Book: Six of Crows
Author: Leigh Bardugo
This book was my #RockMyTBR read for August. It was one of the books I was most excited for on the list that Twitter chose for me at the end of last year and probably one of the most hyped books on the list. My friend absolutely loves this book as well, and we have very similar tastes in books, so usually if she loves a book, I will too. Still, it’s always a bit nerve wracking when you read a book that’s so well loved, as you always have it in the back of your mind that you might be the black sheep who doesn’t like the book as much as everyone else. Luckily this wasn’t the case with Six of Crows, I really enjoyed it! It did take a while to get into it, as a lot of the book is purely set up for the heist-which I suppose is to be expected in a heist book, but once the action started, it was very hard to put the book down. I also loved the cast of characters Leigh Bardugo put together and their development over the course of the book. Here is a short synopsis of it:
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.
The opening was pretty engaging, but it did bother me that the opening chapter came from a character that you never hear from again in the rest of the book. I get that it sets up the whole thing with the Grisha, which is an important part of the rest of the book, but when the opening chapter feels completely separate from the rest of the story, that’s a bit of a problem for me. I mean, it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the story, but I feel like the opening would have made more sense if it had come from a member of Kaz’s crew rather than this weird outsider who we never hear from again.
This book is a spinoff from the author’s original Grisha series but I don’t think it’s necessary to have read them before you read this? I don’t know, for me personally, I found it easy enough to follow and the Grishas sufficiently explained that I could follow everything without having read the original trilogy, but I have heard that some people have found it confusing and it did seem as if the world building expected a certain level of prior knowledge about Grisha, so it’s up to you whether you want to read that first or this, it would probably give you a better understanding of the Grisha war (mentioned a few times) & why the Grisha are considered slaves, but I don’t think it’s necessary (although I did find that the difference between Heartrender and Healer wasn’t explained, is that something you know from the original Grisha books?).
I’d heard so much about Kaz before I read this and I was expecting to really like him, extremely clever anti-hero with a talent for thievery, he sounded a lot like an older version of Artemis Fowl, whom I loved. However I didn’t find myself loving Kaz quite as much as I hoped I would. I’m not really sure what it was, it’s not that he’s completely immoral or a bit of an ass, I’ve loved characters like that before, maybe it’s that he’s quite distant and that makes it hard to connect to him? I don’t know but I didn’t feel the same rush of love as everyone else. I did feel sorry for everything he went through and I really appreciated seeing his touch phobia represented as I can relate to that? I don’t have a phobia, but I do find close contact uncomfortable so it was nice to see that in a character.
I loved most of the rest of the characters though. Nina and Inej were without a doubt my favourites of the cast, Inej was so strong, both physically and emotionally and Nina was hilarious but also fierce (and she loved . I loved that they would put the boys in their places whenever they said or did something remotely assholey! I also loved their friendship, they’re so supportive of each other, there’s no jealousy there, no girl on girl fighting, just wonderful, supportive female friendship. We need more of this in books people! Inej is a former brothel worker but she’s never slut shamed for it. Nina is an unapologetic flirt but she’s also never shamed for it. I love this, women with agency people! This is how you do it!
Jesper was adorable, he’s kind of the comic relief of the group, and I do love the funny guy, so he had my heart instantly, but don’t let the comic facade fool you, he could kill you pretty quick with his sharpshooting skills. I loved his flirting/banter with Wylan and actually wished we could have seen more of the two of them, him and Wylan kind of get pushed to the side for Kaz/Inej and Nina/Matthias, which was a shame. Wylan was definitely my cinnamon roll for this book, he’s too precious for this world and must be protected.
I hated Matthias to begin with. He was all holier than thou and ooh I can’t love a Grisha and what you’re doing is totally wrong and was generally kind of an asshole but he undergoes some great character development through the book and by the end I actually quite liked him. Not as much as Inej or Nina but I didn’t want to hit him anymore, so I’m calling that progress!
All the characters are quite different which I loved (and the voices were distinct enough that you didn’t always have to look at the chapter heading to know who was talking), it made for a good group dynamic, although I will say that during the heist, the group is very much split into their respective pairs, so you don’t get to see them work together as much as I might have liked.
There’s great diversity in this book, you have two main POC characters (Inej and Jesper), a disabled character (Kaz), who also has PTSD, so there’s mental illness rep there too and a confirmed bisexual character (Jesper), Wylan who is strongly hinted to be gay but there’s no on page confirmation, so I’m not sure if that counts? and a fat character (Nina). They were all treated well as well, no fat-phobia, racism, ableism or homophobia as far as I could tell, so that was great. I also liked that both Matthias and Inej are religious (though obviously their Gods are different to ours) as you don’t tend to see that very often.
