I’ve actually read this book twice over; once in 2015, then again about a month ago, and despite having read it before, I was still completely engrossed in the story. I think that’s how you know you have a good book: re-readability value. And this book ranks very high on my re-readability list.
Six of Crows is probably my favorite book out of those published in the last five years. It’s got everything I love: charming thieves and con-men; a intricately-established world with all sorts of quirky details; and an undercover mission. What’s weird is that I tried out the Grisha trilogy (? I think there are only three books?) by Ms. Bardugo, but I just couldn’t get into them. On the other hand, SOC was one of those books that I made myself read slowly so that I could really analyze each chapter. It was such a gorgeously derived story, and its fame is well-deserved.
I think that going through the summary would be gratuitous because everyone should read the book for themselves. I’ll just talk about the things that really made this book for me, instead.
I’ve read several book that try to establish beloved villainous characters, but I think that Six of Crows is the most memorable success that I’ve ever encountered. Kaz Brekker is your main baddie; he’s an enigma of a man, but deadly and terrifying. He’s only seventeen years old, but he’s got all the reputation of a mob boss. Brekker doesn’t dish out second chances; he acts out of spite and vengeance, but somehow manages to always be ten steps ahead of his enemies; he’s cold and calculating and sadistic, but he’s so witty that it’s hard not to love him. It’s hard not to be in awe of him. And as a reader, you delve more into his background, so you get attached quickly. Brekker is someone that you want on your side, but you certainly don’t want to underestimate or trust. He’s like chaos incarnate.
Inej is his right-hand man (woman?), kidnapped as a young girl of nine and sold to the owner of the Menagerie, which is a brothel especially made for those with foreign tastes. Inej endures a hard year there before encountering Brekker, a patron of the brothel for reasons more industrial than sex, who buys her off of the Madam’s hands and employs her as his wraith. As the wraith, Inej sneaks around the twisted streets of Ketterdam, gathering secrets for Kaz to use to his advantage. She’s a ghostly thing: quiet, serious, and grounded, but as the story goes on we’re exposed to a more vulnerable Inej. One who laughs and cries and hurts and smiles. She’s quick to capture your heart… and the hearts of her supposedly-heartless partners.
Kaz and Inej were, by far, my favorite characters, but I definitely appreciated the other characters, too: Jesper, the lighthearted sharpshooter with a damning gambling addiction; Wylan, the baby of the group and a demolitions expert, dealing with his own shameful secrets; Matthias, a Fjordan and former grisha-hunter (by the way! The grisha are these powerful, magical people from a country called Ravka, who have been demonized and hunted down by Fjordan grisha-hunters; kind of like the Crusaders of olden times) who has been imprisoned in what could be described as a more intense Alcatraz; and Nina, a sassy Grisha heart-render, who has the power to control your blood and your heart and who is very deeply in love with someone that she shouldn’t be in love with.
The whole team works together really well. If you’ve been reading my reviews for a while, you probably know how much I appreciate stories that revolve around friendship. Six of Crows is interesting because all of these people are swindlers and crooks, and they definitely shouldn’t be so close but they have to depend on each other for the sake of the job. It’s an interesting position to put them in: their lives are on the line, and there’s no room to mess up.
The book, as I mentioned above, also has these dazzling descriptions of each setting. I felt like I could see Ketterdam right in front of me; Ms. Bardugo fleshes out her world with so much care that you can taste the salt in the air of Ketterdam, feel the biting chill of Fjorda, smell the tang of metal and blood in Hellgate.
And the plot never feels slow or contrived. Everything fits together like a perfect jigsaw puzzle, and the ball keeps rolling. I think it was Stephen King who said in his book, On Writing, that one thing many authors get wrapped up in is their power of description. They forget that the ultimate goal is to move the story along. Six of Crows flows beautifully in that aspect; you get tons and tons of description, but it never gets tiresome because the story doesn’t ever stutter or come to a halt.
Okay. I’m going to end my review of the book there because I could honestly go on for pages about why you should read it. This is the one book in my review blog that I highly recommend to anyone, because if you enjoy a good adventure story, prison-breaks, thievery, underhandedness, betrayal, and incredible world-building, you should love this book.
If you’re still not convinced, check out the official character art by illustrator Kevin Wada; his work was so on-the-button that I got all nostalgic just looking at the images:
They’re super gorgeous.
Okay. Also, I wanted to highly recommend that if you enjoy this book, you should definitely try out Dishonored by Arkane Studios. It’s such a beautiful game and it’s got this incredible atmosphere that I found really similar to Ketterdam. I truly believe that playing this game and exploring Dunwall before starting out Six of Crows contributed immensely to my enjoyment of the book. Here’s my review of Dishonored, if you want to find out more. Even if you don’t enjoy the game, you should definitely try listening to the music while reading the story; it’ll enhance your experience 1000%.
Happy reading! I really hope everyone enjoys this story as much as I did! 🙂