The hype just came back up because of an upcoming Netflix show, but I persisted in this train because I did love the original Grisha trilogy, and for chrissakes, this book is a HEIST FANTASY and I effing love heist stories. And I love the characters in this book. I love them so much because they are imperfect, rambunctious thieves trying to score a major job for different reasons. And I love that everything goes wrong but somehow that survival instinct just kicks in. But you know what I absolutely hate?
SIX OF CROWS
by Leigh Bardugo
Henry Holt and Co., September 2015
Rated: 5 / 5 cookies
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.
I’ve owned a copy of Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom ever since they both came out, and it took me this year to light up a fire under my ass to actually read them. How insane is that? But there I go again, showing my usual pattern of loving an author, but forgetting to read the rest of a series. That being said, Bardugo is one of those authors who are auto-buys for me, even though previous to my having finished Six of Crows, I’ve only read the original Grisha trilogy and Ninth House.
However, am I frigging excited about Netflix’s release of Shadow and Bone tomorrow? Hell yes, I am. How did I manage to wait it out? I read Six of Crows. Devoured, really, because the book is practically what I’ve been in the mood for the past few months.
Note: I’m definitely late to the party, but if there’s still a chance some of y’all haven’t read Six of Crows yet, then I urge you to turn around, stop reading this spoilery review, and READ THE BOOK. 😀
A Heist Book
I love heists. I’ve been saying this since November of last year, where I ended up re-watching the entirety of White Collar, re-watching the Ocean’s trilogy at least twice, and then finishing the first half of Lupin. I’d finished reading The Lies of Locke Lamora and loved it (also a heist book), and am in the middle of The Mask of Mirrors (which is pretty much the girl-MC version of Lies), and took a break there just to read about Kaz Brekker’s motley crew. I’m probably going to end up finally reading The Gilded Wolves at some point, so it’s clear there’s a special place in my heart for thief stories.
Kaz leaned back. “What’s the easiest way to steal a man’s wallet?”
“Knife to the throat?” asked Inej.
“Gun to the back?” said Jesper.
“Poison in his cup?” suggested Nina.
“You’re all horrible,” said Matthias.
And honestly, this is a heist of all heists, essentially. Not only does Kaz have to steal someone from an impenetrable prison, but he also will have to deal with competitors, as well as super-powered Grisha defying the laws of Grisha physics. It doesn’t help that his crew of six are half-wanting to kill each other and/or have different agendas to add to the list of tasks. Oh, and of course the heist couldn’t possibly take place in Ketterdam, either, but in the cold confines of Djerholm, a Fjerdan city.
All of this just ups the ante of the story, and I absolutely loved every minute of it. These thieves–as mismatched as they are–were surprising, crafty, innovative, and, really, great fun to read.
“Fine. But if Pekka Rollins kills us all, I’m going to get Wylan’s ghost to teach my ghost how to play the flute just so that I can annoy the hell out of your ghost.”
Brekker’s lips quirked. “I’ll just hire Matthias’ ghost to kick your ghost’s ass.”
“My ghost won’t associate with your ghost,” Matthias said primly, and then wondered if the sea air was rotting his brain.
Mostly I blame my love for Tamora Pierce’s Song of the Lioness Quartet because George Cooper is the absolute best and I have now been ruined by my idea of “honorable” thieves. But seriously, it’s not my fault authors write all manner of unprincipled pickpockets so well! Especially that genius mastermind thief lord archetype.
Which brings me to…
Kaz Brekker is a “Lovable” Asshole
Well. To me, he is. Fight me.
Bardugo has this thing where she makes certain villains and/or antiheroes endearing despite their tomfoolery. I spent a great deal of time ruminating about my unhealthy preference to the Darkling (I still ship him and Alina TO THIS DAY). When Kaz Brekker shows up, it’s clear why they call him Dirtyhands: he’s willing to do a lot of nasty things to get what he wants. And yet, and yet, the more of an ass Kaz gets, the more entertained I became, because man oh man, he’s something else, this Bastard of the Barrel.
That said, there’s definitely reasoning to this, just like there was reasoning to the Darkling’s plans. The biggest difference is that Kaz Brekker–despite his efforts to be cold, calculating, and cruel–has a weakness. And her name is Inej.
I ship the ships so shippingly!
On any number of occasions, I’d have probably rolled my eyes to the fact that all six of the characters end up pairing with one another. What I liked about the pairings, though, is they kind of show you at least three different romance tropes, and if you weren’t a fan of one of them, you were probably a fan of another. Honestly, I loved seeing the relationships blossom, even amidst the impossible heist.
You have the “friends-to-lovers” romance, though I term the word “friends” really loosely here. Inej is Kaz’s right-hand, the spy and assassin to his mastermind thief persona. She is the Wraith, and she’s dangerous enough that she can fend for herself, and surprisingly, the trust Kaz puts on Inej is absolute (even though Inej doesn’t seem to think so). I loved the back-and-forth between these two; I’ve loved the idea since the beginning, where it was clear that Kaz is comfortable baring his back (literally) to his Wraith. They’re not without their own demons, though, so I imagine this is going to be the slowest burn of all. Inej suffered through a lot of trauma, and we kind of see this through the fact that she’d been taken from her family, enslaved, and thrown into a whorehouse run by the most despicable madam ever. Kaz, on the other hand, lord. That was traumatic.
THIS ABSOLUTELY WRECKED ME ON SO MANY LEVELS THOUGH. So many instances in the book that made me gush, but the quote above…yeah, I can see why it’s constantly used by SoC fans.
Then you have the “enemies-to-lovers” romance, which was honestly splendid. Nina is my spirit animal, despite Kaz and Inej being my favorites hands down. I love Grisha, and after the first trilogy ended, I was hoping against hope that we’d at least get a character POV from a Heartrender. And boy, is Nina one heck of a Heartrender. The romance she has with Matthias puts them at odds, and I particularly loved the candid way in which they both discuss their attraction–and hate–for each other.
“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.”
And then of course there’s the “boy-meets-boy” romance, the one that kind of creeps up on both of them, though I don’t think it amounted to much in this book. I’m thinking it will in Crooked Kingdom, but the fact that Jesper and Wylan kind of get stuck with each other helped a lot in their developing relationship. I love Jesper’s personality in general, but he’s also always full of surprises. I’m kind of sad Wylan didn’t feature a POV in SoC, but I started CK just recently and am glad that Wylan does become a POV after all!
“Marketable skills, merchling. Marketable skills.”
Ketterdam and the Grishaverse
I loved returning to the world of the Grisha. Bardugo had definitely hinted in the original trilogy that there was an entire world outside of Ravka, where people viewed Grisha in different ways. In Ravka, Grisha were powerful, respected. In Fjerda, Grisha were deplored, and hints of the witchhunters in the Shadow and Bone trilogy came up occasionally. While the story itself certainly revolved around the idea of Grisha and their overwhelming power (especially under the influence of jurda parem), a majority of the characters are not Grisha. Ketterdam would even be considered a melting pot, though an imperfect one at that. After all, while “slavery” is frowned upon and often condemned, “indentured servitude” is often no different.
So between the characters, the heist, the adventure, the Grisha, and the ships (most of them developing on a literal ship–my favorite kind of tongue-in-cheek wordplay), this was definitely a book I absolutely loved. I might even enjoy this more than the original trilogy after all! Not a surprise. As I said, I absolutely love heist books.
(On a similar note, it’s a little jarring that Kaz’s Dregs are young adults. Like…none of these characters act like they’re 16-18–especially not Kaz. So in my head canon, they’re aged up).
5 out of 5 cookies! I think it’s safe to say I am ready for this Netflix premiere.