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
Six of Crows is a thrilling and well written novel which had a unique and creative plot, characters I would die for and one of my all time favourite tropes: the found family! This is the first Leigh Bardugo novel I’m reading so I honestly had no idea what to expect but I was utterly immersed from the first few chapters. I wasn’t sure whether to read the Grisha trilogy first or this duology but I heard that you don’t necessarily have to read the trilogy first so I decided to read Six of Crows first. I’ve seen most of book twitter raving about this book and a lot of excitement about the upcoming netflix adaptation so both of those things encouraged me to give this book a go. That and the fact that I was working at a bookstore and had a 50% discount, I mean how could I pass that up guys? Seriously.
One element in fantasy novels which can be make or break, is world building and Leigh Bardugo does this to utter perfection. From the moment the novel begins, we are thrust into the violent and shady underworld of Ketterdam, where rival gangs operate and there’s a cutthroat world of gambling dens, theatres and pleasure houses where anyone can be a mark or ‘pigeon’. I loved how Bardugo takes us from the vices of Ketterdam to the icy plains of Fjerda and the imposing Ice Court. It all felt so well done and fully realised, with so many intricate details and the lore which ties it all together.
As well as the fantastic world building, what I loved the most about this novel were the characters themselves. I’m a sucker for a group of misfits who initially mistrust each other, eventually coming together and becoming a slightly dysfunctional but protective family who would die for each other and Bardugo does this to perfection. I enjoyed reading as they all gradually get to know each other and find their places and where they fit in the group and establish a dynamic which was both so entertaining to read and had depth and character growth for each member. In some books or series, it can be difficult to balance so many characters and still give them all enough time and do them justice but Bardugo manages to do this and to such great effect.
Kaz Brekker is the leader of the group and the mastermind behind their daring exploits, he is willing to do whatever it takes to complete a mission earning him a feared reputation for being ruthless and amoral. However as we read we find out he is driven by a traumatic event in his past which has caused him to chase a goal for revenge against those who wronged him. Kaz is honestly one of the most interesting characters I’ve read in fiction, he is so intelligent and capable, so cool and collected that you feel like nothing can phase him but also so flawed and complex, he’s like a mystery wrapped in an enigma.
Inej Ghafa also known as the Wraith is a street smart and wily young woman who was taken from her family as a young girl and forced to work in The Menagerie, a brothel run by the cruel and abusive Tante Heleen. After years of turmoil there, Kaz and Per Haskell, a wealthy and influential gang boss buy her freedom on the condition that she work for them instead, using her unique talents to spy and collect secrets. She becomes known as the Wraith due to her ability to seemingly appear out of nowhere and scale any building, and get where nobody else can. I loved how Inej still maintains her faith in people and her saints, working by her own code of honour and not letting the world harden her or take her spirit despite going through some of the worst humanity has to offer.
Jesper Fahey is a Zemeni born sharp shooter, full of wit and always with a clever quip ready. I liked how Bardugo portrays Jespers addiction to gambling and the difficulties he faces in coming to terms with his hidden abilities. While Jesper does provide a lot of the comic relief and has a lighthearted nature, his character still has depth and is given an interesting arc, which I’m sure will be furthered in the sequel.
Nina Zenik is a Grisha heartrender, who is in Ketterdam due to an eventful past and a debt she has to repay. I loved every single thing about Nina and I don’t think I’ve ever read a female character quite like her before. Nina is gorgeous and deadly, and I loved that! She was able to be ‘stereotypically’ feminine but was still taken seriously and not treated as lesser because of this. I really appreciated that Nina was written this way and is unapologetically herself at all times.
Matthias Helvar is a Fjerdan warrior and one of the Druskelle a group of elite warriors who protect Fjerda and have a deep rooted enmity with the Grisha. Matthias begins as a prejudiced and embittered young man but develops and grows so much through the course of the novel. while all the characters do, I feel like Matthias is perhaps the most changed from where we initially find him. While there are many reasons for this, Nina is one of the main reasons why he grows to change his views on the Grisha and realises that the hatred that has been taught to him, is not the way he wishes to live his life and that there is another way. I think Matthias’ character is both a sobering reminder and a glimmer of hope, that you can change and break free of old ways of thinking and find your own way.
Wylan Van Eck is the son of a wealthy merchant, with all the privileges afforded to him, one would think he had a charmed existence but there is so much going on beneath the surface. It was heartbreaking to read as we learn about how Wylans father disregards him and treats him terribly for something he cannot control. I loved reading as Wylan shows his smarts and capability with chemistry and machinery and is just so smart. It just shows that you don’t always have to be a fighter to still be a badass and I liked the dynamic he had with the other characters, especially Jesper.
Finally, on top of the amazing character work Bardugo does, the plot and story itself was utterly thrilling and unpredictable. I genuinely didn’t know what was going to happen next in regards to the schemes and the tricks that the group were taking part in and it was so enjoyable to read a book where I fully had no conception of what would happen next. It’s all so smart and slick and well paced, what more can I say?
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Six of Crows and I can’t wait to read the next instalment; Crooked Kingdom to see what the characters get up to next and where Bardugo takes us. We’re left on such an exciting cliffhanger of sorts so it’s the perfect set up. I love this world and I love these characters so I have no doubt it’s going to be an utterly gripping adventure and I’m so ready for it. I can’t recommend this book highly enough, go read it!
Until next time,