Written by: Leigh Bardugo
Book # 1 / 2 (so far) of the Six of Crows series
Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars
Summary: 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.
“When everyone knows you’re a monster, you needn’t waste time doing every monstrous thing.”
Review: I loved the Bardugo’s former work found in the Grisha trilogy… but I think perhaps Six of Crows is about to surpass it in the rankings. First of all, you see so much of the world beyond Ravka, which is where the Grisha trilogy primarily takes place and which was a problem for me during the entire series before. Although most of the Six of Crows takes place in the countries of Kerch and Fjerda, all other countries (and even the gypsy race of the Suli) are represented through other characters in the story. Bardugo does an incredible job developing each of these separate countries and making it clear how different they are from one another, both in their environments and their peoples’ beliefs. Additionally, the story goes beyond just the tales of Grisha; most of the characters don’t have the powers bestowed upon them by the gods, but instead have to rely on their own human strength or intelligence or nature to get what they want. I think it’s less of a fantasy book for this reason as it has less magic in it, but it is also an immensely darker book than I was expecting – and Bardugo pulled this off incredibly well.
There are two reasons this book received a 4.5/5 rather than a 5/5. The first is that Six of Crows apparently only takes place two years after the completion of the Grisha trilogy – which I didn’t realize for most of the book until Nina mentions fighting in the war. I enjoyed the light mentions to the characters of the previous series, but the strange time gap that wasn’t as large as I had imagined left me confused. For some reason that is never really thoroughly explained, most of the countries (especially Fjerda) are still incredibly fearful of the Grisha and their powers despite the success they had while fighting in the Grisha trilogy. I wish that there was more of a description behind what had happened in the other countries during the time of Ravka’s war, and what made countries like the Shu more willing to accept Grisha while basically everybody else still fears them. The other reason is simple, and a bit *spoiler-y*, so warning. Although the book’s focus, unlike the Grisha trilogy, is not romance, each of the six characters just magically happens to fall in love/lust with another person on their small crew. I hate “coincidences” like this, but again, it’s not a large enough part of a book to really hinder the rest of the story.
Considering there are basically six main characters, it’d be a little difficult to go into all of them in detail as much as I would like to. While Kaz, the leader of the group and a criminal mastermind, is interesting and I need to know so much more about his past and mysterious limp, I think that his character is so forcefully professional sometimes that I overlooked him, focusing on the other five members of their crew instead.There’s Inej, who’s a Suli girl kidnapped and sold into prostitution that now works for Kaz as “The Wraith” for her ability to climb anything and anywhere, who has the biggest heart of any of them and the ability to calm Kaz like nobody else; there’s Nina, a Heartrender Grisha who fought in the Ravkan war and will do anything and everything for the Grisha to be respected and have the rights they deserve; there’s Matthias, the Fjerdan druskelle (or Grisha hunter) who’s torn between all he’s been raised to believe and his feelings for Nina; and there’s Wylan, the once-heir to a rich Kerch trader’s fortune and now-naive and nervous demolitions expert on their crew. But then there’s Jesper, a Zemeni boy and Kaz’s most trusted member of his gang. I need a lot more Jesper in my life; his easy humor is what really helped solidify the book’s quality to me, as it added a light layer to the darkness and action that was involved with most of the rest story. I also love the implication that he’s bisexual/gay (unsure) and that (*spoiler alert*) he and Wylan have a potentially blossoming relationship. Normally, I cringe a little bit when I feel that LGBTQ+ characters are too forced, but they have a very relaxed and natural relationship that I am excited to see grow in subsequent books. Ultimately, all of these characters are incredibly detailed and practically jump from the pages. More than anything, even though they’re technically the “bad” guys, you find yourself rooting for them so easily. Give me strong female/LGBTQ+/antihero/racially and ethnically diverse characters ALL DAY EVERY DAY, please!!
Utlimately, this is one of the better YA series I’ve had the pleasure of reading. It’s not any of your typical dystopian/love triangle/started from the bottom now we here plot lines; although there’s plenty of those as well, if that’s what you really want. Bardugo has created a truly unique world, with characters that I evenly love and hate – the best possible mix I could ask for. I had high expectations considering my experiences with the Grisha trilogy, and I am so glad The Six of Crows continues that story. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the series, including Crooked Kingdom, carry on its legacy.