& Reviews: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy. Publisher: Henry Holt and Company September 2015

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy. Publisher: Henry Holt and Company September 2015

The Book Itself: You can’t see it from the cover photo alone, but the pages are trimmed in black, making for a very cool effect, and an awesome addition to a bookshelf. The crow on the cover is really ingenious, too, with the wingtip forming the spires of a city.

My Review: 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.

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

My best friend raved about this book and pushed it into my hands. I was reading the first two books in the Gentleman Bastards series (read reviews on The Lies of Locke Lamora and Red Seas Under Red Skies here and here) at the time, and the synopsis of Crows sounded like a too-similar story arc in young adult form. So I put it off.

I am glad I finally picked it up after a couple of palate-cleansing books. It is incredibly well-written and structured, and despite it having a boggling number of protagonists, I felt like I got to know each one.

Leigh Bardugo also wrote the Grisha Trilogy (Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising). I read the first of that series in 2014, but for some reason didn’t continue. I liked the book, and it built a really complex villain and love triangle, but perhaps I just got wrapped up in other books or it wasn’t quite what I was looking for at the time.

Well, Six of Crows is set in the same world. Upon seeing a list of Grisha on one of the first pages, I called my friend in a panic “Do I need to go read that whole series before I get to this one?!”

“No,” she reassured me. “It stands on its own.”

And it certainly does. Not only did I immediately understand what the Grisha were and how they fit into the world (this book is set after the events of the other series, so you might get a couple spoilers about the aftermath of the series’ events), but I fell into it and just kept reading. You get steeped in the action right away, from multiple characters and multiple sides of the story. And at first, having these six+ people as your guides for the rest of the novel seems overwhelming: each chapter cycles narration between them, and you have to get them straight, as well as feel like you know them and their motivations.

And I don’t know quite how Bardugo managed it, but the pacing and structuring is so well done! We get flashbacks and backstory for each and every thief/thug/sorcerer (or sorceress). And it is done in such a way that I didn’t feel that it detracted from the main plot. Which, speaking of plot, is fantastic. We have the formation of our dream team: teenage thieves and weapons specialists (I automatically age them in my mind because it just seems weirdly implausible that they are in their teens), we have the formation of The Mission, we slowly set up the stakes for The Mission for each character, and we carry out The Mission. I didn’t feel taken out of the story at any point, I didn’t detest or even dislike any one character – the ones you feel have bad intentions to start with turn into complex people with beliefs that differ from others in key ways.

I am finding that I am drawn towards crafty main characters. The kind that always seem in a bind, but they are only in a bind because they planned it that way. And just when you think all hope is lost, they reveal the secret to the magic trick, and they wiggle their way out of trouble. It makes the plot interesting, and a bit unpredictable. Even though I know this character and know that this is probably a ruse that they have orchestrated to get something that they want, I want to learn how they did it, and how exactly they are going to get away. Kaz Brekker, the leader of our motley crew, is one such character. He always has something up his sleeve. But he’s complex, and his backstory is pretty heartbreaking.

So, it is safe to say that I liked it. A lot. Crooked Kingdom, the sequel, comes out this September, and it is already on my calendar. The worldbuilding is strong, any romance is a nice background, and not the cloying focus, and you will love this ragtag bunch of misfits.

My Grade: A

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