Review: Six of Crows

“Kaz leaned back. "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.”

Six of Crows

Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo

Pals. We need to talk. We need to talk about this book I read which is all mystery and magic and heists and intense interesting characters and which I think pretty much the rest of the book blogging world has already read but you know me, I relish being late to the party. Sit down with me, grab a coffee and some kind of snack and let’s talk about Six of Crows.

I mean probably you already know what it’s about but just in case you do not, IT IS A KIND OF MAGICAL HUSTLE.


I mean, what is not to love about that. Everybody loves Ocean’s Thirteen, right? Surely that’s the truth. Or The Thomas Crown Affair, and what was that other film with Catherine Zeta Jones and Sean Connery? Entrapment. Or White Collar starring Matt Bomer aka Real Life Disney Prince. And does anybody remember that TV programme, Hustle? OH God but I loved that show so hard. There’s just something about a really good heist.

(Gratuitous gif of Matt Bomer because he’s pretty. You’re welcome.)

This book is like those things.
Except magical.

There are thieves and assassins and a mission which means THE CON IS SO TOTALLY ON #hustlereference and twists and turns and double crossings, and all of the characters are kind of dicks and I LOVED IT. It wasn’t perfect but it was good enough for me to not care (much) for the flaws. (I say much because I have unrealistically high expectations and unrealistically high standards and I want every book I read to be The Best Book Ever.)

So. It’s the first of two books (I have Crooked Kingdom on my TBR calling seductively to me) and apparently  it’s set in the same world as Leigh Bardugo’s other books, known as the Grishaverse. I know nothing about those, although I plan to do me some research because if they’re anything like Six of Crows then I am absolutely here for that. It’s a funny thing, the online bookish community: it’s opened my eyes at least.  I have read so many books that I wouldn’t have found otherwise, and I love that; that there’s people all over the world that are reading these things and using the power of social media to shove these books in the faces of other bookish people in the way I do to my friends, a unceremonious READ THIS NOW but with illustrations. I love it. I would never have ever come across Six of Crows I suspect, were it not for bookstagram. Thank you, internet.

Anyhow, where was I...

The book is set in this incredibly painted fantasy world that actually seems a lot like Amsterdam (extra bonus points because I want to go to Amsterdam) and there’s this group of people with these dark and tragic backstories who are all planning this heist so they can be the richest ever and leave behind the aforementioned dark and tragic backstories and it’s lush.

Why is it lush?

Well, let us chat about just that very thing. That is why we’re here after all.

First off. The world-building. I’m talking some serious serious world-building here, which is a thing that I love. If you’re going to set your story in a place that is not The World As We Know It then you need to make me believe in it; I want to be able to see and smell and taste it; I want to believe it’s as real as the world outside my own little front door. I believe in this world, kids. If I ever get to Amsterdam (and I hope I do) then I think I’m going to actually believe I’m in Ketterdam. I’m going to be hoping to run into Kaz Brekker the whole time.
It all makes sense, in that way that makes no sense. Like me. As in, it’s epic fantasy, this book and none of these places even exist and there are magical happenings all over the place and yet and yet you totally buy into it. It’s real. It’s real because Bardugo makes it real, she paints a picture that could be a photograph it’s that clear and I love that level of attention to detail: I love feeling like it matters to her. Like every single stone in Ketterdam, every speck of dust even, it’s real for her and therefore it is real to me. You get me?

Also the characters.

Give me all the anti-heroes please. All of them. A group of people, flawed and cruel and bizarrely likeable, making the choice every day between The Right Thing and actual survival. What is not to like.
Six of Crows = six fucked up idiots and the story is told from a switching POV, they all get a go in the spotlight, which sounds ultra confusing, because God, sometimes even switching between two voices is a lot; at first I was a little dubious and I thought it was going to hurt my brain and just be a little too much, but rest assured dear reader, it works. Mostly. Do not let the multi character narrative put you off this book, please. Just be prepared for it.
It is a lot, sure, but it was always going to be, and the whole gang are all fully realised and fleshed out and just jump off the page; their voices are all very distinct and their stories all weave together super well and because of all the backstory you feel invested in the whole thing. It all just works. Although it does take a little while to really get going. For once though I didn’t mind because the getting there was as interesting as the heist itself you know? I liked this world and I was fascinated by these kids and I was happy just to take my time and let it all unfold as it wished.
I mean, IF was going to be nitpicky (and I don’t like to be, really, despite my high expectations and standards and whatnot) then maybe possibly perhaps I would say that it would maybe possibly perhaps have been better if either a: the book had been longer (which is ridic because holy long book already batman) because if it had been longer I could have had more time with everybody which is a thing I wanted: more. I am greedy. Or b:  if not longer then perhaps that the focus had been on maybe 3 out of the 6, again, for the more time with people.

But then which three? I mean, Kaz, for sure. He’s the one after all and he fascinated the life out of me and I could have read a book just from his perspective truth be told because I love him. & I am not alone; a swift look around The Internets would suggest that Kaz Brekker is very much beloved. But would I be able to forget about three of the others in order to have more Kaz and would the book have been as good if I had? Probably not. So we’re back to it being longer.  And would I have been able to read it if it had been longer because a LOT goes on between these pages as it is. Again perhaps not. Therefore am I talking rubbish.

I can tell right now that this is one of those waffling reviews that makes no sense and goes off on tangents and that I will read back later and think OH MY GOD JO WHY DO YOU BOTHER YOU ARE MAKING A DICK OF YOURSELF ON THE INTERNET. Ack. What can I say. Sometimes I am coherent and sense talking; sometimes I am not.
Perhaps, then, with this in mind, I ought to draw this to a close now and say that this book, which has likable rogues and thieves and unreliable narrators and a heist to end all heists and a world you actually believe is real and exists a mere boat ride away is a book that probably you should read. And if I can’t convince you, which, going off this post would not be surprising. Here’s the actual blurb:

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.
Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.
That’s a wicked cool blurb, right? You want to read it, don’t you. You should.