Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:
Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)
Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)
Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)
Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.
I had to force myself to pause and write this review before I dove too deeply into its sequel, Crooked Kingdom. I love, love, loved this book! Those of you who follow my reviews already know how much I loved the Grisha Trilogy, which is set in the same world as Six of Crows. I was shocked by how much more I could love this world that I had already fallen in love with, but Leigh Bardugo has managed to do it!
If you have heard anything about Six of Crows, then you have probably heard it described as a magical Ocean’s 11. At its core, it is a heist story about six young criminals hired to break into (and then out of) the most secure prison in the world. The comparison to Ocean’s 11 is inevitable, but Six of Crows is so much more than just a heist story.
What Leigh Bardugo does best in every single book is her characters; her heroes and villains, and everyone in between. Every story written by Leigh Bardugo is set in a wonderfully developed world, which is marvelous in its own right, but the complexity of her characters and their relationships is what gets you. Every. Single. Time.
Take the main character, Kaz Brekker, for example. Kaz is a 17-year-old criminal prodigy and second-in-command of a gang called the Dregs. He has a mysterious past, a cool nickname (Dirtyhands), and Danny Ocean’s knack for misdirection and preparing for all contingencies. The first time we get a good view of Kaz, he’s having a showdown with another gang leader where he shows his mastery of the situation by never moving from the mark on which he stands while, all around him, a plan carefully laid off-page comes clicking together with clockwork precision.
The joy of this book lies in the interactions between the team of thieves. There are courtships and betrayals among Brekker’s crew, long-simmering lusts, and dark motivations laid out one by one as Bardugo bounces from one narrator to the next, seamlessly handing off the point of view with each chapter. The cherry on top is the Big Job waiting at the end of the long trail — breaking into the Ice Court in the far North, grabbing the man whose knowledge could ruin the world, and getting out again in one piece.
The Grisha Trilogy was pure fantasy. Six of Crows is a grimy fantasy with a punk veneer laid over the top. There are knives and rifles, magic and technology — everything mashed together in a jumble of influences that is wickedly attractive because of the characters inhabiting it so fully. It is a slick trick of world-building that eschews the info-dump in favor of making the world simply the world, defined by the way the characters move through it.
By the end of the book, you will be rooting for the criminal misfits, you will want to join the Dreg gang, and you will immediately dive into the sequel, Crooked Kingdom. Do not start this book until you have the second one handy to pick up.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Titles: Six of Crows
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company, LLC (2015)
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Teen, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Magic, Fairy Tales & Folklore, Action & Adventure
Read… in less than three days while… wishing this amazing world and its characters were real.
Purchase your copy here.
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Leigh Bardugo is a #1 New York Times bestselling author of fantasy novels and the creator of the Grishaverse. With over one million copies sold, her Grishaverse spans the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, the Six of Crows Duology, and The Language of Thorns— with more to come. Her short stories can be found in multiple anthologies, including The Best of Tor.com and the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy. Her other works include Wonder Woman: Warbringer, and the forthcoming Ninth House. Leigh was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Southern California, graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and even makeup and special effects. These days, she lives and writes in Los Angeles, where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.