My Experience Reading Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Sometimes, the only way to get justice is to take it for yourself.

Alright the time has come to finish the Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo. Going into Crooked Kingdom I’m curious where this story will go after reading the first book, and everyone on BookTok says it’s heartbreaking or emotional. So, I have a feeling going into the book that a lot of the main characters are going to die. Or Kaz doesn’t manage to get his wraith (Inej) back. As I did with the first book, I’m going to be sharing my thoughts as I read the book breaking it up into the sections of the book.

If you don’t want spoilers go to the OVERALL THOUGHTS section of this post. I’ll be sharing my review of the book in this part without any of the spoilers or plot points.

Book Details

  • Title: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
  • Originally Published: September 27, 2016
  • Print Length: 536 pages
  • Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
  • ISBN: 978-1627792134


When you can’t beat the odds, change the game.

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.

Thoughts While Reading…

As I mentioned, I’ve seen some mentions of Crooked Kingdom on TikTok. I don’t know exactly what happens. Other than people think Nina deserves the world and someone dies. I don’t know who. Also Matthias I’ve seen mixed opinions over. Which is similar to how I thought about him in the previous book. I honestly didn’t know what he was going to do during the course of that book, because he was so torn between nationalism towards Fjerda and not allowing jurda parem from existing. Which ended up being at odds from each other during the heist.

I’m also really hoping I don’t need to know what happens in The Shadow and Bone trilogy as I have not read it yet. But considering how all the series are connected, I have a feeling this book will tie into those other than the fact they take place on the same world.

After reading Six of Crows, I ended up ordering that series as well as King of Scars all from the Grishaverse as well to read. I don’t know if I’m immediately going to read those next after Crooked Kingdom as I have a lot of new books I bought during quarantine to read. But I will get to them in the near future.

Part One: Forsaken (Chapter 1-4)

Crooked Kingdom starts out a few days after the events of Six of Crows. Not only are the gangs of Ketterdam after Kaz’s crew, but almost every nation has shown up in regards to parem. They manage to get information on where Van Eck might have Inej to form their basic plan to get Inej and their 30 million kruge. Not to mention they don’t have a lot of intel since that was usually Inej’s job for Kaz. So, they are getting reports of things way after the fact. Like the attack at the harbor where two Shu Grisha on prima captured another Grisha that had been waiting to depart for a job for a mercher.

Wylan still looks like Kuwei, and is losing his taste for helping with crime but is sticking around for two reasons: Jesper and his share of kruge. Also the Dreg member that took Matthias’s place in prison was murdered. Why do I have a feeling this is just foreshadowing his death later in the book? I don’t know if the death is his, but something in my gut is screaming it is.

We also learn from Inej’s POV that she’s been kept in a theater. With Van Eck merely keeping her a prisoner, but after she tries to escape on that sixth night the tune has changed. Not only is Van Eck scared of the nations assembling over parem and Kuwei, but he can’t find Kaz through his spies. Just before he has a guard break Inej’s legs, she claims that Kaz will not trade with him if Inej’s is broken since she’ll be of no use to Kaz then. So, this stops them from carrying through with the act at least on that night. She honestly does not believe that Kaz will come for her again as he once did. Which we know isn’t true. Yes, he wants the money. But his priority list is getting back his girl (he point blank said that at the end of Six of Crows), even if he won’t admit it to anyone. Poor demjin as Matthias would call him.

Sweetie, he is working on getting you back. He just has to find you first. Also… why oh why was I not bothered by the fact he threatened a child? He literally committed to monster in the closet to get a child not to mention that they broke into an lawyer’s house. And said he would kill their dogs saving the girl’s favorite for last. Like I know I should’ve been repulsed but I wasn’t. Instead my brain was like “Aw he would go to any length to get Inej back. That’s so sweet.” No… telling a child in the middle of the night that you’re going murder everyone they love if they talk isn’t sweet. And that chapter wasn’t in Kaz’s POV, it was Wylan’s who was repulsed by it. I should’ve had his thoughts during that scene.

When fear arrives, something is about to happen.

