Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh BardugoSix of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Published by Henry Holt on October 1st 2015
Genres: Fantasy & Magic, Young Adult
Pages: 480
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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.

Trickery is not my native tongue, but I may learn to speak it yet.

I was scared to start Six of Crows. The hype surrounding it has been HUGE, the blurb sounded intriguing, I’ve been eagerly anticipating it, and I liked but didn’t love Shadow and Bone. Honestly, though? I needn’t have worried. This book is fantastic.
Shadow and Bone has been called fantasy-lite, but there is absolutely nothing about Six of Crows that warrants such a label. It’s a sweeping epic tale with six main characters, five perspectives, complex and detailed world-building that is seamlessly integrated into the story, flashbacks to the characters’ histories, and a wonderful blend of darkness, magic, action, humour and romance.
In the hands of a less skilled author, this could have been a mess. But Bardugo crafts each of her characters with love and sensitivity, allowing them to be extremely badass, wicked sometimes, and unlikable in that multi-layered way that actually makes them completely likable.

“When she looked up at him, the expression on her face was a bleak map of loathing and fatigue. In it, he saw the shame that came with gratitude, and he knew that in this brief moment, she was his mirror. She didn’t want to owe him anything either.”

It’s set in the same Grisha universe as her other books (this time in an alternate Netherlands instead of Russia), but it’s much darker and more adult. These characters are thieves, convicts and runaways. Street gangs compete for territory and power. The author takes all these dark “real world” factors and enthuses them with the supernatural.
The comparisons to Oceans 11 are spot on. The plot is essentially about an action-packed, fast-paced heist. They must first break into a heavily-guarded prison and smuggle a convict out and then, with his help, they will attempt to break into the Ice Court – a place that has never been breached – all to get their hands on a LOT of money. But all these characters have their own personal agendas too (and because of the third person narrative we don’t always know what they are).
As I mentioned, the characters are so so good. We have the leader – Kaz – who is an intimidating criminal prodigy with a secret past. We have the mixture of drama and humour offered by Jesper and Wylan. And there’s the totally badass Inej:

“You may still die in the dregs.”
Inez’s dark eyes had glinted. “I may. But I’ll die on my feet with a knife in my hand.”

I think the use of third person was extremely effective in Six of Crows. It allows us to view all these characters equally and also allows us to be constantly surprised.
I want to be clear that the romance never takes over the story; it feels natural and welcome when it surfaces, which isn’t too often. In fact, I’d say Bardugo is a bit of a tease for most of the novel and I found myself shipping Matthias and Nina so hard. Gah:

“And what did you do Matthias? What did you do to me in your dreams?”
The ship listed gently. The lanterns swayed. His eyes were blue fire. “Everything,” he said, as he turned to go. “Everything.”

Dark, action-packed, beautifully-written, and yes, even sexy. When can I get the next book?
My Six of Crows playlist
Broken Pieces by Apocalyptica
Shots by Imagine Dragons
Sick by Adelitas Way
Heaven Knows by The Pretty Reckless
Perfect Life by Red
Sprinter by Torres
Pure Morning by Placebo
SAIL by Awolnation
Precious by Depeche Mode
You can win an ARC of Six of Crows here:

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