Not gonna lie, I first picked up this book based purely on the cover and those gorgeous black edges:
Seriously, it’s one of the most beautiful books I’ve seen in a while. But every time I picked it up in store, I hesitated to buy it based on the fact that it’s set in the same world as Bardugo’s previous Grisha trilogy, which I haven’t read yet. So instead I bought Shadow and Bone – the first in that series and recommended by pretty much the ENTIRE internet. And it was…ok? I didn’t hate it, but for some reason it just didn’t captivate me. Something about the main character, maybe. BUT, the world of the Grisha was absolutely fascinating, so I finally caved and bought Six of Crows.
If you have read any other reviews for this book, it’s pretty much guaranteed they all compared it to Ocean’s Eleven, and as much as I want to be a special snowflake, I’m going to have to ditto that comparison. The story revolves around a heist – a master thief assembling a crack team of criminals to steal something from a super secure location that’s never been breached before, in exchange for lots and lots of money.
As with any good heist story, it’s all about the team. An uneasy alliance between thieves, murderers, and misfits, each with their own motives and very particular set of skills…
Our ringleader here is Kaz Brekker: high-ranking member of the gang “The Dregs”, nicknamed “Dirtyhands”, and known for his ruthlessness. He’s the best thief in the Barrel (basically the slums in the city of Ketterdam), and has a gift for planning.
Other members of the Dregs recruited for this job include Jesper Fahey, a sassy sharpshooter with a gambling problem, and Wylan Van Eck, a newbie to the Barrel, who’s along for his skill with explosives as well as his value as a hostage. These two guys provide most of the comic relief, not to mention some excellent flirty banter.
Added to the mix are Nina Zenik, a gorgeous Heartrender who works in the Barrel, and Matthias Helvar, the Fjerdan Grisha-hunter that Nina sent to prison. These two are the will-they-won’t-they of the book, but it’s done in a very understated way that I appreciated. Both characters have strong reasons to hate the other, but some added history and sexual tension makes it harder for them to resist the attraction. There’s plenty of angst, but at least it’s valid and, praise the YA gods, there’s no stupid love triangle.
Last but definitely not least, my favourite character, Inej Ghafa. Known throughout the Barrel as “The Wraith”, this diminutive badass is known for her insane climbing skills, her deadly knives, and her loyalty to Kaz. Her growing friendship with Nina also provided some excellent girl-power moments.
The first few chapters were a bit hard to get into, as they were pretty much a giant info-dump. It might be easier for fans of her previous work to follow along as Bardugo sets up the world in the aftermath of the Grisha war, but for a newbie like me it was a lot to take in. Once Kaz gets the job offer though, things pick up speed. My favourite thing about this book was the varying third-person viewpoints throughout. Bardugo manages to give each character their own style and voice, while keeping the tone of book cohesive. Also, kudos to the author for putting together such a variety of characters – the cultures may be unique to this world, but the physical descriptions leave no doubt as to the diversity of the group.
As for the heist itself, this is mainly where the Ocean’s Eleven comparison comes in, as Bardugo uses the same type of framework to reveal the details of the job as they happen, as opposed to laying out the entire plan for the reader. This allows the suspense to build, because you can never be certain if things have actually gone to shit or if everything is just going according to Kaz’s master plan.
Tl;dr: I really enjoyed this book and I can’t wait to see what kind of stuff this crew pulls off in the sequel.