This quote I thought was really interesting. Especially after reading Throne of Glass where Aelin tells herself she will not be afraid. Inej on the other hand thinks that’s a foolish notation. Using almost a similar line as Aelin’s before remembering the one that her father told her years ago. And reminds herself to pay attention for fear. Listening for it in other’s voices to tell if something has changed or might be on its way. Because she heard it in a guard’s voice, she decided that night was the night to escape. She could’ve waited the week then tried to escape. But because she heard fear, she knew it was time to go. I don’t know I thought that was a really interesting touch.

Part Two: A Killing Wind (Chapter 5-10)

This section of the book takes place on the seventh and eighth day after Inej was kidnapped. Kaz decides not to rescue Inej where Van Eck has her, but kidnaps Van Eck’s pregnant wife instead to force an exchange. Since he knows Van Eck would do anything to get her and his heir back (since Wylan doesn’t count anymore). They manage to get her, but Nina learns that her powers don’t work anymore. Or they work different. Maybe it’s still just withdrawal from the drug rather than a permanent change. I have a feeling we’ll know more later.

On the eighth day, they manage the exchange. However, the Shu have decided to use the chaos of the team’s escape from Van Eck by attempting to capture Nina. The Shu Grisha blow up the White Rose, but she’s not there. They manage to kidnap another Grisha before they spot her, but she manages to escape by killing the Grisha that attempted to capture her. I have a feeling this is going to be a secondary plot that’s a set up for King of Scars, or rather the tie in for that. Though I could be wrong about that.

At least, Inej is away from Van Eck and has been reunited with Kaz. Granted I have a feeling it’s not the true reunion since they are still in the middle of escape when this part ends. But they at least state they’re glad Inej is back with the group. At least, I hope they have a nice reunion scene and maybe, just maybe Kaz attempts he cares for her. I doubt it but I would very much like that to happen. But also I’m a little surprised that Inej has been freed already. I thought that was going to take up way more of the book. Then again that was one part of Kaz’s plans. Get Inej back then take Van Eck for everything he’s worth and get his 30 million kruge on top of that.

Part Three: Brick by Brick (Chapter 11-16)

Well Inej had a heart warming reunion with everyone else. Kaz still refused to admit that he cares about her as more than just an investment. Then shares his plans to ruin all ten silos that Van Eck has using Wylan’s chemical weapon that will destroy the crop. Meanwhile, the money he got from Rollins is invested in the other silos of sugar. So, they’ll get their kruge and destroy Van Eck in the process. Not just his silos but his reputation because Kaz has him invested in the companies that don’t store with him. So, when the crop in his storage is destroyed it will look like he rigged the market.

Nina agrees to help so long as they get all of the Grisha out of Ketterdam. Kuwei with them to Ravki using one of Van Eck’s ships. Kaz only agrees because it gets Kuwei out so he’s not a liability and because Inej sided with Nina.

Also, Kaz insists that Inej has a net though it complicates the plan. Because he can’t stand the idea of her getting hurt. When he heads to meet up with their boss and surveillance, Inej comes with him. She manages to trick him (or rather used his pride against him) to coming up to the roof of one of the churches then leaving him to scout ahead. Since he can’t make the journey on his leg, which has only gotten worse since the Ice Court. More so since he has not rested once since Inej was captured.

When she gets back from scouting Van Eck’s estate, he kind of admits his feelings to her after she states that Van Eck was going to break her legs. And she doubts that he would come for her then. To which he responds:

I would come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together—knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.

Crooked Kingdom, page 185

Ugh. I love them so much. I don’t think there’s going to be a kiss between them, but I will settle for hand holding at this point. I’ll settle for Mr. Darcy on this. I don’t need a romantic kiss or sex scene, I’d jump for joy at hand holding without Kaz wearing his gloves. Because I know Inej won’t accept it with them. But a baby step, I’d be ecstatic for.

