Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Publication Year: 2015
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Series: Six of Crows #1
Series: Six of Crows #1
Awards: A bunch of local YA awards
Format: Audio (from Audible)
Format: Audio (from Audible)
Narrator: Jay Snyder, David LeDoux, Lauren Fortgang, Roger Clark, Elizabeth Evans, Tristan Morris and Brandon Rubin
WHY?: Many, many reasons. I enjoyed Bardugo's Grisha series. This book and its sequel has gotten a ton of positive buzz. It's a heist novel.
SYNOPSIS: Kaz Brekker, a young ne'er do well who practically runs one of the mafia-like gangs of Ketterdam, is hired to do an impossible job. It will make him very very rich which appeals to Kaz greatly but more importantly he has a score to settle and this one job will make that possible. If anyone can pull this impossible job off it is Kaz and he puts together a team, each member with a part to play in the greatest heist in history.
The first chapter of the book is basically a prologue. It's a set-up for something that will play an important role in the coming book, and the series as a whole I'd wager, but it didn't grab me. It was full of stock characters, so uninteresting I didn't care what they did. I therefore dragged my feet like crazy and it took me like a week to get through this first chapter. I'd listen to a couple minutes and then decide I'd rather listen to a podcast and not get back to it for a couple days. This boredom is hard to remember because literally the very next chapter swept me away and I was completely and officially smitten with this book.
In this second chapter, we meet Kaz Brekker, anything but a stock character. He's devilishly clever, always two steps ahead of everyone, sardonic, enigmatic, secretive, unemotional and he walks with a limp and a cane. He's also pretty darn scary. I adored him pretty much immediately. Unwrapping his story throughout the book and seeing how competent, yet broken he is, is just one of the delights this book had in store. In this first scene with Kaz, as he verbally spars with the second-in-command of a rival gang, he is backed up by his shadow, Inej, climbing up sheer walls to keep an eye on proceedings from high ground, while trusty sharp-shooter Jesper watches his six on the ground. These are Kaz's most loyal and trusted compatriots and when he is hired a couple of chapters later to help the merchant guild with an impossible heist, they are the first to be recruited to his gang.
As is common with heist novels, roughly the first 1/3 of the book focuses on pulling the gang that will perform the heist together and then doing an initial smaller heist to show the players in action. The other members of the team include:
- Nina Zenik: a Grisha, a heart render that can manipulate the organs of the human body. She is hanging out in Ketterdam and working freelance for Kaz hoping to find a way to free-
- Mathias Helvar: A Grisha hunter, raised to despise Grisha, so how he and Nina are connected is a mystery.
- Wylan Van Eck: Perhaps the most puzzling addition to the team. He has a knack with explosives but is new to "The Barrel" i.e. the rough part of town and is not someone any of them know. Why has Kaz included him?
With the team together, they are off on a journey to the legendary Ice Court, where they must infiltrate, free and return to Ketterdam with a scientist being held hostage. It's a suicide mission but the reward is enormous and everyone on the crew has a reason to desperately need/want that reward.
The perspective of each chapter rotates between all the characters, which is a device I really love and despite the fact that there are so many different perspectives, it felt balanced just right and was never confusing. Bardugo also includes flashbacks, on top of the current action, to slowly reveal more and more about her characters and their connections. It could have been too much but she somehow managed to keep the action moving while pouring on the character development. The result is a page-turner with SO many characters to love. Some felt a bit more developed then others, it felt like there was more back story on Kaz, Nina and Mathias than the others, but I still felt connected to all of them.
The cast is also diverse with at least half of the team coming from outside of the Kingdom in which Ketterdam sits, and it tackles the issue of brain-washing and being afraid of the unknown, particularly in Mathias' story. So it's got some good messages and thought provocation thrown in with the intricate plot.
It also must be mentioned that the book is set in the same universe as the Grisha trilogy and takes place slightly after the events in that series. The original series is referenced briefly, but beyond having a little more background on what the Grisha are, it is not necessary to have read that series (though you should! it's great!). As with those books, Bardugo does an excellent job presenting a beautifully detailed world and society. While the Grisha series obviously borrowed from Russian and Eastern European culture, this book broadens the world a little further and brings in some other cultures. It's an interesting world if you're new to it and should really appeal to fans as an expansion of the Grisha series!
Have I mentioned yet, how much I really loved this book? I did. As soon as I got past that first chapter it became an addictive listen that I didn't want to stop. I am counting the hours until my next Audible credit pops up and I can download Crooked Kingdom. I can't wait to get back into this world and spend more time with Kaz and the team. Not to mention that this book ends with things very much up in the air.
Finally, the audio was fantastic. It has multiple narrators, all of them good, each of which help to bring their assigned character alive. Lauren Fortgang, who I'm pretty sure does Nina's chapters, is particularly great and will be familiar if you listened to the Grisha series.
FINAL VERDICT: More fun than a barrel full of lemurs. An un-put-downable YA heist novel with a well-developed and lovable cast of characters. The sequel, Crooked Kingdom, will be going in my ears, toot sweet! 4.5 out of 5 stars.