I didn’t love that conveniently there were six main characters, who all got paired off with each other. Must we have romance in every YA book people? Can’t we have a group of six friends doing a heist without them all being paired? The romance wasn’t a huge part of the book which I felt glad of, as the only pairing I was really rooting for was Wylan and Jesper, they were so cute and their flirty banter so great. Nina/Matthias started as a captor/captive romance, which I didn’t love, although I did like how Nina made Matthias loosen up a bit more and I think this is a ship I could get on board with given more time. Kaz/Inej, I know I was supposed to love but I didn’t really see anything there? I don’t know maybe I will in the next book. It felt like I was constantly being told that Kaz and Inej felt things for each other, but I didn’t really see it. Nina and Matthias I saw it, I didn’t always love it, but I saw it (and I loved that there was a scene with them spending the night together but it was all about survival not sex! When you’re freezing to death, nah you will not be thinking about sex!). Jesper/Wylan aren’t even an official couple but I saw it. Kaz and Inej? I didn’t really see it. And it was kind of selfish of Inej to insist she must have Kaz “without armour” when she knows about his issues with physical contact? So that was a little offputting, much as I loved Inej.
There were some really great action sequences particularly in the latter half of the book, when the pace really picks up, somewhat making up for the lag at the beginning of the book where it is mostly set up. I mean I understand set up is necessary for heist stories, I just don’t necessarily want to read several hundred pages of it!
The characters all have quite complicated backstories, which I thought was good, as it fleshed them out, but I can understand that keeping track of all these characters and their backstories could be a problem for some people! I would have liked it if Wylan and Jesper had been a little more fleshed out, we tended to only get the flashbacks from Inej, Kaz, Nina or Matthias, which meant we didn’t really get to see Wylan or Jesper’s pasts, only hear snippets of it which was a shame. The lengthy flashbacks were interesting but they did also take you out of the main story and not always at the best times.
Some of the chapters were a little overlong at the start, which contributed to the pacing problems, but this got much better once we got into the heist proper.
I wasn’t expecting how much humour there was in this book, Leigh Bardugo writes great dialogue and some awesome witty banter and I found myself laughing out loud several times during the story.
There were a lot of twists throughout the book that I didn’t see coming, which made it more entertaining. Even though it’s a foregone conclusion that they will make it out of the Ice Court (there’s a sequel so you know things will go okay), there’s still a lot of obstacles on the way to achieving their goal. On occasion, I did feel like the story was trying to be a bit too clever though and I got a little confused? I don’t know, there are just some things that weren’t really explained as much as I would have liked. I also felt that there were times when everything was a little too neat? Saying exactly where would be a spoiler but there were definitely things that worked out just a little too well for the characters that it wasn’t quite believable.
The world building was pretty good, with the Grisha and the parem and all the different cultures of the world and everything, but I still felt like there could have been more? I don’t know, it’s probably just me, I love world building so I want to know everything! The setting was really cool, all dark and gritty, I hope we see more of Ketterdam in the next book.
Leigh Bardugo’s writing was really good, but I definitely preferred her dialogue to her description, I couldn’t really put a reason on it, I think it’s probably just my personal preference for dialogue.
The characters read as much older than they were, aside from Wylan and Jesper, I had trouble believing they were all teenagers, it felt like I was reading about a bunch of 20+ adults.
Van Eck was totally awful, I wanted to punch him!
The book tackles a lot of difficult issues, gambling problems, prostitution, death, drugs, PTSD etc and I thought Bardugo did this well and with sensitivity.
The end I had problems with. Not only was it anti-climactic, but the fact that it was only the girls in trouble at the end smacked of a little subtle sexism to me, which rubbed me the wrong way, the author had been doing so well for most of the book, so it made me a bit made that even a book that has really good rep and all of the sexism is countered, had some subtle sexism in it’s ending. I’m not sure if the author was meaning to, but it just rubbed me the wrong way.
I really enjoyed this book, it had it’s problems, but even with the pacing problems, it was an engaging read with a great cast of characters, good diversity, some awesome twists and turns and an interesting magical system, I look forward to seeing more of these characters in the next book!
My Rating: 4/5
My next review will be of the latest Skulduggery Pleasant book, Resurrection.