I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Also by this author: Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories
Published by Henry Holt and Company on September 29th 2015
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 480 •Format: ARC •Source: ALA
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.
“Greed may do your bidding, but death serves no man.”
Have you ever read a book that totally and completely changes your opinion of an author? For me, Six of Crows was that book. Sure, I enjoyed the Grisha Trilogy well enough. It had some elements I liked, but it didn’t set itself apart, didn’t situate itself as an out-liar in my mind among the copious amounts of other YA fantasy that I read. So I admit to being nervous and more than a bit skeptical when I started Six of Crows (although my excitement was peaked after waiting in a very eventful line for it at ALA, with no short amount of drama).
Six of Crows turned out to be a slow-burn for me, and while it started very slow, it built my curiosity and investment with each successive chapter. The book is told through a multiple-POV structure through the “six” heist members it derives its title from, and while I enjoyed certain characters’ narratives more than others, I thought Bardugo did an excellent job making the distinct voices come across cohesively, and layering plot elements within each different narrated chapter. While the book was slow to start and captivate my interest, the element that undeniably kept me reading was Kaz. I was instantly smitten by him, but not in a fangirl way. Rather, I developed a deep appreciation for his moral ambiguity and his complex anxieties and nuances. Kaz lies much more firmly on the side of villain than hero, he served as a pillar that kept me invested in the story even when I had to suffer through characters whom I didn’t care for narrating.
My other character obsession in this novel was the character who most tied Bardugo’s Grisha-verse into the Six of Crows realm: Nina. A Heartrender displaced far from home, she’s the perfect balance of sassy and vulnerable, and she brings insight into how things are in Ravka since the end of Ruin and Rising. In my post about Spin Offs, I discussed how I’m a huge fan of them and often find that the author tends to produce better writing in a spin off, as they’re familiar with the universe but can develop new elements around the peripheral strength of their previous storytelling. Six of Crows followed my spin off rule, and managed to delve deeper into secondary elements mentioned in the Grisha trilogy and build an even stronger story around it. Specifically focused on are the Fjerdans, their culture and their complex relationship to Grisha.
What really set this book apart for me and warranted its five star rating is that it isn’t intimidated by being labeled a Young Adult book. It didn’t sugarcoat the happenings or try to make the gang have a Robin Hood complex. Most of the characters are not good people, and when they do show altruism it’s almost always with an ulterior motive. The characters are from The Barrel, a rough, unforgiving place to live and work and the realities of such an existence are not denied (Theft. Murder. Trafficking. Poverty. Disease. Violence.) There’s a despair and grit that layers each character’s narrative and readers don’t get the sense that such an intense stain due to life circumstances could ever be removed even with millions in currency from a successful heist.
The romance aspect, while definitely not at the center of the book, left me very divided. There was one couple I found myself really rooting for View Spoiler »(Nina and Mattias forever!) « Hide Spoiler, yet another major couple that was hinted at throughout the course of the book felt really forced and cliché to me. Unfortunately for me, that second romance seems as though it’s going to play a crucial role in the sequel View Spoiler »and I’m really worried it’s going to compromise the aspects I love about Kaz’s character. Inej is totally the moral compass of the gang and I’m afraid he’s going to lose his anti-hero swagger if he’s with her. « Hide Spoiler
Plot-wise, the novel proved successful in that it has the appropriate nuances and red-herrings that any good fantasy book lays out across its pages in order to keep readers turning pages. Kaz truly is almost always ten steps ahead of any competition they may be dealing with, and his contingency plans have contingency plans. However, I found myself to be a little disappointed by how heavily the ending plot twist (which ironically was probably the least shocking to me) relies on a sequel to support it. After investing so much time into a novel so thick with pages and details, it’s frustrating to know that by the time a sequel is produced I’ll probably have forgotten key details, and to be honest I really wasn’t expecting a cliffhanger ending after such an extensively plotted heist.
Overall: While Leigh Bardugo’s previous writings can be deemed “fantasy-lite,” Six of Crows firmly lands in the realm of higher fantasy, unabashedly brash and unapologetic in its narrative of a rag-tag troop of misfits doing anything, anything, to get by. While it’s slow to start, it’s layered and intriguing and complex in its execution, and it had made me appreciate Bardugo as an author who stands out in YA literature. Kax Brekker has definitely made my list of top ten favorite protagonists. If you’re willing to be patient with Six of Crows, you’re in for a treat!
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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Goodreads Challenge