*scales a cliffside* *takes deep breath* OH MY GOD, THIS BOOK. *flings self off cliff*
If you’ve read my Rainy Day Reading Wishlist post, you’ll know that I’ve been wanting to read this book for a really long while. I was hesitant at first, because I was afraid it wouldn’t live up to the hype. But then I started seeing it everywhere in bookstore windows, and Goodreads was practically exploding with love for the book. Finally, my boyfriend got tired of me whining (sorry darling) and bought me the book.
Granted, he did it just to get me to shut up about it already, but guys, he bought me the book. I may actually marry this man one day.
Buckle your seatbelts, guys, gals, and nonbinary pals, and get ready for a book review extravaganza fueled by coffee, a burning need to avoid actually working, and the sheer HEART-STOPPING, BREATHTAKING, AWE-INSPIRING AMAZENESS that is Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.
Six of Crows is actually not Leigh Bardugo’s first book. Her first works, the Grisha Trilogy, is composed of the books Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising, and Six of Crows takes place in the same universe. However, I was able to read Six of Crows just fine even if I hadn’t read the Grisha Trilogy.
Quick explanation – in this universe, Grisha are humans who practice the Small Science, or the art of manipulating matter. Grisha are divided into three orders: Corporalki, who can control the human body; Etherealki, who can control the winds and tides; and Materialki, who work with solid material. There is a country in this universe called Ravka, who employs Grisha as their armed forces, known as the Second Army. A war decimated the Second Army, and the Grisha who survived were sold into indentured slavery. Most of them ended up in Ketterdam, where our story begins, in the employ/ownership of the rich merchants that control the city. (Read the Grisha Trilogy to know the full story, but again, you can get by without reading it.)
The story revolves around Kaz Brekker, a lieutenant in one of Ketterdam’s most powerful gangs, the Dregs. He is an inordinately skilled and unparalleled thief and conman, and has built a reputation as a sly and ruthless criminal, always two steps ahead of everyone. . (On a side note, what is it with fantasy crime syndicates and cities with canals? Readers of Scott Lynch will know what I’m talking about.)
It is this reputation that leads Jan Van Eck, a wealthy merchant, to his doorstep. Van Eck tells Kaz that he has received word of a scientist who has developed a drug that enhances Grisha abilities to superhuman levels, and the Merchant Council of Ketterdam is worried about the effect this will have on commerce. Etherealki who can control the sea and the weather instead of just winds and tides, Materialki who can produce metal instead of merely altering it leading to the proliferation of counterfeit money, Corporalki no longer bound by the limitation of needing to see their victims in order to work their magic. Van Eck wants Kaz Brekker to bring the scientist to Ketterdam, so his research on the drug can be destroyed. The problem is, the scientist is being held in the Ice Court, the stronghold of the feared Fjerdans. Fjerdans are a traditional, superstitious people with a long history of military might, and have made it their highest calling to capture and execute Grisha, who they believe are an abomination.
Enticed by the thought of a huge reward and the notoriety pulling off such a job would provide, Kaz accepts the job and begins assembling his crew. He takes on his two constants: Jesper, a sharpshooter neck-deep in gambling debts; and Inej, a former prostitute who he rescued then turned into a spy and assassin known as the Wraith. Rounding out his team is Nina Zenik, a Corporalki Grisha who trained in the Second Army and joined the Dregs to avoid indentured servitude; Matthias Helvar, a former Fjerdan Drüskelle (witch-hunter) who was thrown into jail as a slaver; and Wylan Van Eck, Jan Van Eck’s runaway son.
Six of Crows is a roller coaster ride of thrills, shocking turns, and exciting twists, the Ocean’s Eleven of fantasy, taking the reader on one hell of a ride as a ragtag bunch of thieves, as different as can possibly, try to pull off the heist of the century.
What I liked:
- It’s literally taking everything I have in me not to scream, “Everything!!!!!!!!” But I will try to give a fair summation of what I liked about the series.
- The characters were very well crafted. Mostly, I hate when an author jumps from perspective to perspective, telling the story from a million and one points of view. Until I read Six of Crows, the only other author who, for me, has been able to pull this off was George R.R. Martin. Leigh Bardugo pulls this off masterfully. Each of the main characters – Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Nina, Matthias, and Wylan – has a distinct voice, with their own personality, backstory, motivations, thoughts, and dreams. I had absolutely no problem keeping up with each one and remembering who was who, and all of them were equally fascinating – which is something I can’t even say for the ASOIAF series because, more often than not, I’ll find myself eagerly following one story line and disregarding the rest. Not so for Six of Crows.
- There is romance, but it doesn’t take over the story. The romance between Kaz and Inej, as well as Mathias and Nina (don’t ask me which is my favorite couple, I CANNOT DECIDE), really touches the heart, but it isn’t out of character for what Bardugo has established for each character. THE ANGST IS SO GOOD GUYS, OH MY GOD.
- Witty one-liners, badass retorts, and quotable quotes abound – especially from my home girl Inej, the Wraith, an acrobatic spy who’s quite comfortable walking hand-in-hand with death. I’d quote you some of my choicest favorites, but then it’d fill up this whole entry.
- It was so dark! I find that fantasy mostly doesn’t deal with a lot of stark realities we get in this world – but I don’t begrudge the genre that. I mean, there’s a reason it’s fantasy, right? But Six of Crows is no escapist read, and it doesn’t shy away from the harsher facts of life. We’re treated to the ins and outs of life as a gangster in a big merchant city, indentured “servitude”, prostitution, and the like.
- THE FEMALE CHARACTERS ARE A HUNDRED DIFFERENT KINDS OF BADASS. They’re badass female characters who are feminine and total utter BAMFs. They’re not written as strong women for the sake of being strong women. They don’t ‘act’ tough, they are tough. They’ve suffered, they fall in love, have dreams, ambitions, secret hopes, fears, and innermost thoughts. They’re people, not mere caricatures meant to pander to an audience. Nina and Inej are the strong female characters most fantasy and YA heroines wish they could be. And best of all, they’re friends and it shows. Nina saves Inej’s life, and several times throughout the book they’re shown conversing about their thoughts, hopes, fears, and dreams, and it’s not just all about their respective love interests. You rarely get fantasy or sci-fi works that show a strong sense of comradeship between women, and Six of Crows delivers so wonderfully on that front.
- Okay, I said I wouldn’t quote any of my favorite one-liners from the book. But I just had to end with this. Whenever they’re about to pull off something stupid or dangerous, they say goodbye like so: “No mourners.” “No funerals.” YOU CAN’T NOT LIKE THAT. HOW BADASS IS THAT.
What I didn’t like:
- The amount of bolds, italics, and shouty capitals that I had to use to get the message across of just how much I fucking loved this book.
- The sequel isn’t available in my country yet.
- Everyone I know who’s read this book, I either met on my bookstagram or on this blog, so I can only screech about my love via typing.
100/100. I know I normally rate on a scale of 5, but there you go.
Remember how I said I hesitated to buy this at first? When I finally did, I opened the book and found this on the acknowledgement page:
Color me convinced. It was meant to be.