Review: “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Six of Crows
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Pages: 465
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: September 29, 2015

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Quick Synopsis: 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. (Goodreads)

My Review: What’s happened here is a lot like what happened when I read The Raven Boys. Remember how I read the three books that are currently out in The Raven Cycle, became obsessed, then read The Scorpio Races because it was by the same author, then became obsessed with that too? Well, replace The Raven Cycle with the Grisha Trilogy and The Scorpio Races with Six of Crows and the exact idea applies. These two series and single books are going to give me one heck of a time when it comes to deciding my favorite book of the year later this month, let me tell you. I have a slight fear that my list will just switch off between a book by Maggie Stiefvater and a book by Leigh Bardugo. But I’ll worry about that later. In the meantime, I’m just going to gush over discuss the wonderful Six of Crows, since that’s why we’re all here of course.

Turns out, Leigh Bardugo has gotten even more fantastic at everything related to writing a good novel since finishing the Grisha Trilogy. I’ve never read any books involving a heist before this one, so I have nothing to compare it to in that aspect, but as a fantasy novel, it was nothing short of amazing. Practically every review I’ve seen of this book is extremely positive, and there’s a reason for that. Six of Crows doesn’t let you catch your breath; it’s an edge-of-your-seat-I-can’t-put-this-down kind of read that left my heart literally racing at certain points. I honestly don’t remember the last time I read a book with this high of stakes. Also, there was always that possibility that writing a novel from six different perspectives all in the third person could be a literary technique that fails miserably, but Bardugo handles it with skill. The execution of this story is phenomenal. And I don’t just throw that word around. What makes the execution so phenomenal? First and foremost, the characters.

I was living for this cast of characters. I mean, it says it right in the synopsis, but they are hard-core flawed, some borderline awful in their ruthlessness or greed. Still, I couldn’t get enough of them. I routed for them. I got emotional because of them. I just plain adored them. First we have Kaz Brekker, a character whom I kept forgetting was under the age of twenty because of the way he carried himself and talked and was just so damn good at what he did. He’s so mysterious and gritty and bad with embracing his emotions. He’s a protege thief/gang leader who has nicknames like “Dirtyhands” and “Demon.” He plays up all of the legends that people create about him, no matter how bad. Basically, don’t be fooled by his youth or his cane or his suits, because he can ruin your life easily enough. Or end it. Whichever. Then there’s Inej, his right hand man. Well, right hand girl. And probably my favorite character. What I love so much about her is how badass and strong she is but without seeming void of emotions or weaknesses. She’s definitely become one of my favorite female characters ever. Also amazing at what she does. Then we have Nina, a Grisha (did I mention this takes place in that same world? It does). I loved having a Grisha in this book because it made me less sad about finishing the Grisha Trilogy. Nina is probably the most level-headed of the group, but her powers make her extremely dangerous and a perfect ally for this heist. What can I say, I loved her a lot too. Next is Jesper, a gambler and sharpshooter who will never back down from a fight. He’s the comedic relief, but has a secret that we learn later in the book that makes him even more awesome. Love him as well. Matthias is a bit different. He comes from the country that hates and kills Grisha. I never knew if I could trust him, especially when it came to Nina’s life. I can’t say too much more about why I ended up loving him because of spoilers, but let’s just say he’s very three-dimensional. Lastly, there’s Wylan, the outcast of the group. He doesn’t really have the same toughness about him that the rest of the Dregs have, but the reader will learn to love him anyway. Basically, he’s leverage/the group’s hostage, but he becomes so much more than that. All together, this group is a bunch of teenagers who act way older than they are because of their mostly unfortunate pasts and who come together for a seemingly impossible heist. I loved learning about all of their backstories and the events in their lives that led them down this path of criminality. They are all so intelligent and complex and amazing. The characters absolutely make this book.

The other stand-out aspect of this novel was the writing. Often, a character’s backstory is told through dialogue with another character or through snippets here and there that add up to a whole by the end. Leigh Bardugo explained backstories with flashbacks, and somehow (it’s a mystery to me) they didn’t feel like information dumps even though they were usually a few pages long. Maybe it’s because the flashbacks happen at just the time we need them or because she builds up the mystery behind her characters until we can’t take it and only then do we get info. Either way, what I’d usually consider information dumps felt more like treats in this case. Bardugo also had this way of making me gasp at a twist one page and feel my heart squeeze at something emotional the next page. For criminals, Bardugo sure made me care a lot about their well-being and feelings. Also, she is just great at weaving sentences together, plain and simple. One of my favorite moments in the book is chapter 38, and it’s from Kaz’s perspective. It’s one of my favorites because the writing left me feeling hopeful yet heartbroken. It was beautiful. I read it probably three times before allowing myself to continue on to the next chapter. And there were certain lines throughout the book that made me stop to re-read them again and again too. There are so many tidbits I could attach to this review, but they all contain spoilers. Just trust me when I say that if you find a fault with this novel, it won’t be in the writing.

I mentioned in my review of the Grisha Trilogy that Leigh Bardugo paced well. The same holds true for Six of Crows. This book was a perfect length, and I don’t think anything would have been better off cut or done in less pages. There was too much going on to linger on any one scene too long. This is a pretty hefty novel, but I sped through it, and I think the pacing is to thank for that. Well, and because I needed to know what would happen next, but you get the idea. This could have been a stand-alone novel if not for the twist at the very end, and I’m glad there will be one more book because I’m extremely curious to see where these characters end up after everything’s said and done.

 Basically, Leigh Bardugo has done it again. She’s left me in a terrible book hangover where I now have no idea what to do because I’ve finished all of her books but I still want more. Six of Crows is different from anything I’ve read in YA, and now it seems that every book I try to start since completing it just doesn’t hold my interest. I love the darkness that her novels have. Her characters are as morally gray as it gets, especially in this novel, and books with morally gray protagonists are my favorite kinds. I just love stories about characters who ultimately want to do good, but maybe don’t do it for the right reasons or who don’t mind doing a few (or a lot of) questionable acts to save the day. They aren’t heroes (they’d never want to be anyway), but they aren’t necessarily bad. On a scale of Nikolai to the Darkling (from the Grisha Trilogy) they’d rank somewhere in the middle, though probably a smidgen closer to the Darkling than to Nikolai. Kaz wants money and revenge, Inej wants freedom, Jesper wants to fight people, Nina wants to go home, Matthias wants to be loyal to too many people, and Wylan wants the truth about his father’s feelings. Me? I just want the sequel. September 2016, why are you so far away?

My Rating: 

5 stars

That rating should come as no surprise. I loved this book to pieces, and whether you’ve read the Grisha Trilogy or not, you need to pick this book up. Though I recommend reading the trilogy first, it isn’t necessary. You may just miss out on some Easter eggs strewn throughout the book. You’d also get more of an introduction to the universe by reading the trilogy first. But again, not compulsory.

I wasn’t lying about the awful book hangover, so if you have any amazing fantasy recommendations (that’s the only genre I’ve been in the mood for lately), please do leave them down below! Also, if you’e read Six of Crows, let me know your thoughts in the comments section!

Until next time, keep reading and writing! – Veronica

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