Wylan and Jesper go out to the quarry to get supplies for an acid that could melt through Van Eck’s vault. While they are there, Wylan wants to stop by his mother’s grave. Only to learn she’s still alive, but has been committed by her father into an asylum. Of course, Wylan looks like Kuwei instead of himself. We also learn that Van Eck tried to have Wylan murdered when he was sent away. Wylan managed to escape and ended up in the barrel where he fell in with the Dregs. While he visits with his mother, he plays music and when Jesper returns his mother asks “What did they do to you?” So, I’m pretty sure she’s aware its her son despite the fact he doesn’t look like himself. Or aware of Van Eck locking her away to get access to her money. And she has been painting him as he was when she got locked up. Wylan blames himself as Jan Van Eck gave up on him at the age of eight when he couldn’t read or be a viable heir; this was the same time his mother was sent away.

Nina and Matthias ran into Nina’s army friends from Ravka to get them to spread word about getting the Grisha out of Ketterdam. While they wait, Nina and Matthias finally kiss. And I couldn’t stop laughing over the fact that the guards and two of Ravka’s army members caught them much to Matthias’s embarrassment. Since he lifted Nina off the ground. It was sweet but his embarrassment… oh, that got me laughing. Love-struck teenagers indeed. On their way back, Nina finally is hungry and admits that her power has changed. Not only that but they find a wanted poster for Matthias. Dead or alive.

When they return, the others found wanted posters for everyone but Kuwei/Wylan (since they’re identical) and Nina. As well as one for Wylan under his own appearance with a reward for his return (not capture). Then the group separate to carry out their three jobs: destroy the sugar crop (Nina and Inej), get the Grisha out (Jesper and Matthias with Kuwei following them), and steal the seal from Van Eck to finish the paperwork (Kaz and Wylan). Jesper, Kuwei and Matthias are the last to leave the cemetry. After learning about Jesper’s history and discussing an antidote, they detected an attack.

Prediction: Attack is either Rollins (he’s been missing too long) or Van Eck finally figured out where the group has been hiding for a little over a week.

Part Four: The Unexpected Visitor (Chapter 17-23)

Well it was Rollins… who is working with Van Eck. So, basically both. The group manages to get out of the situation. As each of their separate missions go wildly wrong.

  • Rollins sent an assassin after Inej causing her to fall from the silos after she manages to destroy the sugar in two of ten. Nina is surrounded by Rollins’s gang the Dime Lions. They manage to get her in cuffs, but she uses her new ability to manipulate the dead and scare them enough to flee. Then she uses those same dead to put the net in place in time to catch Inej.
  • Kaz and Wylan initially get the seal for the paperwork to smuggle would the Grisha. But Rollins is in the office waiting for them. Kaz tosses Rollins the seal knowing there is no way out with it, then uses the acid to burn through the floor allowing Kaz and Wylan to escape.
  • Matthias manages to direct Kuwei and Jesper out of the graveyard by using their Grisha abilities. Jesper controlling powders that Kuwei uses with Dime Lions’s torches to spook them enough for the three to run. Then Matthias uses bombs that Wylan left them, so the Dime Lions can’t see where they went.

The group meets up at a hotel in the financial district where Jesper’s father is located. They eat food before heading up to the clock tower where they see every gang including their own has been deputized by the guard and Van Eck to search for them. Kaz offers to turn himself in, so the others go free. But Jesper refuses to let him. The two get into a brawl and at one point Kaz slips up and calls Jesper his dead brother’s name, Jordie. Of course, no one but Kaz knows that little detail (well and Inej, since she knows Kaz had a brother). After Jesper’s father calls them out like the teenagers they are, Kaz comes up with a new plan.

Honestly, I have no idea what it’s going to be. They are surrounded. Everyone is after them in Ketterdam, and they are out of allies. Not to mention, they are out of resources. And I can’t think of a single thing that would be a card up their sleeve that’s been hinted at. At least in the Throne of Glass series, I could somewhat guess at this point as there have been mentions. But here, I got nothing. And there are still two parts remaining. Too many pages and too many things that they need to settle.

Part Five: Kings & Queens (Chapter 24-32)

Alright this part starts off with a banger. Jesper tells his father the truth or a version of it before stalking off through the hotel. He spots who he assumes is Wylan sitting at a piano, then decides to damn it to hell and kisses him. Only it’s not Wylan, it’s Kuwei. Who does not call him out on the mistake, and kisses him right back. Only for them to be interrupted by the real Wylan, who leaves immediately.

