(4 out of 5)
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. (Goodreads)
I definitely wasn’t desperately whispering “please live up to the hype” as I opened Six of Crows on my Kindle and I have no idea where you’ve heard that.
Reading a hyped-up book that I want to love is always scary because so many of those haven’t lived up to my expectations—and at first I thought Six of Crows would fall into that category as well. For the first quarter of the book, it was incredibly hard for me to immerse myself due to the frequent POV shifts between multiple characters. I’m a single POV person at heart because shifts tend to interrupt my focus and confuse me, so Six of Crows switching between five different POV characters was daunting.
However, once the heist properly got underway, I was finally hooked. That’s also when the multiple POVs started making sense to me; they allow the reader to stay with the characters during their part of the heist, painting a complete picture of a complicated undertaking. I still could have done away with at least one POV; I didn’t like Matthias and his portions of the story were the least interesting to me, to the point where I would occasionally skim parts of his chapters.
Leigh Bardugo’s writing is overall great, though, and a well-written heist never fails to draw me in. I love reading about teams working together under pressure like the cogs in a well-oiled machine, each putting their particular skills to use. The world building was excellent, and as someone who loves the Netherlands and is longing to go back, I especially enjoyed the Dutch-inspired setting of Ketterdam.
Kaz’s team is diverse, with people of different ethnicities, genders, and body types. I’ve been told that there’s some queer rep in this duology, but so far there have only been hints, so I’m really crossing my fingers that there will be some explicit queerness in the sequel.
I’d also heard a lot about the disabled rep, and I would say it was decent. Kaz has chronic pain and walks with a cane due to an old leg injury that never healed right. Sure, he’s a crook, but in this book everyone is, and Kaz isn’t portrayed as a villain, nor is his disability ever used for shock value. It was nice to have a casually disabled character who uses a mobility aid but can also stand his own in physical situations, though I do feel ambivalent about Kaz also using his cane as a weapon. Still, a confident leader who just so happens to be disabled, written by a disabled author, is a win in my book.
I disliked the narrative of the persecution of magic users, and I was uncomfortable with the plot point of medical experiments being performed on Grisha. Additionally, there’s an entire arc dedicated to the will-they-won’t-they romance between a reforming bigot falling in love with a member of the group he formerly persecuted, and that is always going to be a no from me. It’s not cute or romantic, and if I never read this particular trope again it’ll be too soon.
When I picked up Six of Crows, I was fully expecting to give it five stars since I had heard so many good things about it. Although it was a page-turner, due to the issues mentioned above it only merits four stars from me, but I’m still excited to read the sequel as soon as my library hold comes through. (ETA: Click here to read my review for Crooked Kingdom.)