Review: “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo

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Review: “Six of Crows” by Leigh BardugoSix of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Series: Six of Crows #1
on September 29th 2015
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 491
Buy on Amazon
three-half-stars

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he'll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done - and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable - if they don't kill each other first.

“What’s the easiest way to steal a man’s wallet?”
“Knife to the throat?” asked Inej.
“Gun to the back?” said Jesper.
“Poison in his cup?” suggested Nina.
“You’re all horrible,” said Matthias.

It took me some time to get really into the book. Mainly because the worldbuilding is – let’s call it – somewhat lacking. And it stays that way. Even after finishing I still can’t tell you with any certainty what’s a city, what’s a country and who is at war with whom (and why). This might be different if you’ve read the author’s Grisha trilogy which is set in the same world but I haven’t and so I’m just very confused.
Now what I saw from the world I liked. (Rejoice! For we are neither in fantasy medieval western Europe nor in fantasy Victorian London) and eventually, I did enjoy the book. I mean fantasy heist. What’s not to love about that? The quest in fantasy novels is often enough ‘save person/retrieve artifact from heavily guarded place’ but I haven’t yet read one that goes full on Ocean’s 11 with magic and less white guys so that was definitely something.
However, the characters were less refreshing. Some of Kaz’ dialogue could honestly have been from the brooding YA hero Twitter account. He does get better but I still had to sit through 2/3s of the book wanting to strangle him. I’m just so tired of ‘he’s an asshole but he’s great at his job’ characters that I can’t bring myself to care much about them. Even those that are better done.
In a similar vain ‘rape as backstory’ is handled much better with Inej’s character than with a lot of characters I watched/read elsewhere but that doesn’t change the fact that I wish writers could come up with something else.

Also:

All these characters are between 16 and 18. And they had to break into a place nobody has managed to break in before. A 17-year-old boy who just happens to be the bestest thief ever, a 16-year-old girl who is just an amazing assassin and spy and an amazing 16 year old sharpshooter. Now for the other three, it’s more an issue of ‘convenient knowledge/abilities’ than of being the best at what they do but having the whole heist done by a gang of teenager stretched my suspension of disbelief a lot. (And yes, I’m aware that realistic age portrayal is often an issue with SFF – yes I’m looking at George RR Martin – but I felt this book went on and on about it much more than others, usually I can just ignore it after a while but this reminded me again and again. And every time I went Seventeen. he’s seventeen or that flashback is to a time when he was fourteen. Fourteen.

And finally, there’s the issue that ‘breaking into place nobody else has managed to break into before’ is quite a major thing. As a result, the sequel hook at the end felt somewhat weak. I mean I was told over and over again that they were attempting to do something impossible. Even with certain complications that got hinted at towards the end…how can what’s coming now be even more impossible?

Will I read the sequel? Yes. Because while the characters were somewhat stereotypical at the beginning they developed into people I care about (and I do trust the author to not have them fall into the well of amnesia between books and have them start at zero again) and because I loved the plot. I’m repeating myself but: what’s not to love about a heist-story? And it was thrilling. Not everything went according to plan and it never felt like the protagonists just shrugged and tried something else. They were really worried and so I was also worried that perhaps not everybody was going to get out of this unharmed.

three-half-stars

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