Written by: Leigh Bardugo
Published by: Henry Holt & Co.
Release date: September 29th 2015
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Source: BookExpo America 2015
Buy: B&N, Amazon, Book Depository
Add on: Goodreads
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.
Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.
I had a little bit of an odd experience reading Six of Crows. I read the first half in a couple of sittings, but then had to put it aside for a while to focus on some other things. And honestly, at the point when I set it aside, it wasn’t hard to do so. I was enjoying the book, but I wasn’t glued to the story yet. When I finally came back to it a few days later, it was like a switch had been flipped — some plot things started picking up IMMEDIATELY, and some character stuff started to be revealed, and I was finally — fully — on board.
One thing I did like immediately, though, was the setting. Once again, Leigh Bardugo slays when it comes to creating a sense of place. She’s crafted a setting for this duology which — while being new — fits perfectly into the Grisha world. It’s quite different from Ravka — Ketterdam isn’t based on Russia, for starters, and it’s not a very friendly city, at least in the areas where our characters frequent — but it’s built up effortlessly, and I had no problem jumping into this new setting.
But what about characters and plot? Well, before I jump into those topics, I feel like I need a bit of a disclaimer — especially regarding the characters.
If you know me at all, you know that when you tell me a book’s main characters are thieves and it’s essentially heist fantasy, I am 100% ready to root for the “bad guys.” Thieves are my weakness. Locke Lamora, the Mistborn crew, Scarlet and Rob — you say “thieves,” I say “GIVE THEM TO ME NOW.”
That said, I think I was slightly blindsided by the fact that this book is quite serious. I was expecting more of a fun (well, maybe not ‘fun’, but a tad lighter, at least) heist adventure, and what I got was a much darker book. And that’s not a problem, in and of itself, but for some reason, on top of that, I found that I had a hard time connecting emotionally with any of the characters until well into the story. There were moments every now and then (usually when bits of their history were revealed) when I’d go “YES! Finally! I can feel myself growing attached!” But it took me a while to feel that. Every character has some serious emotional armor — they don’t open up to the other members of their own crew, let alone to the reader. I adored the moments when they did open up, but then they closed down again — and I felt shuttered out, again.
For example, Kaz — one of the main characters in Six of Crows, a thief and the leader of our gang — is Very Much Not A Good Guy. I mean, he’s not an irredeemably terrible person, but man, there is a level of darkness to him and an amount of violence in him that I was not expecting. It’s not that I didn’t like that, or that I didn’t find him an interesting character… it’s just that it took me a VERY long time to warm up to him, when what I really wanted to be doing was loving him instantly. For the first half of the book, until I learned more about his past, I was just scratching my head at why people (who had read this book before I did) were sooooo very in love with this character. Once we finally learn more about him… okay, yes, I finally got it. His backstory is pretty intense, and now I understand it, and I did feel myself growing attached by the end of the book. But I’d be lying if I said that my expectations of immediately loving this character didn’t color my view of the first half of this book.
And that’s okay. A lot of people are going to love this book right off the bat, because of its unconventional darkness. I sort of do, too. I really appreciate that it isn’t your normal “our thieves really have hearts of gold” story that is so prevalent (but which I love, all the same). People are going to love Kaz, because he is relentless and driven and not afraid to get his hands dirty — he “gets the rough work done”, as they say.
And in regards to the other characters, I went through more or less the same emotional journey with them, though it didn’t take me as long to warm up to them. Inej and Nina were the first characters I grew to like. Inej is the Dregs’ “spider” — their spy/stealth master — and deadly with her concealed knives. Nina is a Grisha Heartrender. There’s also Wylan, an adorable genius. And sharpshooter Jesper, who ended up being my favorite character overall — I really liked his daredevil mentality and his weakness for gambling (and his very bad luck).
So, yes, I did end up liking the characters. It just took a while for them to grow on me.
As for the plot, it was quite good! Once it really got going, about halfway into the book, it moved at a pretty fast pace. There were some nice twists and turns, and the stakes and tension were constantly high. There were a couple moments that I wish had impacted me harder — reveals that I wanted to go “OMG, MIND BLOWN” but which somehow fell a little bit flat, I think because they mostly relied on characters being kept in the dark for very little reason. There was also something that happened at the very end that I found a bit problematic… But overall, the plot was very good and I’m excited to see what happens in the sequel.
Gah! I wish it didn’t sound like my thoughts are so negative — they’re not! I did rate this book 4 stars for a reason: By the end of the book, I was truly hooked. But overall, I think my feelings boil down to an issue of “potential.” There was so much potential for attachment and shipping (the ships! so much potential there) and feelings, but Six of Crows never crossed that line from “potential” into actual, full-blown attachment, for me. It was almost there, on a couple of occasions, but then the characters closed off again.
I do think it’ll be easier to achieve more of a sustained emotional connection in the second (and last!) book, since we know a bit more about everyone’s backstories now. My subtle growth of attachment in this book, and all the potential I’m seeing, makes me very curious to see how the sequel plays out. If things go the way I think they will, I may revise my thoughts on the characters and my current feelings towards them in this book — hindsight is, as they say, 20/20. For now, though, I’m left wanting more… and maybe that’s the point? Bring on book two!