TITLE: Six of Crows
AUTHOR: Leigh Bardugo
PLOT SUMMARY: Kaz Brekker, a teenage mastermind residing in crime capital Ketterdam, is recruited to perform an impossible job. If he fails, he dies -- and, frankly, not a lot of people will miss him if he does. If he succeeds, however, he'll be rich beyond his wildest dreams. But to pull it off, Kaz will need help; a spy who can collect secrets on anyone, a sharpshooter who can't resist a bet, a runaway from the privileged world Kaz never knew, a refugee using magic to survive Ketterdam, and a convict who hates Kaz and everything he stands for. Kaz and his crew are all that stands between the world and horrific destruction... that is, if they can survive the job.
FIRST THOUGHTS: I'd heard many, many people rave about this book, but I admit, I wasn't expecting it to be as incredible as it was. While it did take me awhile to get used to the setting, as well as figure out what the rules of this universe are, the characters and plot were compelling enough for me to stick it out. I know this book and its sequel, Crooked Kingdom, take place in the same universe as The Grisha Trilogy, which is on my TBR, but I haven't actually gotten around to it yet. I wonder if things would've been a little less confusing at the start if I'd read The Grisha Trilogy first. Either way, this book was highly enjoyable -- I can't wait to get my hands on the sequel.
THOUGHTS ON PLOT: I love a good heist story, and this was no exception. As I mentioned above, it's a bit hard to get your bearings in this book, since it's set in a different world with different rules, especially pertaining to magic, and that can make the first few chapters hard to get through. Or, at least, that was the case for me. That said, once the heist part of the story begins, that's where things really get good. While I occasionally got lost with what was going on, it held my attention from the very first page. My only real complaint, besides getting lost in the worldbuilding, is the ending. It's not that it's not good, it just feels like the story's not done. A lot of plot threads are left hanging for the sequel, which I never loved -- even in series, I prefer for each book to be its own contained story. I kind of wonder if the author intended for this and Crooked Kingdom to be one, extremely long book, only to have to cut it up into two shorter ones.
7 / 10
THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: This book has a lot of characters. We have six leads, all of whom get multiple focus chapters, as well as multiple side characters and antagonists. It's a lot to keep track of! But each of the leads is highly distinct and unique in their own way, and it's quite easy to keep track of who's who. I loved all six of the leads -- though I admit I'm less enamored with Kaz than a lot of the readership seems to be. He's a great character, and a very compelling one, but holy shit, what an asshole. That said, it's very intentional, and he has just enough moments of actual humanity that you can still root for him. (Especially since the antagonists in this book are truly vile.) My favorite character by far was Nina, but I really enjoyed each of the leads.
9 / 10
THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: Leigh Bardugo's prose is really excellent. It never gets too infodumpy, while still explaining enough things about the world that the reader can at least figure out what's going on. Overall, I don't have much to say here -- I tend to only have a whole lot to say about writing style if it's really, really bad. This was the furthest thing from.
8 / 10
THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: Other YA authors, take notes! Six of Crows features a wonderfully diverse, non-stereotyped cast -- POC, queer people, disabled people, and survivors of abuse are all in leading roles here, and none of them are degraded or reduced to a stereotype. Especially refreshing is the treatment of Inej, who is a former sex slave. We hear about Inej's past on Inej's terms -- no fetishy flashback scenes to her abuse, no talk of her being "defiled," no victim-blaming whatsoever, and no, absolutely no part of the narrative being given to her abusers. This isn't their story to tell -- it's hers.. And while Inej is obviously greatly affected by the trauma she went through, she is not defined by it by any stretch. Overall, this book is one of the best in terms of representation I've seen, and I hope other YA authors follow Leigh Bardugo's cue.
10 / 10
FINAL THOUGHTS: I need to read the sequel, like, yesterday. If you like low fantasy, heist stories, or diverse, eclectic casts of characters, you need to read this book. I greatly look forward to reading Crooked Kingdom and The Grisha Trilogy, and I hope Leigh Bardugo writes more stories in this world soon, because she's really created something great.
FINAL GRADE: 8.5 / 10