Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .
A convict with a thirst for revenge
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager
A runaway with a privileged past
A spy known as the Wraith
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes
Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.
An informal synopsis
So basically there are 6 criminals with varying degrees of morality who are given this opportunity to perform this incredibly dangerous/impossible heist and rescue (cough kidnap cough) this important scientist. A note on the scientist- he has concocted this drug that dangerously enhances the power of the magical people in this society (i.e. Grishas), but it has a catch; all users become addicted and eventually wither away because all they can think of is getting more of the drug (and forget things like eating and drinking and sleeping). Okay back to the plot, these teenage criminals all have different motives for agreeing to this impossible mission, most of which have to do with the large sum of money they are promised if they are successful. After a few roadblocks from other groups that also want the scientists, the group successfully frees a scientist (note: not the scientist) and return him for their moneys. However, they did not retrieve this man without many personal sacrifices along the way. When they go to get the money, they are betrayed and one of their own is kidnapped for ransom. Cliffhanger!
- Starting off with my favorite character! Inej is a lovely young Suli woman with one of the most tragic back stories I have ever read. When she is about 14 years old she is stolen from her families wagon by slavers and shipped to a foreign country where she is forced to be a prostitute. Her ability to sneak around silently catches Kaz’s eye and he has his gang leader buy out her indenture to the whore house so that the gang can use her as a spy. She is the key to their gang’s success and is literally a ninja. She is a badass woman who makes no apologies of what she wants in life and will not take less. I was so proud of her when she realized her dream is no longer to go back to her parents; she now dreams to own a ship and hunt down slave ships to save girls like her. It takes guts to realize that your trauma has changed you and given you a tool to help others.
- Kaz is the leader of our little teenage gang, and he is one of those people who at first glance just has no redeeming qualities. He is cruel, selfish, and greedy. However, he does have a soft spot for Inej and some of the best most unselfish things he does is for her. Kaz came to the city as a newly orphaned child with only his big brother and the money from selling their farm. He and his brother are very quickly screwed over by a man who took them in, whom Kaz later learns is one of the major criminal players in their country by the name of Pekka Rollins. Considering shortly after they were screwed over by this man, his elder brother and him are thrown into poverty where his brother subsequently dies its safe to say Kaz has it out for this man. Due to some previous trauma surrounding his brother’s death Kaz has a panic attack whenever he touches another human being so he dons gloves every single day, but that has a major effect on his ability to build relationships. Basically, the trauma from his brother’s death builds a literal and metaphorical barrier between Kaz and any intimacy or relationships (platonic or otherwise). Kaz is definitely a morally gray main character, he has a tendency to focus on the end game over the people he cares about. But it really seems like Leigh is building it up for him to have a major crisis where he realizes the people in his life are more important than vengeance for his brother. I am excited to see how his character continues to develop in Crooked Kingdom.
- Nina and Matthias
- It makes sense to talk about these two characters together because their story is so intertwined. Nina is a curvy heartrender, a former Grishan soldier before she was captured by a group of druskelles. A druskelle is a sort of warrior/bandit who’s job is to hunt down Grisha. While captive on a ship back to Fjerda (home of the druskelle, and coincidentally where the heist takes place) their ship wrecks and Nina and Matthias are the only survivors. Due to being stranded together in icy terrain these two enemies have to quickly overcome their differences just to survive. They quickly realize that beneath the roles they are born into (Grisha vs. Druskelle) they are both human and while both have their good and bad traits, neither is a monster. They arrive at a city in Fjerda and plan to go their separate ways, however Nina recognizes Grisha soldiers eyeing Matthias and makes a rash decision to save him when she realizes he is about to be taken and interrogated. She falsely accuses him of being a “slaver”, with the intention of going back on this accusation once they are out of danger. Unfortunately this plan to save him fails, and when we meet Matthias he has been in jail for some time. Kaz and the gang rescue Matthias from jail because they need his expertise on the “ice kingdom” they are attempting to break into.However, Mathias is back to hating grisha and especially hating Nina considering he does not know Nina had good intentions when she accused him of being a slaver. As the heist continues, it is clear that underneath the tension is mutual attraction. Slowly, they both overcome their loyalty to their warring roles and fall in love. I love a good enemies to lovers plot, but I got Nazi vibes from the whole Druskelle thing and so I can’t really say I absolutely loved Nina and Mathias’ relationship. I love Nina, she is smart and absolutely hilarious with a big personality. I love how she is friends with Inej and would do anything for her. I also love how even though she could really use the money from the heist, she intends to betray the group and kill the scientist before he can create more of the dangerous drug. Even though it will cost her everything, she will do what is right. Matthias is an okay character, and once he realizes he loves Nina he is very sweet to her. I just need him to snap out of the whole Druskelle thing, the whole wavering loyalties between the group and his old comrades was frustrating to me.
