Review of Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo

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

I’ll admit that I didn’t really know much about what I was getting into with Into the Crooked Place, it was a book that I had been seeing lots about by way of pre-release hype, I found the authors first book To Kill and Kingdom pretty enjoyable so I thought that this would be a great read.  Sadly this book didn’t quite hit the spot for me.

The start is so very strong though, I was totally drawn into the world and there were the makings of some great and interesting characters and an out of this world sounding magic system. Creije has a very typical fantasy feel to it, a slightly historical vibe with a bit of Victoriana. I honestly didn’t feel like there wasn’t a single character that I didn’t connect with and for that I would say that this is more of a character driven piece, every backstory is so intricately woven with real emotion and feeling, and actually the notion of family is actually very strong which I loved as so often it’s all about characters going it alone. The story is strange in that we are fed pockets of information at various stages which sort of works when you’re in the moment. I absolutely adored the part involving a mini heist (I do love a heist and even more so with a rag tag team behind it) but there are also some amazing existential moments that are brimming with creativity with their dreamscape elements – also another firm favourite of mine. The magics really come into their own having more and more life breathed into them at each stopping point in the journey our group finds themselves in, it’s so creative! The parts of the story that I really enjoyed however, were the almost interlude moments when we were transported to a POV away from our normal narrators, this sections were full of genuine unease and a show of promise to the strength of writing below the surface.

But when the middle part starts that’s where it starts to feel a bit off for me. The characters are moving from place to place but there is no drive behind them, lots of really great stand alone things are happening that just didn’t feel cohesive and for me the middle of the book just didn’t really work at all, which is a real shame as this is where we really get to learn about depth of the magics. As is now Christo’s style, we have a steady route to get to a goal, the goal here being the end battle which was a whizz and a blur of action. As with TKAK, the battle felt confusing yet so full on with every member of the team getting their part, I wish that it felt more structured and less hectic – this I know is mainly my fault as I nearly DNF’d this book and skimmed for a bit, but even so I think I still would have felt this way had I savoured every word. I have to say that I am baffled by the comparisons to Six of Crows – that book doesn’t hold the copyright on street urchins with a plan, I think Oliver Twist has a fair shout on that – I just didn’t get that vibe from it at all.

As usual though with series books, this does end with a doozy of a closing stage to really drag you into wanting to come back for more, I knew what was coming in the last chapter which had an almost epilogue feel  and I did find it quite delicious – if only that shame chill and intrigue had woven its way a bit more into the pages.

It does have a great premise though and the foundations of some great world building that could do with being built on substantially to give the next book in the series the rounded feel it deserves – I’m not giving up hope because of such promise and I do genuinely like some of the characters especially with some of the latter revelations about them. I would love for this series to reach its potential more fully in the next book, because this has the potential to become spectacular.

3*

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