Bear with me here, because what I mean by that isn’t what you probably think I mean. Obviously, I’m not in the habit of denying that things exist. Like, NO, GRAVITY IS NOT REAL AND KOALAS ARE A FIGMENT OF YOUR IMAGINATION or whatever. “Hype” is a real enough concept that somebody once upon a time had to invent a word to describe it. For me, when I’ve used it as a word, hype is buzz. It’s something that generates conversation. And that buzz is unrelated to my personal opinion of whatever that thing is.
What I don’t believe in is the way that so many people seem to believe in HYPE, and that’s as a placeholder for some worldwide conspiracy where we all get together and decide to say we like something, nay, say we LOVE something, only for you–you poor lone individual, you!–to read or watch or experience that thing and find you hate it! (Or, as is unfortunately so common, hate it solely BECAUSE of the so-called hype, and for no other reason at all. People with this mindset baffle me and I will not address them.) In this instance, people will point to the hype (and by association, those that supposedly spread it or created it) and say HOW DARE YOU LIE TO ME I AM THE ONLY PERSON IN THE LONE WORLD WHO SEES THE TRUTH! DON’T BELIEVE THE HYPE THIS WHATEVER THE THING IS IS AWFUL! KILL IT WITH FIRE!
Except no. Nobody lied to anybody. Everybody else has not gotten together to agree to like something that is clearly worthless. There is no conspiracy of people, no worldwide loss of sanity that has led to so many people loving something that you hate. What’s happening is that each individual piece of this so-called “hype-machine” that has led to you reading or consuming this thing is an ACTUAL PERSON who, and I can’t stress this enough, GENUINELY LOVES THAT THING. This “hype-machine” occurs when enough people GENUINELY LOVE SOMETHING that it creates noise, and draws your attention. Art touches people in their feeling places, and if it’s done well enough, will touch a LOT of people in similar ways. And I think the people who don’t like whatever the thing is respond by lashing out, because they don’t get to be part of the party, and the people who do, the people are loving the thing hard, are SO LOUD. But still. It’s okay to not like something, but if you don’t like it, it’s also okay not to hate it and get weird and aggressive about it. I feel like that can’t be good for your mental health.
All of this is to say that I’ve seen the word HYPE being thrown around about Six of Crows, and it makes me nervous. I’ve been thinking about this hype-thing for a while now, actually, and I apologize to those of you just looking for a normal review of this book. This is just where all of this feeling decided it needed to be expelled.
We’re early enough in the “hype-machine” where all the reviews I’ve seen have been positive because Six of Crows knows *exactly* what kind of book it wants to be, and it goes about being that thing with such confidence and flair in a way that is going to make a lot of people love it very loudly. But inevitably, there will come a person who “doesn’t get it,” who isn’t invited to the party, and that person will rage at the machine. They will feel betrayed. HOW DARE YOU TELL ME THIS WAS GOOD I DO NOT HAVE A BRAIN OF MY OWN.
Anyway, all of that is to say that Six of Crows IS as good as you’ve probably heard, if you’re the right reader at the right time.
Six of Crows is the second series that Leigh Bardugo has written in her Grishaverse, following her YA Grisha trilogy. You absolutely do not have to read those books to enjoy this one. I didn’t read them, and I was fine. The only thing I did do was bone up a little bit on the magic system of the world beforehand, but honestly, I probably didn’t even need to do that. It’s all laid out pretty clearly, and the specifics aren’t necessary to enjoy the story. This is partly because Bardugo’s style is easy and engaging, but also because this is a book first about its characters and their relationships, and not a book about magic or the plot or even the heist (although those aspects are also really well done).
It’s also a damn good heist story, full of unrepentant criminals and morally ambiguous ne’er do wells. There wasn’t a single main character in this I didn’t love by the end. Bardugo takes her time both with the character development and doling out backstory at just the right times, and the effect is that you’ve fallen hard before you even knew it was happening. Her characters are seriously flawed, and their conflicts are REAL. There is not an ounce of manufactured bullshit in this book.
I highly, highly recommend checking this book out. It’s technically YA–and aside from the age of the characters and a few individual moments or plot points that I did see coming–but doesn’t read that way at all. This world Bardugo created, and these characters who fill it, have a tangibility to them, and a trueness of emotion that sticks in your head. Plus, it’s funny. There’s banter and sexiness (though just a bit), and magic and trickery and cultural differences and shipwrecks AND ALL SORTS OF THINGS.
Just, promise me if this review prompts you to check out the book, and you happen to dislike it, please don’t blame the hype.