Have you ever been skeptical about a book?
It could have been due to hype and rumors, online discussion, or maybe just the classic “judging a book by its cover.”
I can’t say I’m not guilty of judging books based on hearsay, because I have to admit I was very skeptical about the book Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Part of the issue is that I read Shadow and Bone, the first book she ever wrote about the Grishaverse. I wasn’t a fan of the plot of that book or the characters, so… in all honesty… I carried that judgement over to her duology Six of Crows and Crowned Kingdom. The other issue is entirely my own: there was so much hype around these two books that I just subconsciously averted myself from them. I don’t know why, but I just couldn’t get past the idea that maybe this book was just as gritty and enticing as it was being advertised.
I mean… a popular YA book can’t possibly be gritty and hard and cold, right? /s
I love YA books and adult fantasy novels that are edgy and dark and yet still take place in some sort of fun, encapsulating universe.
And I am always afraid of trying a book that is marketed that way and the edgiest theme in the book is something commonplace or flat.
Six of Crows is anything but common or flat.
Bardugo’s story is a heist story. It’s told in a Russian-inspired universe called the Grishaverse, and is just as cold, unforgiving, and unbelievably entertaining as Russian folklore. The story follows two main characters, Kaz and Inej, as they manipulate their group of gang members into a heist unlike anything you could imagine. At every turn the plan could go wrong; not only are the gang members unreliable, but so is the intel their heist was built around, and neither Kaz nor Inej know if they can even trust themselves to carry out the plan. They have to go into unfamiliar territory with a host of unknowns in front of them, and all the way to the end the characters keep you riveted and invested with each decision they make.
I honestly loved this story. There’s nothing like a good heist novel to really get your blood pumping, and Bardugo does a great job of blending genres between classic folktale, gritty heist, and emotionally charged fantasy. This may not be a popular opinion, but I honestly disliked EACH of the characters… but in the way where I just could never imagine being friends with someone like them in real life. But I feel like this was part of the charm of the story- these characters grew up in such an awful, unforgiving world, and their personalities were shaped by it. There’s nothing fluffy or compassionate in their lives or their outlooks, which is 100% authentic. By the end of the novel I honestly started to want them to succeed, but I still feel like I’d avoid them if I met them in real life. They’re gang members… they’re pretty ragged characters and I love it.
This does, however, lead into my only criticism- I wish there was a character to root for in this novel. A main character to root for, actually, since, for fear of spoilers, I won’t mention the one character I came to really feel compassion towards. I love the characters’ paths in this and it’s a thoroughly entertaining read, but I’d be much more emotionally invested if there was someone who was… kinder. Not nice, but kind. It just seemed like all of them were very, very selfish and cunning characters and it would have been nice to see a bit of diversity. But that’s a purely personal opinion- the book was still great and entertaining and I highly recommend it! You might be saying, “But Morgan, weren’t you saying you wanted a dark fantasy novel to actually meet your expectations?? Well, expectations are met! The characters are dark and tortured!” All true statements, yet, but it’s more that ALL of the characters were awful, terrible human beings. There’s a difference between gratuitous angst and honest angst and I just felt like there could have been a better balance.
But really, in the grand scheme of things, this book was fantastic.
I feel like you’d like this book if you enjoy mysteries and plot twists. If you liked the movie The Departed, I think you’d like this book because of all the twists and turns as well as the deplorable, hardened characters (seriously, Kaz made me cringe a few times). Bardugo’s writing is similar in style to YA authors like Sarah J. Maas- the structure reminds me a lot of her A Court of Thorns and Roses series.
I hope you liked this review! If you’ve read this book/want to read this book, please comment and let me know your thoughts!