Review: Six of Crows

Posted: August 21, 2020 by in Books We Like (4.4/5 single_star) Meta: Leigh Bardugo, Fantasy

Kaz is a lieutenant for one of the crime lords of Ketterdam. He’s made a name for himself, mostly because he’s willing to do anything for money. And when he’s offered an insane amount of money for a job that may get him killed, he takes it. If anyone can out-think an impossible situation, it’s Kaz Brekker.

But he needs the right crew if he plans to pull it off.

There’s Inej, also known as the Wraith, whose childhood acrobatic training has made her an invaluable information gatherer for Kaz. There’s Jesper the sharpshooter. Wylan for explosives and engineering. Nina is a Grisha witch with the ability to stop hearts–literally. And Matthias, the inside man.

On the outside one would see this is a pretty simple crew, with the basic skills necessary to get the job done. And despite none of these people having lived very long (I don’t think any are older than 21), they all have a past, and none of these pasts are pretty. There is death of loved ones, slavery, betrayal, murder, forced prostitution, imprisonment, and family dysfunction. A lot of issues for such a young crew. But it’s those problems that have led them to this point, with the training and experience they need to see this job through. Their pasts are unfurled slowly through the novel so I don’t want to ruin it for you, but their pasts definitely flavor the behavior of today–for good or ill.

The crew must infiltrate enemy territory and kidnap the scientist who has discovered a drug cocktail that enhances Grisha magic so much that it makes them unstoppable. The unfortunate result of said drug use is that the Grisha becomes instantly addicted and soon wastes away from burnout. If the recipe for this cocktail were released to the wrong hands, whole countries and civilizations could be wiped out using enslaved Grisha magic. Kaz’s employer is willing to pay whatever it takes to make sure this scientist doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. But first, they have to break Matthias out of prison, so before we see the real heist we get to see how Kaz thinks.

A motley crew of criminals and outcasts are hired to perform an impossible heist in SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo.

Bardugo’s world is well-appointed, with a variety of countries/nationalities/races that aren’t so complicated I lost track, but are flavored enough with their own quirks to be recognizable. The magic is interesting and important to the story, but it doesn’t drive the story. It could have been clearer about the magic’s origins, and there’s still so much to explore about the abilities and specialties of the Grisha magic, but that can be shown in future novels (SIX OF CROWS is the first in a duology). Ketterdam and the Ice Court were the two important settings in this book and they were easy to visualize as our characters moved through these places.

The story is told from the point-of-view of five of the six main characters (everyone but Wylan), and Bardugo does an admirable job with characterization and flavors how they view the world. Their individual chapters also give us time to remember important events in their lives that brought them to this point. This not only helps us understand each of the characters, it also makes their actions more believable when faced with difficult choices.

The story moves with great pacing, and I never got bored with the story. Sometimes in novels with multiple PoVs I’ll skip ahead chapters to find out what happens to the characters I like, but that didn’t happen here. As happens with complicated heists like this one, things do go wrong and our heroes must adjust as necessary–and in the process learn important things about themselves. The end almost got a little dues ex machina, but stopped just shy. Fortunately the ending also promises more adventures and daring escapes.

  • Recommended Age: 13+
  • Language: A handful
  • Violence: Torture, death, some magic-related death, moderately detailed
  • Sex: References to brothels/prostitutes, but otherwise none


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