  1. I was dying of laughter, as I realized it wasn’t Wylan when he nodded his response instead of saying something. Since Kuwei usually keeps his mouth shut, claiming he doesn’t feel the language that well.
  2. I’m so happy that Jesper realizes his feelings for Wylan, even if he kissed Kuwei instead of Wylan by mistake.
  3. I cannot wait for the two of them to discuss that little exchange, as Wylan definitely also has feelings for Jesper. Hopefully the two actually get to have a real kiss in the book, and it’s not something that’s pushed to happening off page/suggested.’

Kaz helped Inej change her bandages with his gloves on. My heart… awww. He tried to push passed his fears for her. He touched her (briefest of skin to skin contact) to help. But he did it. Then he kissed her neck after Inej pulled him out of that fear (flashbacks of corpses from the Reaper Barge) by talking about her own fears after being forced into the brothels at fourteen. Yes, it was a barely there kiss to her throat, but you know what I’m proud of both of them. They touched. If that’s all we get from these two, you know what? I’m ok with that. Honestly. I said in the third part I would settle for hand holding… well this was that moment. And I’m beyond happy about it.

There are still too many pages left… but if anyone is going to walk out of Ketterdam, it’s going to be these two. And Nina, since I’m fairly positive she’s in King of Scars with King Nikolai (who we’ve had several references to in this book, along with I’m pretty sure spoilers to Shadow and Bone). Which only makes me more wary that Matthias isn’t going to make it out of this book. Speaking of Nikolai makes an appearance pretending to be a pirate to negotiate for Kuwei’s indenture with Kaz, which is their newest plan to get their money and revenge on Van Eck as Kerch can’t interfere with that auction. I have a feeling I’m going to like him. Also is Alina dead at the end of Shadow and Bone (don’t tell me)? It seems to be hinted at.

I like how Kaz how won back the Dregs. By proving that yes he plays dirty, but he always has the gang’s back. Plus their old leader decided to help a rival gang without knowing the details (i.e. helping with capturing Kaz for the kidnapping of Wylan which isn’t the truth). On another note, I love that Wylan is himself again, and that he exchanged a kiss with Jesper. I also like Wylan’s theory that Jesper uses his Grisha abilities when shooting, because his abilities are tied to metal. It would make sense why he’s a good shooter or how he hasn’t had the ill effects of not using his abilities.

Before the auction, Wylan is captured by the Dime Lions while he’s waiting in a bakery with Colm. He’s brought to his father in a church where he is beaten/tortured. Though he told himself he wouldn’t talk, he does. Then it flashes over to Inej, and yeah I can tell Nikolai is going to be one of my favorite characters from this world from his brief bittering with Fjerdans. I can’t wait to read his series but I’m going to read Shadow and Bone first, since that happens beforehand (granted it also took place before Six of Crows but I didn’t realize that at the time until after I started reading this duology). Every nation is present and starts bidding on Kuwei. When it reaches 120 Million Kruge the Council of Tides arrives declaring the auction to be a sham. Van Eck no doubt having contacted them after beating Wylan. Also Nikolai’s niece… relative… whatever, Inej’s shadow and the assassin from before Dunyasha appears next to Inej on the roof.

Part Six: Action & Echo (Chapter 33-45)

However, the Tidemakers (not the real Tidemakers, just four of the Grisha) are not here for Ravkans who have joined teams with Kaz. They are there to stop the Shu government. With proof that Jan Van Eck and Johannus Rietveld (Kaz’s alias with his real last name) were the ones transferring funds to the Shu. Funds that Van Eck had every council member buy into. Oh, Kaz you sneaky bastard. He also was behind Wylan’s kidnapping by Dregs not Lions (Wylan is aware of this), who managed to get free and showed up when Van Eck’s reputation started to go down the drain. Claiming that the Lions were behind his kidnapping. The auction is put to an end until the council of merchants can be investigated. That’s when all hell breaks loose.

Meanwhile, Nina has been spreading a fake plague enough so that the sirens go off in Ketterdam. This would force the guards not to check paperwork as they abandoned that protocol. Nina reflects on her new abilities, I wonder if they will still be tied to death in the King of Scars or if they’ll have returned to normal by then.

