“Who’d deny a poor cripple his cane?
“If the cripple is you, then any man with sense.”
Criminal mastermind Kaz Brekker is commissioned by the Ketterdam government to execute a rescue mission in exchange for a huge sum of money. He accepts, and this book follows Kaz as he recruits a team of six misfits who have nothing to lose in pursuit of riches, and they learn to work together as they set out on this rescue mission.
***Note: This book is the first in a duology.
***Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
This series is my Kryptonite – here’s why.
My recent experience with We Hunt The Flame proved disappointing, but it threw into sharp relief that which Six of Crows had accomplished with infinitely more ease, which is balancing depth and enjoyability: it hits you deep in the feels without ramming said feels down your throat, and that is something I crave in any book.
Because when all is said and done, Six of Crows is effing entertaining, no other way to put it. Some validly argue that there is too much time taken to introduce characters, and yet it is time well-invested in my opinion as getting to know these protagonists’ distinct worldviews provided endless fodder to fuel their chemistry down the road, and I found their evolving friendships the most gratifying reward for my patience.
Furthermore, the prose itself is top-notch. The exposition flows elegantly without there being an awkward hitch or tumble in words, which I find very important in a reader’s immersion in a story. Not to mention, the author’s writing nicely straddled that fine line between blunt yet lyrical writing: settings and backstories unfold in almost poetic fashion, and therefore I was rarely bogged down by the intricacy of this world.
Last but not least, nuance is used to build emotion, not melodrama. Too often it is with YA books that shallow beats of tragedy and shock are used to mask the fact that there is a lack of depth to the emotion, yet Leigh Bardugo knew precisely when to loose characters’ inner demons to tastefully complement the plot, and such restraint is what made these typically “maudlin” backstories feel so organic and compelling to me.
Not to mention, I, the hater of everything romance-based in YA, never once felt irked by this element despite the great deal of flirtation and romantic drama in this book. Romance is a huge part of this story, and yet none of it feels obtrusive nor gratuitous, which again speaks to how compellingly the author strings you along in character relationships.
In that, this book is top-notch with engaging exposition, unobtrusive romance, nuanced feels, and great chemistries. The plot itself is not genius by any means, but the author avoids certain pitfalls of YA while doing other things incredibly well, and that’s where she succeeds: there’s a shit-ton to praise, not much to criticize.
“Besides, old women must know something, or they wouldn’t live to gather wrinkles and yell from their front steps.”
Recommended? With all my heart.
Now just to be objective and leave you with some realistic expectations, there are some pacing discrepancies between the first and second halves of the story. The introduction to characters in the first half is done with much care and intricacy, so I personally would’ve packed more events into the latter half to counteract that intricacy and balance things out.
And do mind you, this book does fall into a set of tropes and cliches of its own, so it is not entirely lacking in cheese. However, it is ultimately the execution that saves it, simple as that. Characters may seem like cliches on paper, yet there is care taken to weave nuance into them; add to that a super fun premise, you’ve got a great mix of everything in there.
So yeah, for ages 15 and up! Even if you feel ambivalent about this first book, I would still recommend going into the sequel as it packs way more punch by wasting less time on set-up and truly exploring characters, so I think most peeps would have a great time. 😉
Bottom line? Balance + nuance + fun banter = awesome sauce!
I have always said that tropes do not equate to cliches as long as they are tackled well, and this series proves it. These characters appear to shoulder maudlin backstories, yet the author never allows “victim” to become their sole personality trait, nor does she ever use their traumas as a crutch to further the plot, and I did quite respect that.
So add to that an exciting premise, fluid prose, intricate world-building, sassy banter, thirsty romances, compelling characters…what more could one ever need?
My rating: 5/5 frogs (Yes, I have nitpicks, but I don’t care. Sue me.)
***Note: I have heard some people went into this book expecting a heist, so I’ll just dispel that myth and say that this book is not the grand “heist” it’s marketed to be. It is more of a self-contained story that focuses on characters trying to survive a dark world, so I’d recommend you lower expectations for the plot, go in blind, and you’ll be good.
***Also, a word of unsolicited advice. I recommend reading this before the Grisha trilogy. Yes, that trilogy was published first, but I appreciated Six of Crows infinitely more without having read the Grisha trilogy as it would’ve distracted otherwise me from the things I liked about this author. Experience the good stuff first, then explore others. 🙂
***Finally, my rant for ACOMAF is coming pretty soon. Hold on to your knickers.