Book Title Six of Crows (Six of Crows #01)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Number of pages: 465
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… Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.
Should this book be picked up? the tl;dr review:
– Come for the heist, stay for the characters. Five alternating POVs with witty banter, slow burn romance, and plenty of dissonance
– Two primary settings: a gritty merchant port with gangs, bars and speakeasies + a prison atop a frozen landscape; incorporates the high fantasy of the Grishaverse
– Voices are distinct and everyone has their own motivations (no pawns for pawns sake)
– There are Easter eggs for those who’ve read The Grisha trilogy. The learning curve isn’t steep for those who haven’t read her other series
INFINTELY BETTER THAN THE GRISHA TRILOGY.
The Dregs are one of many gangs vying for turf on the merchant port of Ketterdam. When a dangerous drug surfaces, buyers learn its secret are locked away in Fjerda’s Ice Court in an enigma going by Bo Yul-Bayur. Interested parties from all over the world gleam with the hope of riches. For Kaz “Dirtyhands” Brekker, this is his shot at getting back at an old adversary but he can’t pull off the heist alone; he’ll assemble The Six of Crows.
The Grishaverse is utterly robust.
It travels from grit and grime to stark whiteness blanketing the tundra biome in The Ice Court and the sense of peril remains consistent throughout. The scope of the world and its storytelling—when compared to The Grisha trilogy—is vastly different despite the trail of Easter eggs Bardugo leaves for readers of the Grisha series (LIKE ANYTHING ABOUT A EMERALD? FUUUUHHH).
I’ll be upfront and say that you do not need to have read the Grisha trilogy prior to reading Six of Crows. It may help to give substance but the learning curve to understand the magically adept isn’t steep at all. Moreover, it delves into unexplored territory (ish) not covered in the initial trilogy.
Ketterdam: think of your dirtiest neighbourhood, slap on a harbour, add gambling halls and speakeasies, mix in a gang or two (or a dozen), add political intrigue in merchants and governing bodies and boom—home sweet home.
Frejda (or The Ice Court): a high security prison plus castle-ish with plenty of artillery behind stone-and-gated walls. It’s also very cold.
I can’t even begin picking apart what could have been “bad” about it. Yeah things came pretty easy with incompetent baddies protecting a prison but that just extends to the character’s competency, right? I cannot think of what else really stood out that was negative.
I’m just going to put this out there: her [Bardugo’s] storytelling in Six of Crows is infinitely better.
A problem that often surfaces with multi-POV narrating is that there’s a clear protagonist and other perspectives simply run into spears for their Chosen One. While it’s true that Kaz leads his crew down the rabbit hole, there is a clear motivation for those who tag along and the use of multiple narrators is justified as the focus tangents from voice to another as the story paces along. It’s awesome to see one moment through different eyes (because all actions matter). The dynamic between characters is really the selling point of Six of Crows; transitioning a plot-heavy story to one that is character-driven.
I felt like I needed that Wylan perspective to round things out (I was lowkey flipping the chapters thinking “THIS IS IT, THIS WILL BE WYLA–nope”). Give me that, second book.
I really appreciated that this story was grounded in rational decision in the face of adversity and unknowns rather than putting plot over romance. Just think back on Alina in The Grisha trilogy. You laugh, I laugh, but it happened. There isn’t any of that wishy-washy antic and my goodness is that relieving. I mean, yeah there’s [a slow burn] romance but it doesn’t eclipse the focus of what’s trying to be achieved.
That being said, I buddy read Six of Crows with Jenna @ Reading With Jenna and Jesse @ Books At Dawn and let me just say that I theorized the twist early on but the writing was so well executed that it didn’t dilute the story for what it was.
Among the six-person ensemble, you get five distinct voices. Of the bunch, ranked from fave-to-least: Jesper Fahey, Kaz Brekker, Nina Zenik, Inej Ghafa, Matthias Helvar, and Wylan Van Eck (mainly because he wasn’t given his own POV). Everyone raves about cutthroat Kaz or Inej and her badassery but Jesper tops the list for me—and I’ll fight you on that.
I’ve seen comments tag Jesper as the comic relief as if that’s his only role but he’s much more than his wit. How? I’d argue that he’s the most accessible character because he’s built from the attributes of others; like a chameleon but…Jesper. It’s what makes his bantering so seamless. What stood out is his eagerness to be satisfactory without being cumbersome and his haunting existential crisis. Here’s a character who’s a University dropout (basically), has a shit ton of debt, and lacks a clear focus as to his purpose and identity. If that doesn’t evoke a pliable 21st century character then I don’t know what to think.
His relationship with Inej: effortless.
His relationship with Wylan: nuanced.
While I’m sure Bardugo has already decided Jesper’s path in the upcoming novel, Crooked Kingdom, the possibility of him being players of both teams is there and she has yet to shy away from the LGBTQIA spectrum in her previous trilogy. So kudos to that and to the diversity in the other characters.
I flail, you [will] flail, we all flail.
Bardugo’s Six of Crows may be a story about a heist but the melding character dynamics is what makes this read an experience. Soon, you’ll be wanting to be part of the Dregs. I’m serious.
I should also remind you of this moment:
If you’ve read it, tell me who your favourite member was!