Into the Crooked Place, Alexandra Christo – Book Review

Hello Humans! As many of you will recall, To Kill a Kingdom was one of my favourite retellings of last year. I absolutely adored Alexandra Christo’s take on The Little Mermaid and I was delighted to be able to hear her read from her (then) work in progress at a Hot Key Books event last year. Into the Crooked Place is the start of a duology set in a gritty world where magic can be bought and sold on the black markets  – right up my alley!

Into the crooked place

Goodreads Summary:

Into the Crooked Place begins a gritty two-book YA fantasy series from Alexandra Christo, the author of To Kill a Kingdom.

The streets of Creije are for the deadly and the dreamers, and four crooks in particular know just how much magic they need up their sleeve to survive.

Tavia, a busker ready to pack up her dark-magic wares and turn her back on Creije for good. She’ll do anything to put her crimes behind her.

Wesley, the closest thing Creije has to a gangster. After growing up on streets hungry enough to swallow the weak whole, he won’t stop until he has brought the entire realm to kneel before him.

Karam, a warrior who spends her days watching over the city’s worst criminals and her nights in the fighting rings, making a deadly name for herself.

And Saxony, a resistance fighter hiding from the very people who destroyed her family, and willing to do whatever it takes to get her revenge.

Everything in their lives is going to plan, until Tavia makes a crucial mistake: she delivers a vial of dark magic—a weapon she didn’t know she had—to someone she cares about, sparking the greatest conflict in decades. Now these four magical outsiders must come together to save their home and the world, before it’s too late. But with enemies at all sides, they can trust nobody. Least of all each other.

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I actually liked this book more than I had thought I would. That’s not to say I thought I’d hate it! I just wasn’t sure how I’d feel about Christo’s writing when removed from the framework of a retelling. While To Kill a Kingdom is (in my opinion) the stronger book of the two, I thought that this book had some great elements and is, overall, a strong read.

I thought that the magic system for this book was cool! Long time readers of my reviews will know that a unique and/or interesting magic system is always good news to me and I thought this worked. What I thought was particularly interesting, and something I hope we’ll see more of in a later book, was the idea of a black market for magic. It’s not something I’ve never seen before, we’ve all read a forbidden magic book, but this was one where things felt particularly ‘organised’ which I enjoyed.

One of the reasons I think I didn’t connect with this book as much as I would have liked was the characters. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Tavia and would have quite happily read just her story (although Karam and Saxony have my heart too). No, it was the fourth in this gang of magical misfits that bothered me. I think (and I could be wrong) that Wesley was meant to be one of those ‘you know he’s bad but you can’t help but like him’ kind of characters, perhaps akin to a Locke Lamora or Kaz from Six of Crows. Alas, at least for me, I did not like Wesley. Maybe it is my gut reaction to the name Wesley, maybe it was that I never felt like there was a moment where he was truly vulnerable – all those moments felt like he still wanted something. Perhaps in a re-read, knowing I ought to feel for him, I might be persuaded but my first impression was that I didn’t want to root for or care about a character who didn’t care about other people.

I did think that the plot was good, it got a little confusing and hard to follow at times (sometimes that was my fault, I’d drift off a little and suddenly they’d be on a train), but overall I thought the very disparate stories of these four characters were drawn together in an interesting way. I’ll be intrigued to see where this plot goes in book two.

Overall, this ended up being a fairly ‘good but not great’ read for me. I have a feeling this will be one of those books that is made or broken by the second book, where the characters have more room to develop and get into their backstories and their futures  – you know what I mean? I’ll definitely be re-reading this and looking forward to the sequel when it comes out!

My rating: 3/5 stars

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

Into the Crooked Place is available now!

Find on Goodreads | Amazon (Affiliate)

What say you? Did this book blow your mind? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

J

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