I’ve been gushing about this book all over social media because …
IT WAS SO GOOD.
First, the summary, from 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.
Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.
So this is my second foray into the “Grishaverse”, the first being Leigh Bardugo’s YA fantasy trilogy that began with Shadow and Bone. I liked those books very much; but they were all 4-star reads for me for various reasons. So I waited a bit before picking up this one.
Do you have to read the Shadow and Bone trilogy before Six of Crows? Not necessarily, but the events in this novel do take place after the events in the trilogy, and there are some references to the main and minor characters that could be slightly spoilery if you go back and read that after this. Also, the fantasy elements in this universe are explained at more length in the trilogy, and they can be a bit confusing at first.
Also, it’s good to save the best for last.
The Great Things About This Book:
1. The setting Bardugo did a tremendous amount of research to write these books–and it shows. It’s fantasy, but a fantasy world based on imperial Russia, complete with smugglers and pistols and pleasure dens and armies and thieves and whatever else you could hope for. Everything, from the streets of Ketterdam to the way the ships are described to the Fjerdan wilderness, was described so well, it made the rest of the world disappear when you were reading. So well done.
2. The characters I love ensemble casts (see my love of Lost, Mad Men, Firefly) and they’re not done enough in books. Each chapter is told from the point of view of a different character, and each character was so compelling in their own way that it never felt like a disappointment when I turned the page. Also, each character was so well-drawn. It’s easy to rest on cliché when trying to characterize six people at once, but Bardugo doesn’t do that. They’re all individuals with incredible stories, each in their own right.
3. The action Confession: I’m not a huge action fan. I prefer well-drawn characters and scintillating dialogue and subtlety to drawn-out action scenes. So for me to say that I loved the actions scenes in this novel means that they were really, really good (and didn’t bog down the story.)
4. The flashbacks As I writer, I know how hard it is to do flashback well, which is why so many beginner writers are advised to leave them out altogether. But Bardugo is not a beginner writer. Each character had a such compelling origin-like story that the flashbacks only served to heighten the tension and deepen them as characters. They were just so well done.
5. The diversity I 100% agree that #WeNeedDiverse books, and often worry that I don’t have enough diversity in my own writing, given that my stories are all based on personal experience (I belong to no marginalized group of people, except “female”). But Bardugo manages to include characters of several races (it’s fantasy, so from made-up countries, but the analogues are pretty clear), one (or possibly two) characters who are not straight, and one who is physically disabled in her story. It’s so inspirational, and definitely an example I will be following.
6. The subtlety. Romance was not the focus of this book, but I do so enjoy sexual tension, and this story had it in spades, among a few different characters. It was really subtly done, though, which is also difficult to do. I won’t get spoilery but there is a scene towards the end that just melts me.
The less great:
Not enough to even make a list. I guess the ending of this book was somewhat predictable. And there were scenes that got bogged down a teeny bit in technical detail. But overall, this was an awesome read, and I cannot wait for the sequel to come out at the end of this month. 9/10 stars.
Have you read Six of Crows? Will you? Let me know!