I was very excited about Into the Crooked Place because the blurb was giving me strong Six of Crows vibes. I guess they call this gangster fantasy these days? While parts of it does feel like SoC, overall the book missed the mark a little for me.
The world building was pretty good. Christo imbued the setting with seemingly sufficient grit. There’s history. There’s buskers peddling magic. The magic itself I struggled with a lot. It often felt like there weren’t any strict rules, some of it felt “hand wavey” if you will, which I occasionally struggled with. Wesley “summons” charms from his skin? There wasn’t a lot of explanation about where the charms come from or how they get their specific powers.
Another thing I struggled with, is it’s explained initially there is no new magic, so anything the buskers sell is somehow recycled or a trick. But where was it recycled from? Is there that much illicit magic laying around that 50-100 buskers in several different cities can afford to sell many of these charms and potions every night? I felt like I was just supposed to take all this at face value.
The characters were all great and yet I often felt like I wasn’t connecting. There was funny banter and wit and sass galore, a f/f relationship/romance that I actually did enjoy. But often a chapter would devolve into the character’s inner monologue about their significant/desired other and that often took me out of the story a bit. I think the story would have been sufficient with just Karam’s and Saxony’s romance, because that one felt relatively effortless, while Wesley and Tavia’s romance/flirtations, often felt shoehorned in.
The plot was okay. It was high action, but a lot of the action could have been skipped without any detriment to the story. There were several fist fights that felt like we were seeing them just to show how tough Wesley or Karam were. There were a lot of training scenes. It’s just not my favorite way to read action in a book. I cared about the fights against the bad guys, not so much the fights and the training amongst themselves.
The other thing I want to note- I finished this on Saturday, less than a week ago. And I am struggling to remember lots of the details. It wasn’t an unenjoyable experience, but it simply wasn’t that memorable.