Leigh Bardugo, a YA high fantasy author, knows how to do fantasy, and I love it. Her first series, The Grisha trilogy, swept me away. I loved the world, most of the characters, and the entire magic system. I was eager for more, so I was stoked to hear she was writing a second series (a fabulous duology) set in the same world but with different characters. I needed it immediately.
Fast forward to this year, and the second book was released. If I had to choose one book to my favorite 2016 release, I would choose Crooked Kingdom (though it would be hard, so many books). I loved the Six of Crows duology even more than The Grisha trilogy.
What was it about Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom that not only gave me a grand adventure to enjoy with fantastic characters but has inspired my own writing to reach beyond the same-old fantasy? Let me tell you.
1. The characters
2. BackstorySpeaking of characters and backstory, the way Leigh Bardugo wove the plot with the characters' backstories was truly magical. It never felt dull or awkward to be thrust suddenly into a flashback or a glimpse of something from their past. It all came together, perfectly crafted. I'm still amazed at how well she did that.
The Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows duology are set in a fictional world based on Russia instead of Western Europe. And I loved that it was different. The world-building is phenomenal. There is a lot of diversity and detail to every place the characters go and every country involved in the story. The Grisha trilogy had fantastic world-building as well, but I feel that Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom was a step up. It's almost as if you can tell that Leigh Bardugo has grown in her story-telling craft.
4. DiversitySix of Crows and Crooked Kingdom is chock-full of diversity across the board. But it's never done in a trite or stereotypical way. Yes, race and beliefs come into play, but it's not the focus or a plot device. It's just part of who the characters are and what this world is made of. And it's fabulous. I'm tired of diverse themes being thrown into the story to create conflict or raise the stakes; I just want characters to be diverse because that is how the world truly is. Leigh Bardugo pulls that off splendidly.
6. WafflesOkay, so this isn't a serious point, obviously, but I loved it nonetheless. In Crooked Kingdom, there are several (almost a dozen) instances where the characters mention waffles or are eating waffles. And it was hilarious. Despite the more-serious tone of the books or the darker themes, there was still room for humor and fun and just good-old bonding over waffles. It made me realize that I can write stories that are serious, that point to real-life situations and problems, but that also have a ray of hope and light amidst the darkness. Whether that hope is through humorous waffle scenes or characters that care for one another, I want to write stories that resound with the same feelings Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom evoked within me.
As always, I'm sure there can be flaws nitpicked from these books. Nothing is ever perfect. But nevertheless, Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom stole a piece of my book-loving heart and gave me a grand adventure that I was able to enjoy and also learn from. That, in my opinion, makes for a wonderful story. I look forward to more by Leigh Bardugo.
No mourners. No funerals.
Why yes, I did meet Leigh Bardugo. You can read about it on The Fangirl Initiative.
What books have inspired you to make your writing better?