Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Review by Anna
Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows is a young adult fantasy novel that follows a group of six main characters who become unlikely allies in order to pull off a grand theft scheme. This book was both tightly-plotted and entertaining, helping it to stand out amongst other YA fantasy and show the full potential of the genre.
The story opens when Kaz Brekker, a powerful gang leader of the city’s criminal underbelly, is tasked with an impossible heist: break into the impenetrable Ice Court and kidnap the man with the formula for jurda parem, a powerful drug. In return, an outrageous sum that will secure him generously for life. He’s immediately determined to do it but realizes that it’s a likely suicide mission, however calculated. In order to pull it off, he calls on a group of bellicose yet uniquely skilled misfits who are each strong-willed in their own way. At first only the crew’s combined motivation keeps them working together, but as they become dragged into the deeper implications of the heist and jurda parem, they quickly learn that they must work together to beat the odds stacked against them. Over time the crew becomes a tightly-knit group, having learned to rely on and trust one another.
The premise of this book was especially interesting to me at first because it combined fantasy with crime; usually these genres are distinctly different but they worked well together in this book. The heist at the heart of the plot gives the book a focused structure on which further elements can be added and the stakes are always high, keeping the story compelling throughout.
Bardugo’s Grishaverse, the larger fantasy world in which her stories take place, truly shines in this book with the fictional city of Ketterdam being the main setting. The side of the city that the main characters experience is dark and unforgiving, but this makes it all the more crucial to the characters’ histories, especially Kaz’s. As a trade city, Ketterdam serves as a melting pot of cultures. Even other settings such as the Ice Court have distinct characteristics and cultures that are grounded in reality yet remain fantastical with magic and legends.
Although switching between multiple protagonists can be hard to follow, Six of Crows handles this well; the characters’ perspectives are balanced and their individual plotlines each have enough going on that the story never drags. Similarly, all of the characters are well-built with unique motivations for getting involved in the crime. Kaz Brekker, seemingly a mercenary at heart, has been forced to grow up quickly and become ruthless just to survive, his past further explored in the second book. His spy and counterpart, Inej, brings hope to their dire situation; her unwavering spirit is fueled by her strong sense of purpose and the future she is determined to earn. Each with different personalities and stories of their own, it’s easy to like the crew right away.
This book works within a larger world of Bardugo’s writing and there are references to other books in it. It’s not necessary to read those to understand this one, but I’d recommend them as helpful for context. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy and action. The well-paced plot and likeable characters make Six of Crows a fun, engaging staple for the genre.
Checkout the Six of Crows from the Newport Beach Public Library.