hadn’t quite understood how much they meant to him. His father would have sneered at these thugs and thieves, a disgraced soldier, a gambler who couldn’t keep out of the red. But they were his first friends, his only friends, and Wylan knew that even if he’d had his pick of a thousand companions, these would have been the people he chose.”
Wylan didn’t have a POV chapter in the first book, and I was super excited to see that he was given POV chapters in this one. Some of my favorite parts of the book were his, seeing his own past from his eyes. His feelings of insignificance and inadequacy due to his father’s abuse and neglect- it was so heartwrenching, especially because we knew exactly how much Wylan wanted to see the good in his father. He kept believing that his father wasn’t a cruel man until the very end, which was both awful and so consistent with his character. I also really loved seeing how him and Matthias maneuvered around their ‘outsider status’ to assimilate so seamlessly into the gang.
Jesper and Wylan’s relationship had that trope-y quality but it was executed so well that it didn’t feel that way at all. It had the initial awkwardness, the flirtations, the sneaked glances and jealousies and it was so endearing to see it develop from a crush to something so pure and intense. Surprisingly, some of my favorite interactions concerning Wylan were between him and Kaz- especially when Kaz marveled at how Wylan had turned into a scheming thief, ha. I’m very glad that Bardugo chose to give Wylan and Jesper the neatest ending- it wouldn’t have been consistent with their storylines and characters if one of them had left the other. The fact that they stayed together and vowed to help one another was very nice, and I’m glad that their storyline panned out perfectly.