Review | Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

About the Book

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 is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first. 

465 pages (hardcover)
Published on September 29, 2015
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Six of Crows is a book I’ve been meaning to read for a very long time. Last year, I did the summer reading program at the library. For completing it, I got a free book, and this was the one I chose. I promptly put it on one of my bookshelves and forgot it existed until I was cleaning off said bookshelf last weekend. When I saw this book, I immediately started reading it. 

Now, let me be clear about one thing. I’m not really into heist books. I mean, sure, they can be fun, but I have to be in a very specific mood to actually enjoy them, and I almost never really get into that mood. So, I went into this one with a mark against it. That being said, I’ve heard. A lot about Bardugo, and I’ve enjoyed one of her previous books (when I read it about a million years ago) so I had high hopes that her writing and ability to tell a good story would make up for any issues. I had regarding whether I was, or was not, in the mood for a heist. 

I also want to mention the fact that one of the characters, Kaz, has a cane which he uses due to a childhood injury, and this pleased me. The normalization of mobility aids is something that I will always cheer for. 

So, the book. 

Six of Crows is one of those books that I can’t quite seem to categorize. It’s classified as young adult, and I suppose it deserves that, as most of the characters seem to be about seventeen. That being said, there’s a lot of violence, which is gruesome and can be described in a surprising amount of detail for a YA book. Let me be perfectly clear here, I actually really enjoyed the rawness and reality of these scenes. I think young people can completely handle reading about blood and violence, and I never felt like it crossed any real boundaries, but I did feel like there was a truth to the story here, an unflinching desire for the author to fully examine some of the messier parts of her story that I really appreciated. 

“When everyone knows you’re a monster, you needn’t waste time doing every monstrous thing.” 

Kaz might be the character that I ended up taking the most issue with, and I think he’s probably why this book will end up with a four star rating rather than five. At the time, while I was reading the book, I had a really hard time figuring out why I was bouncing off this character rather than embracing him. He is the center around which this band of unlikely characters circles, and perhaps that’s why I ended up taking such an issue with him. As a seventeen-year-old, he has a cane due to an injury he took as a child (he’s seventeen so childhood really isn’t that far off). He is the genius savant of the group, always knows more than everyone else, and seems to enjoy keeping himself shrouded in mystery (which honestly exhausts me after a while). While I get all that, it just seemed like a lot for a seventeen-year-old to carry on his shoulders. I think, in the end, Kaz was far more adult than his age suggested. I felt like Bardugo was creating an adult character, and then remembered she was writing about teenagers and so stuck an appropriate age on him as an afterthought. 

Each of the characters, however, bring something to the story, and each of them have their own mysteries, and their own dark stories. Sometimes this did feel a bit heavy handed. It did serve its purpose however, in making me both want to know more about these characters as individuals, and making me eager to see how these characters with all their baggage would interact with each other and the world itself. Ultimately, it’s the mystery that, I think, will make some of these characters appeal to readers more than others. They all have unique personalities and unique voices, but it’s that shadow that clings to them, that undefined what if quality of each of their personalities that ended up captivating me more than almost anything else.

Bardugo has a knack for revelation, not just her characters, but important points of the plot as well, right when this information needs to be given. I never felt like I was hanging around for some huge info-dump style revelation. Rather, they happened at the perfect moments, and I was really quite in awe of Bardugo’s timing in this regard. The entire book felt poised just right, between mystery and knowledge. My only flaw in this aspect of the book, was the ending, where things felt a touch messy, and a bit rushed, and there was some ignorance about things happening that was just a little bit beyond credulity.

As I’ve said above, this is a heist book, and this may or may not actually end up working for you. In truth, the heist itself often takes a back seat to the interpersonal and group dynamics and drama going on. Sometimes this was a bit exhausting, but Bardugo has a handful of very unique, well-crafted characters here, who each add something to the group, and to each other, that really works to make the book what it is. So while you’re reading about a heist, you’re actually also reading about these characters, and experiencing how they ebb and flow against both each other and the world they inhabit. I actually found the character dynamics to be far more interesting than the heist (the heist is interesting, don’t get me wrong). For me, a person who isn’t typically all “woo, a heist!” this balance worked really well for me. I love seeing how emotions and personal stories can be used as important character and plot development tools, and Bardugo is a master of this craft. 

“A secret’s not like coin. It doesn’t keep its value in the spending.”

The book’s start is a bit slow, and it took me some effort and determination to get through the first third or so of it, but once you get past that point, and all the development it entailed, things really start taking off. Each chapter switches to a different character’s point of view, which gives the reader a nuanced, layered look at the world’s development, the other characters, and the central plot points. Also, there is a bit of romance here, but it doesn’t overwhelm the plot. 

In the end, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I wanted to, and in some ways, I liked it a whole lot more than I expected. Bardugo has created an interesting world here, and filled it with characters that are just as textured and layered as the city they inhabit. While I felt that the heist did ultimately take a backseat to the character drama, I do think that worked in the book’s favor. Six of Crows is not a perfect book, but really, what is? I’m glad I read it, and I am excited to see what happens next.

4/5 stars


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