“Six of Crows” is a story you’ve heard before—a group of thieves on a high stakes heist in order to win an insane amount of money and do, well, whatever they want with the winnings? Yeah, it’s pretty much every Ocean’s 11 and Mission Impossible movie/book you’ve ever read with a sprinkling of magic because this is a YA fantasy, after all. But. This. Is. So. Good! And why is a plotline that’s, let’s face it, not unique so good? Character’s people, it’s all about the characters. Honestly, this review is going to suck for two reasons: 1. I’m going to avoid spoilers at all costs so you will read this book, so this review will be rather vague and 2. There’s not much I can say beyond praise and that gets tiresome after a while. Side note: how sad is it that people have more fun reading the gripes even in highly rated books or movies? Anyway, read this book.
So here’s the thing: I read books because I want to connect with new characters. It’s not that I don’t meet or know enough people in my everyday life, I do! But that’s also what I look for in my books, characters, because I love people that much. If you have mediocre characters but a completely unique plotline and new magic system, I’m still most likely going to give you a 3 – 4 star rating simply because I NEED that connection. In “Six of Crows” you have six (obviously) completely fleshed out characters which such vibrant personalities and their own quirks, it’s amazing.
Bardugo has developed her characters so well that there is enough substance to give each their own spin off book right from the start. All except maybe Jesper. While I loved his hyper activity and his generally laissez-faire attitude, he also felt the least developed. He’s still fabulous, he probably just doesn’t have enough to him for his own novella is all I’m saying. But you have Kaz, who has a dark past and his own bag of shame he refuses to let anyone see but the girl who he wishes he didn’t love. Nina, a Grisha who is trying to atone for a mistake that may get them all killed while trying to fight for Grisha (this worlds magic users in case you’re unfamiliar) rights across the world. Inej, a former acrobat, brothel worker, and now best spider in the city when it comes to gathering secrets while she searches for her own purpose and wonders if her parents would ever accept her back. Jesper, the happiest sharp shooter you’ll ever meet who lives for the highest stakes—and accumulates an astounding debt. Mathias, a trained hunter of Grisha who struggles with seeing them as people, until Nina turns everything he thought he knew as fact on its head. And then you have Wylan, a privileged runaway fleeing his own emotionally abusive past while slumming in the Dregs. I mean, just look at that cast! Look at how strong those kinds of personalities are! And they all are meshing and clashing together while trying to strive for one common goal. It’s wonderful! I will say I wish we had gotten more chapters with Kaz and Inej, but I’m confident with how this book ended that the second one will deliver far more of those two.
In fact, my only complaint is that this is billed as YA simply because all the characters are between 16 – 18 years old. Honestly, none of them act their age. They all act much older and, outside of Kaz who grew up on the streets so his street smarts seem natural, all of them have been part of his gang for 3 years tops, sometimes far less than that. And yet these kids are tasked with stealing the creator of a formula so powerful and addictive to Grisha that it could alter the world economy? I’m sure they are all fabulous thieves—and they are presented as much in the book—but I had a hard to grasping that Inej and Jesper were so good at shooting or using their knives after a few years that they are “the best in the Barrel”. And what’s wrong with making them older? Nothing! Except it wouldn’t be billed as a young adult book. But given the rather mature content and dark nature of the world, I’m not sure anyone under 16 would really appreciate, love, or even should read it. Adults love fantasy books too, so why not make more “adult” characters? Just seems silly and a bit of a bad trope when you have kids being the best and adults always end up as the villains.
But I do love the world these characters inhabit. I love gritty, dark fantasy realms. I will say that this book may have been better read after the GrishaVerse trilogy as the magic system used in “Six of Crows” is the same, and both series inhabit the same universe. Apparently, there are even cameos from those stories in this duology, but as I haven’t read those yet, I didn’t catch on to them. I also enjoyed that the plot of this book wasn’t to save the world, and even though the actions and consequences of Kaz’s gang have far reaching implications, these guys are just after the money. It’s refreshing to read a fantasy book where the stakes don’t immediately start astronomically high, because there is no reason for that. Life is full of drama, big and small, and starting smaller as Bardugo did in this book leaves for a wide range of growth, so I very much appreciated that in “Six of Crows”.
So even though the plotline isn’t unique, I adored losing myself to this book and Bardugo’s fabulous characters. I also love that it’s a duology. This is a series that’s so easy to start and finish, especially in a world where there are 5+ books in a series (hey, I’m guilty of that too). If you are a fan of mature, well developed, and deliciously flawed characters set in a rather grim and dark world, do yourself a favor: read this book. Even with my qualms about the character’s age, I’m still so giddy about the story and reading the next book that I’m not mad enough to rate this below 5 stars—which is why I’m not, obviously.
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