Inej manages to kill Dunyasha after figuring out her tell and tricking her into falling off the roof of the chapel. Inej is partially blind as she does this. Then she returns to the gun meant for Jesper. The final thing from her chapter is that they planned on killing Kuwei. But Jesper isn’t there because one of the Shu Grisha solider finds him, which he manages to escape using one of Wylan’s inventions. Inej hands Jesper the gun, and he shoots. Not seeing his target and attempts to direct the bullet with his Grisha powers. Kaz injects Kuwei with something.

Kaz is confronted by Rollins on the way out. He bluffs that he kidnapped then buried the guy’s son alive (he hasn’t). Telling Rollins that he’ll give him the location of the boy if Rollins will remember and say Jordie’s name. When he doesn’t, Rollins begs on his knees and Kaz gives him the information knowing it destroyed Rollins’s respect within the Dime Lions. Rollins rushes out with a medic to “rescue” his son in the countryside. This only helps Kaz’s case as the places Nina “spread” the plague was at Rollins’s gambling halls, so it will financially hinder Rollins for the next year or so. Not to mention the Council of Tides stating that Rollins was involved in the interference of the auction, so Rollins will likely never get a license to operate again. Good riddance.

Kaz also had Nina stop at the Menagerie (the brothel that Inej was a slave of before Kaz freed her) and spread the “plague” there.

Apparently the injection Kaz gave Kuwei didn’t kill him. But helped Kuwei fake his death. Matthias goes with Kuwei (and a corpse disguised to look like him that they switch out at the docks of the clinic) to a boat where Nina is pretending to be pregnant. However, they separate at the clinic. Nina and Rotty (another Dreg) disappear leaving Matthias alone with the fake Kuwei. This is where it goes south and a young Fjerdan solider shoots him… God damn it. I had a feeling he was going to die, but not like this. First, I thought Jesper had shot him by mistake but hadn’t died yet. Then I thought it would be in chaos leaving the church. But not a 14 year old kid, scared and angry at Matthias over what happened at the Ice Court.

I am slightly surprised Nina doesn’t recognize her king (though maybe realizes when they part as he states she’ll be welcomed back with Matthias) while they are reviving the real Kuwei. Once Kuwei is awake, Kaz leaves to go back to Wylan. Matthias shows up and kisses her. Inej has wandered off, but returns after Nina realizes that Matthias was shot in the stomach. But there is nothing that can be done to save him, and he dies in Nina’s arms after making her promise to return to Ravka.

Kaz returns to Wylan and reveals that Wylan is the heir of Van Eck’s money having switched the wills in the safe. Van Eck realizes this as well, but no one would believe him as his word means nothing now. Especially as he claims that Wylan can’t read (which he can’t), but Jesper told him the words on the paper beforehand so he could “read” them out loud to the Council.

Then they all go back to Van Eck’s (now Wylan’s) estate where they convert a boat into a sickboat. This would take all the Grisha, Kuwei, Jesper’s dad, Matthias (to be buried later in Fjerda by Nina), and Nina to Ravka. Since it’s the only real way out of Ketterdam without too much attention. Kaz also informs them they got their 30 million kruge to be transferred into their accounts within a month’s time, and 40 million kruge of the Council had gone to the Shu government. Jesper gives his share to his father, Nina gets Matthias’s share, and the rest each get their 4 million that they would’ve gotten from the Ice Court job in the last book.

The real Council of Tidemarkers interrupt Kaz three weeks later on his trip to visit to Inej. They know that Kuwei didn’t actually die and threaten to one day get back at Kaz. But ultimately let him go, where he surprises Inej with a ship bought from Wylan so she can hunt slavers. And it also has her parents on it. He didn’t wear his gloves when he met her for that visit/farewell. Though she was going to end things that never really started with Kaz, she leaves it open-ended stating that she still has business in Ketterdam and wants Kaz’s help. Inej still wants Kaz, but isn’t going to wait on him forever either. Still she touches his hand slightly, and he ends up interlacing their fingers (no gloves). I’m proud of him. Then Inej asks Kaz to come with her to greet her parents that he had Nikolai find for her.