- Jasper’s character delivers some of the most hilarious lines, and his point of view is surprisingly poignant and introspective. Jasper is a young man who came to the city expecting to enroll in college, but quickly developed a gambling addiction and joined Kaz’s gang to provide himself an income. Jasper doesn’t have a huge role in the plot of the story, he is the sharp shooter for the group. I did love his and Wylan’s growing relationship/ mutual crush. Jasper and Wylan’s banter was so much fun to read. Jasper often provided some light in a very dark story. I would love if Six of Crows went more into him, because I honestly think he would be one of my favorite characters if we got to see him more.
- Wylan is introduced as the collateral, as he is the son of the man who hires Kaz for this job. Kaz introduces Wylan to the group saying, this is our insurance so we get paid. We find out Wylan left his wealthy father’s house for unknown reasons a few months previously, and Kaz has been keeping a close eye on him in case an opportunity arose. Considering Wylan is new to the streets, he is the “cleanest” moral wise and often keeps the group from becoming too violent. Wylan also proves himself to be a very capable demolitionist, and gets the crew out of some tight spots.
Six of Crows does have a very slow plot. There is a large amount of time spent on backstory for each of the characters, so it feels like you are halfway through before things start moving. That being said, the backstory’s were beautifully written and are extremely important to the plot so I believe that time was not wasted.
I usually absolutely cannot stand multiple POV’s. I get bored, and honestly half the time I tend to just pick a favorite and only read that point of view. This being said each of the Six of Crows characters was so genuinely interesting, that I read this entire book with no skipping at all. Bardugo does an amazing job of changing the tone for each change in POV without disrupting the flow of the story. This book is beautifully written, the imagery and descriptions were succinct and yet effective.
I would highly recommend diving into the Shadow and Bone trilogy before reading Six of Crows. I think the world building is slightly more detailed in Shadow and Bone, and so in the beginning I was definitely a little confused. Luckily the book includes a few little guides to keep the type of Grisha apart, and a map of the Grishaverse. That being said, I feel like I was still left a little bit confused about what exactly Ketterdam is, and who rules it, why there are 5 merchants in charge of this area, why there are so many gangs, etc.
Overall, I would rate this book a 4.5/5. One of my favorite things about the relationships between the characters, each friendship adds a new dimension to the characters in question. The character’s are fascinating, and the writing style flowed easily and naturally. My reasoning for subtracting 0.5 out of the perfect score is this: I would’ve loved to see a little more character development, and I felt that the world building to second place to building the background for each character. Also, I did feel a little cringe when reading Matthias and Nina’s love story. The Druskelle are just sooo similar to Nazi’s, and it s hard for me to think that Nina could fall for someone who doesn’t just hate her, but was raised to think her and everyone like her is subhuman. However, I can see that Matthias has overcome much of his upbringing in his love for Nina and I can respect that, and also their banter was adorable and fun to read. I loved this book and would highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy, YA or Adult.