Six of Crows is the first book in Leigh Bardugo’s new duology set in her high fantasy world of Grisha magic. Her first series, Shadow and Bone, takes place in the same world. Although this trilogy was released first, it doesn’t need to be read prior to delving into Six of Crows. The stories are completely different with a new set of characters, and the world of Grisha is fully explained. Kindle Edition | Henry Holt & Co | September, 2015 | 462 pp
“A gambler, a convict, a wayward son, a lost Grisha, a Suli girl who had become a killer, a boy from the Barrel who had become something worse.”
These are the Six of Crows, each main characters by their own right. They live in the Barrel of Ketterdam which is filled with pleasure houses, gambling dens, and pubs. There, rival street gangs wrestle for domination and those who make quick and smart moves while anticipating the moves of their rivals will float to the top of the Barrel.
Kaz Brekker is the leader of the group and the boy from the barrel who had become something worse. He has been given a secret mission by a wealthy councilman to do the impossible: break a scientist out of the Ice Court, an impenetrable fortress above a frozen sea – an island within an island. If successful, he will be a wealthy man; everyone on his team will be wealthy beyond belief. It’s a suicide mission, but Kaz thinks they can beat the odds. The rest of his team are reluctant, but swayed by the purse. Kaz will use his money for revenge.
Inej Ghafa is the Suli girl who had become a killer. Like so many others in the Barrel, Inej had been kidnapped and sold into slavery at one of Ketterdam’s pleasure houses. But Kaz had bought her indenture when he recognized potential, and turned her into his own personal assassin known as The Wraith. If they are successful, she plans to use the money to hunt down slavers and flesh traders.
Nina Zenik is the lost Grisha. She has the power to stop a man’s heart for instant, silent kills. Trained to fight in the Grisha army, she was kidnapped by a team of Drüskelle, holy warriors who bring Grisha to the Ice Court for trial and destruction. They believe all Grisha are abominations because of their power. After she escaped, she landed in Ketterdam and became a part of Kaz’s team. She stayed in Ketterdam because of the one Drüskelle who saved her.
Matthias Helvar is the convict, and the Drüskelle saved by Nina and then betrayed by her. Imprisoned for a false conviction of slave trading, his thoughts were only of detroying Nina Zenik – in between his dreams of kissing her. Kaz breaks him out of prison because if anyone knows the inner workings of the Ice Court, it would be Matthias. He’ll be an important memeber of the team, if he doesn’t kill Nina first.
Jesper Fehey is the gambler. Supposedly at University, he had dropped out when he became addicted to the tables of Ketterdam. His parents still believe he is studying and so he needs the money from this heist to save his father’s farm after a hasty loan against his family home. But Jesper has other notable skills, especially those involving his quick draw and steady trigger fingers.
Wylan Van Eck is the wayward son and the group’s insurance policy. He is the son of the councilman who tasked Kaz with the mission. Wylan has a strange relationship with his father and it’s not up for discussion. He’s also very handy with explosives.
Getting into and out of the Ice Court has never been done. It has layer after layer of security and regimented protocol strictly adhered to by all guards. It won’t be easy. Although they’re all lured by the money, the Grisha scientist at the center of their mission presents a moral dilemma. This scientist has created a drug that will enhance a Grisha’s capabilities tenfold. A small army of Grisha on this drug would be enough to take over the world. It also leaves them in severe withdrawal when the drug wears off and one dose is enough to cause massive addition that can never be alleviated. Without the drug, the Grisha will die.
“Six people, but a thousand ways this insane plan could go wrong.”
Kaz’s group might be successful in the jailbreak. But if they are, they might also doom the world.
Six of Crows is great literary fantasy. It’s a character driven novel that focuses on the main characters involved rather than the Grisha and their abilities as in the previous trilogy. It also equally focuses on the six characters instead of one main character. The plot is exciting but it definitely takes a back seat to the character development. And with six characters, there’s an even number of “ships” – with the perfect amount of tender feelings to make your heart flutter.
If you loved Mistborn, you’ll love Six of Crows. The similarities are ever present, almost as if it’s a homage to the popular series. It ends with a cliffhanger, as expected in a duology, and I can’t wait to see where the next book leads.