I go through phases of reading YA fantasy. I have come to realize that for the most part I age the characters up in my mind, because they rarely seem like teenagers. While I was in the middle of reading Six of Crows, I listened to The Dollop episode 275, “The Newsie Strike.” As a Dave and Gareth were marveling over 8 – 16 year old boys organizing and leading a strike, and understanding the economic theory behind each side’s position. It reminded me that modern childhood and adolescence are fairly recent luxuries. Which led me back to Kaz, Inej and the others – teens in a world where their age does not shelter them.
Six of Crows is a heist story and a ragtag band of misfits with uneasy alliances story. I’ve read a lot of comparisons to Ocean’s Eleven, and kdm makes a good case for it, but I found it sloppy. It’s possible that I’m jaded by all the surprise twists Sarah J. Maas threw into Empire of Storms when she didn’t know where she was going. Bardugo is much more organized and a much better writer, but Kaz still flew by the seat of his pants and instincts a lot. The beauty of Ocean’s Eleven is that Danny and Rusty plan the heist meticulously with back ups and failsafes. Even when we think the plan is falling apart, even when things aren’t going as smoothly, the plot is revealed to be going mostly as planned. By contrast, Kaz keeps too much to himself, and while he prepares for contingencies, the success felt a lot like luck.
Where the book shines is the characters. The ragtag band of six misfits, brought together in an uneasy alliance, with possibly conflicting goals, is dynamic. All but one of them tells part of the story from their own perspective. The heist works because we see it happening through their eyes. The tone and the stakes shift as we move from character to character.
Kaz and his crew earn their reputations as being the best. We see enough of them operating in Ketterdam to know that they are very good without Bardugo constantly having to tell us. The heist stretches their abilities, and acts as a catalyst to reveal their characters. The book ends on a cliffhanger. I’m looking forward to the resolution.