Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: Six of Crows (#1)
Read: September 29th-30th, 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Release Date: September 29th, 2015
Genre: high fantasy
In short: ding, ding, ding, we have a winner! Morally ambiguous characters, a cracking heist, and a lovely setting, Six of Crows has got it all.
Goodreads: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.
Seriously, the number of emotions Six of Crows made me feel took me right back to when I was 13 and fell for every terrible YA fantasy (I even went back to my 8th grade highlighter key: yellow for review quotes; green for humour; purple for romance…) Except now I am wiser, and the book is so, so much better. I really did not like Shadow & Bone and I didn’t think I would ever read anything set in the Grishaverse—not gonna lie, this is partly because Bardugo didn’t use the patronymic system in her Russian-inspired land and that really hurt me. But I read her brilliant Tor.com shorts, and I decided to give her work a second chance when I saw Six of Crows. And I am so, so glad I did.
≫ THE PLOT:
A gambler, a convict, a wayward son, a lost Grisha, a Suli girl who had become a killer, a boy from the Barrel who had become something worse.
The city of Ketterdam, capital of Kerch, runs on trade and crime—though some might say the two are the same thing.
“I’m a business man,” he’d told her. “No more, no less.”
“You’re a thief, Kaz.”
“Isn’t that what I just said?”
Kaz Brekker is the deadliest lieutenant of the Dregs, a street gang. Ambitious, cold, and ruthless, Kaz agrees to take on a near-impossible job for the reward it’ll bring him and his crew—four million kruge, each. Along with his trusted ‘thief of secrets’ Inej, Dregs sharpshooter Jesper, a Ravkan Heartrender named Nina, Matthias, a Fjerdan prisoner, and a runaway named Wylan, Kaz aims to break into Fjerda’s high-security fortress for a prize both dangerous and coveted. But tensions are high between the crew—Nina and Matthias have history, Matthias is reluctant to betray his country’s secrets, and no one knows if their insane plan will actually work. And of course nothing can go right when you’re after something so big.
This plot? Stitched together so well and so seamlessly. All the revelations click into place at the end of the book and will leave you gaping like a fish out of water. The twists and turns are so fun and the pace is heart-pounding. Plus, you don’t need to have read Shadow & Bone to understand what’s going on here.
≫ THE SETTING:
A lot of people have problems with the way the different cultures are depicted in the Grishaverse; in particular, because some of the kingdoms are visibly inspired by actual countries, the Grishaverse sometimes panders to stereotypes. That being said, I didn’t feel those stereotypes as strongly as I did while reading Shadow & Bone. The setting definitely feels more fleshed-out. Also Ketterdam! I have a thing for canal cities with thriving criminal activity, and Ketterdam is right at home with the best of them. I don’t know much about the accuracy of the Holland-inspired culture, but it was such fun to read about.
≫ THE CHARACTERS:
We get the perspectives of almost all of the crew members, and grow to adore them all. I loved that they all have hidden depths and touches of darkness—because no teenager that’s suffered as much as they have could possibly be bright and sunshiney.
Besides, she was the Wraith – the only law that applied to her was gravity, and some days she defied that, too.
Inej Ghafa is a spy, and also my favourite character of everyone in Six of Crows. I loved Inej, from her crazy skills to her Suli wisdom to her dark need for vengeance. Also, I may have teared up a little when she got her big moment. Team Inej forever.
…the living asked more of you than the dead.
Did someone say, more awesome female characters? Nina Zenik was once a Heartrender in Ravka’s Second Army, and she’s a blessing in hilarity and internal monologue. Of all the POVs, hers was a little more romance-heavy, but considering that this book is really light on the romance, that’s not saying much. Plus, Nina and Inej have the only real friendship of all the crew members at the start—hooray for female friendship!
This was why Kaz did the planning.
Jokes on the outside, but trouble on the inside—that’s Jesper Fahey. Jesper seems cavalier and lighthearted, but hides a serious gambling problem and a love for adrenaline rushes that’s a touch unhealthy. I love that he’s such a complex roil of emotions.
The water hears and understands. The ice does not forgive.
Matthias is gruff and reticent, but more importantly? He’s tormented. He’s torn between the chance to escape and his love for his country, and it doesn’t help that one pushes him to the other. I know that a heist crew always has that one reluctant member, but Matthias felt so realistic.
Brekker’s hands were stained with blood. Brekker’s hands were covered in scars. Brekker had claws and not fingers because he was part demon. Brekker’s touch burned like brimstone – a single brush of his bare skin caused your flesh to wither and die.
Dirtyhands had come to see the rough work done.
Kaz Brekker is a total anti-hero—which is great, because that’s what makes him interesting. When I say he’s ruthless, I mean it. When I say he has issues, I mean it. He’s dark, he’s brutal, and his time on the streets has left him with some serious trauma. He’s not your typical Danny Ocean kind of crew leader—but that’s what makes him, and Six of Crows, even better.
≫ OF VILLAINS:
The brutal Fjerdans that the crew goes up against make good villains—they’re easy to hate. Throw in some religious fanaticism, and the fact that they think Grisha are abominations? You’re rooting for the criminals, all right.
≫ THE ROMANCE:
This book is just chock-full of unresolved sexual tension. It’s actually terrifying how the romance(s) swoop you along until you’re rooting for them with fervour. But guess what? The romance never overtakes the actual plot, which made my day.
≫ THE HUMOUR:
Because it deserved its own section.
“Kaz leaned back. “What’s the easiest way to steal a man’s wallet?”
“Knife to the throat?” asked Inej.
“Gun to the back?” said Jesper.
“Poison in his cup?” suggested Nina.
“You’re all horrible,” said Matthias.”
…a time-saving gesture that relied heavily on his middle finger…
“Would it kill him to smile every once in a while?” Jesper asked.
“Yellow Protocol?” asked Kaz.
“Sector disturbance,” said Inej.
“We’re all doomed?” said Jesper.
“It’s not natural for women to fight.”
“It’s not natural for someone to be as stupid as he is tall, and yet there you stand.”
She poked him in the chest.
“No. I’m beguiling you.”
“Hooded, chained, and shackled?” said Jesper. “You’re sure we can’t go in as entertainers? I hear Wylan really kills it on the flute.”
“What is he doing?” asked Matthias.
“Performing an ancient Zemeni ritual,” Kaz said.
“…Three million kruge waiting for you in Ketterdam?”
Kaz blinked and his eyes cleared. “Four million.”
“I thought that might bring you around.”
“…What do we do, Kaz?”
“Wait,” he said as the sound grew louder.
“How about ‘take cover’?” Nina asked, bouncing nervously from foot to foot. “‘Have heart’? ‘I stashed twenty rifles in this convenient shrubbery’? Give us something.”
“How about a few million kruge?” said Kaz.
≫ THE ENDING:
Dun dun DUN. Way to mess with my mind. As soon as I put it down I was looking up the release date for book #2. That epilogue, man.
≫ TO SUMMARISE:
READ IT NOW. 10/10, would recommend. Six of Crows is definitely worth your time, money, and emotions.