The book ends with Inej going to Rollins and threatening him if he ever came back to Ketterdam that she’ll finish the job of killing him. Then she replaced the toy Rollins’s son was sleeping with, instead of a lion he was holding a crow. Rollins flees.

Overall Thoughts

Alright final thoughts… the series was good as a whole. It had great characters and an interesting world. However, I didn’t find Crooked Kingdom to be good as the first book. I constantly found myself wandering to other books and it took way longer for me to read this one. Not that I didn’t think the book didn’t wrap up with duology nicely. As it did. Everything that was left open was closed, and the group got everything they were owed. Not only that but Kaz got his revenge on both Van Eck and Rollins.

I’m curious where King of Scars will go since it’s about both Nikolai and Nina. But first I need to read the original series, Shadow and Bones. Probably with that one is I have a feeling Six of Crows duology spoiled the ending of that one a bit. Not to mention, I’ve seen bits about the plot from TikTok though I’ve tried my hardest to scroll past those if they appear on my FYP.

I think part of the reason this book didn’t hold up as much is that there’s a lot of mini plots going on at once. They are more mentions that don’t come together until the end. Instead the main focus is on relationships, the aftermath of the Ice Court, and failed yet not failed missions. Again, those mini plots are more brought up in the last part to tie everything into a bow. So, they don’t feel plot points that when reading. More like oh they did that at the same time, got it. But at the same time they don’t feel like revelations or got-ya’s. At least in Throne of Glass when Aelin was scheming, you could put those pieces together as you read.

But in Crooked Kingdom it isn’t there. Even from chapter to chapter, it went from the Council of Tidemakers has arrived to they were fake a few later. Or Wylan is being beaten up, and in his POV it’s not mentioned to be fake. We get that once it switches. I get it’s to have the reveal at those moments, but it makes the narrators unreliable. And to me, it didn’t come off the way I suspect it was meant to. It was just too flip-floppy for my taste. Maybe if it was more spread out rather than a few pages later on each component.

With all that said I would give Crooked Kingdom a 3.25 out of 5 stars. It was a nice conclusion to the series and good book overall, but did feel like a let down compared to Six of Crows. Especially since I thought I wouldn’t be able to put it down, and instead it took me a month to read. Only reading a few chapters here and there at a time in between re-reading other series I love.

Have you read this duology? If so, what were your thoughts regarding it?

Love ya,

Mae Polzine

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  1. Brooke Carrington
    September 1, 2020 / 12:04 PM

    I like that you told your thoughts or things you heard about the book beforehand. Nice review!

    • Mae Polzine
      September 1, 2020 / 12:07 PM

      Thank you. I think sharing what you know before going into a book help give context to where opinions come from. Like knowing someone was going to die really made me look at situations differently expecting that “twist” to come. Rather than just experiencing it with no knowledge.
      ♥ Mae

  2. September 2, 2020 / 9:27 AM

    Another great review! I don’t read the synopsis or reviews before reading a book (I read them when I pick the book but most of the time I don’t remember it anymore when I start to read). I like to be surprised. But I guess you have a point that it helps to understand better the context.

    • Mae Polzine
      September 2, 2020 / 9:31 AM

      Thank you! Yeah, I try to avoid reviews as much as possible before reading a book. Or only reading the synopsis of the first book, since later ones tend to have spoilers for previous books. But sometimes you come across them then have an entirely different experience when reading a book, then you would’ve if you didn’t have some foreknowledge.
      ♥ Mae

  3. September 6, 2020 / 3:06 PM

    Great review Mae! I loved reading your thoughts about this book. I think one reason that I enjoyed this book was because I managed to avoid nearly all spoilers, except that some characters from the trilogy appeared. So I wasn’t expecting any twists or big reveals.

    • Mae Polzine
      September 6, 2020 / 3:09 PM

      Yeah, I think I would’ve enjoyed it more if I didn’t know what was coming to some degree. As I felt myself detach from some characters earlier in anticipation of possibly losing them. Others I didn’t only because I knew they were safe for another book. I have a feeling I’m going to have that issue majorly with the Shadow and Bone series.
      ♥ Mae

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