Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Fantasy / Young Adult
Synopsis: Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:
Break into the notorious Ice Court (a military stronghold that has never been breached);
Retrieve a hostage (who could unleash magical havoc on the world);
Survive long enough to collect his reward (and spend it).
Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.
My Review (Spoiler-free)
I was hoping Six of Crows would live up to its insane hype. Did it? Definitely.
I read Shadow and Bone (although my early edition is called A Gathering of Shadows), the first in the Grisha trilogy, when it was originally released. I liked it, but I didn’t like it enough to immediately pick up the sequel. As a result, it fell to the wayside and I just never got round to finishing the trilogy. Then along came Six of Crows. I saw so may rave reviews, saw so many people gushing about it, that I decided to give the world of the Grisha another go.
Bardugo’s writing has certainly improved. Smooth, decorated with emotional flourishes, but not pulling any punches when it came to some of the more gory aspects, I loved every minute of it. Bardugo keeps the plot moving along at a steady pace and there isn’t a single word that feels unnecessary. And whilst the plot itself was unique and interesting, a kind of mashup between Ocean’s Eleven and Peaky Blinders in a world of magic, it was the characters that definitely stood out for me.
They’re all unique and diverse. Perhaps Wylan fell a little bit by the wayside, never getting a chapter dedicated to himself which I would have liked to have seen, but other than that they’re all exceptionally crafted. My favourites, however, were Kaz, Nina and Jesper. Kaz in particular was very complex and, as I’ve mentioned before, is basically a teenage Tommy Shelby from Peaky Blinders – both dress in smart suits, both have their hair shaved at the sides (which is a staple for the Shelby brothers), both are very good with words, and both have a troubled, traumatic past that affects them in the present. Oh, and they’re both gangsters, of course. If you love Kaz, go watch Peaky Blinders now, I can’t recommend it enough; I’d be very surprised if Bardugo wasn’t watching the show when writing Six of Crows. However, that’s of course where the similarities end; Kaz is his own person (although it was hard not to read his dialogue without a Brummy accent). I really liked learning about his childhood and discovering more about his habits and quirks. Whilst his choices were perhaps sometimes hard to swallow, you can see what drove him to it.
The standout character for me, however, was Nina. I really loved Nina. She was witty, headstrong, loved to eat and didn’t care who knew, and powerful yet compassionate. My favourite chapters were definitely hers, whether it was discovering more about her or learning more of her relationship to Matthias. Their journey together was one I really enjoyed finding out more about.
There are also a fair few twists and turns in this book and, I have to say, I didn’t see any of them coming. Normally, these things can be quite obvious, especially in YA. I don’t know if some authors just think readers of YA are dumb, but I can assure you we’re not. Thankfully, Bardugo isn’t one of those authors. All the twists caught me by surprise and kept me reading.
As for the world-building, I really enjoyed it, and it made me consider going back and trying the Grisha trilogy again. However, and this is a big however, I’m 99% sure there is a mahoosive spoiler in Six of Crows for that series. So now I’m a little bummed. I’m not going to mention what it’s about because even hinting at it will probably spoil it for those who haven’t read the first trilogy. You find out early on that this book takes part after the events of the original trilogy, so I can’t complain too much for skipping that trilogy and going to Six of Crows, but it was still a bit disappointing; I didn’t expect such a major spoiler. Anyway, you have been warned.
So, overall, a seamless story with excellent, complex characters. If you haven’t picked up this series yet, then do it! It certainly deserves all the hype it gets. I’ll probably wait a little bit until I get Crooked Kingdom, allow myself to digest this book first. In the meantime, I still have the last episode of series 3 of Peaky Blinders to watch…
Have you read Six of Crows or the Grisha trilogy? Or are you planning to read them? Let me know in the comments below!