Book Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Posted July 23, 2018 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 4 Comments

Book Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Genres: YA, Fantasy
Published by Henry Holt and Co. on September 29, 2015
Pages: 462
Format: eBook
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Crooked Kingdom, Shadow and Bone , Siege and Storm

First in the Six of Crows fantasy series in the Grishaverse for Young Adult readers and revolving around Kaz Brekker and his gang of thieves.

In 2018, Six of Crows won the Lincoln Award and was nominated for the Evergreen Teen Book Award. In 2017, it was nominated for the Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award for Young Adults, the Milwaukee County Teen Book Award, and the Missouri Gateway Readers Award. In 2016, Six of Crows won the El Premio El Templo de las Mil Puertas. In 2015, it was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction.

My Take

This was a very different story with a core cast of crooks and whores who specialize in thievery and more. They’re all kids who have been taken advantage of all their lives and are struggling to survive with Bardugo using third person global subjective point-of-view that allows us access to the six Crows’ thoughts, actions, and feelings with more drama and tension than I could believe.

Each of the characters has their awful backstories, their own goals, their own issues. The different loves, hates, and actions of family. This task, this mission, is more than a physical journey, but one that will force each to face his/her fears and prejudices.

All that unwanted romance with that push-pull between Nina and Matthias and the too-subtle one between Kaz and Inej with Kaz terrified of relationships. The victimized Grisha who are bought, used, kidnapped, murdered for who they are. The Fjerdans with their own hate issues, a hate they are taught. Wylan’s father, jesus. All in all, it’s a normal world, just like our own.

Bardugo has loosely based their world on old Europe with the primary lands being Holland with Ketterdam standing in for Rotterdam while the Fjerdans feel so very Scandinavian. It sounds like the Wandering Isle is a stand-in for Ireland.

On the plus side, there’s the trick played on the Peacock. That interesting aside about miracles and how Ravkans are starting to re-think the truth of them — a less-obvious tie-in to the main theme of hate, of being taught to hate.

As complex as the action is, it’s a simple story of hatred and surviving, and if I’m to survive my driving curiosity, I have GOT to get Crooked Kingdom ’cause the deal is the deal, and I have to know how Brekker follows through on his.

The Story

An impenetrable stronghold that has never been breached holds a scientist with a terrifying new drug that could shift the balance of power into the wrong greedy hands.

The merchants of Kerch are willing to pay whatever it takes to rescue him and believe that Kaz Brekker is the one who can succeed on this dangerous journey fraught with betrayals, intricate plans, prison escapes, and so many near misses.

The Characters

Ketterdam, Kerch, is…

…the city where it all starts. A merch is shorthand for merchant. The Council of Tides are a group of Grisha Tidemakers who manage the tides in the harbor. The Barrel is the worst area of town.

The Dregs are…
…a street gang that controls Fifth Harbor and is led by Per Haskell. Their “home” is the much-improved Slat and their gambling house is the Crow Club. The true leader is the seventeen-year-old Kaz “Dirtyhands” Brekker who always wears gloves and wields the power of information. Jordie is the older brother for whom Kaz seeks revenge.

The chosen Dregs who take on the mission include…
Inej Ghafa, a.k.a., “Wraith”, a Suli girl who believes in her Suli Saints, learned the highwire, and has perfected being unseen as she spies for Kaz and Per. All she wants is to pay off her debts, and she loves her knives. Jesper Fahey is a Zemeni-Kaelish sharpshooter with a gambling problem; he’s also a minor Fabrikator who has kept his ability secret. Wylan Van Eck is the best demolitions expert, the merchant’s son with a love for music, numbers, and equations, but Raske is better under pressure, and Dirix. Specht captains the Ferolind, the schooner Kaz has commandeered.

Gang members also include Rotty, Muzzen who is a bouncer and enforcer, Keeg, Anika, Pim, and Big Bolliger. Rojakke is a dealer on the way out.

The Dime Lions are…
…another gang led by Pekka Rollins, a Kaelish, who runs the Emerald Palace. In the hideous prison, Hellgate where Pekka Rollins runs the Hellshow, a secret fight club where prisoners battle for extras. The Sweet Shop. Other gang members include Eroll Aerts, a lockpick and safecracker, and Doughty.

Black Tips are…
…another gang led by Geels. Elzinger and Oomen are part of the gang. Elise is Geels’ girlfriend.

Other gangs include Harley’s Pointers, the Liddies, and the Razorgulls. There are a number of pleasure houses that include the Blue Iris, the Bandycat, the Forge, the Oscura, the Willow Switch, the House of Snow

…the House of the White Rose is…
… run by Onkle Felix. Nina Zenik, a Ravkan spy with a gift for languages who plies her trade, using her gifts as a Heartrender and a Tailor.

…the Menagerie where…
Tante Heleen Van Houden, a.k.a., the Peacock, brutally runs the girls in her house. Cobbet is her favorite enforcer.

Jan Van Eck is a wealthy merchant on the ruling Merchant Council. Mikka is a Tidemaker on borrowed time. Councilman Hoede is a wealthy merchant as well. His Grisha indentures, servants, are treasured possessions and include the now-missing Yuri, a Fabrikator; Anya, a Corporalnik; and, Retvenko, Hoede’s personal Squaller. Van Aakster is a grieving merch.

Officer Joost is part of the City Guard. Rutger is his boss? Willem Holst and Bert Van Daal are more city guards and open to bribery. Henrik Dahlman is the captain of the stadwatch.

Filip sold mechanical dogs. Jakob Herzoon was a minor mercher who owned a small coffeeshop. Margit is his wife; Saskia is their daughter.

The Fjerdans view…

wolves as sacred and Djel is the god they worship. Hringkälla is the Day of Listening when new drüskelle, Fjerdan soldiers, witchhunters who hunt and execute Grisha, are initiated on the White Island inside the Ice Court at Djerholm harbor, an ancient stronghold, impenetrable.

Matthias Helvar is a drüskelle and is in a Kerch prison. Jarl Brum leads the drüskelle and was like a father to Matthias. General Eklund. Ahlgren is a guard. Lars, Claas, and Giert were all Matthias’ mates.

Novyi Zem is…

…Jesper’s hometown.

Suli is…

…Inej’s homeland. Sënj Egmond is a Saint claimed to have Fjerdan blood.

Ravka is…

…the Grisha homeland ruled by King Nikolai, which had descended into civil war. Zoya Nazyalensky is a powerful Squaller and a member of the Grisha Triumvirate. Grisha manipulate matter at its most fundamental levels, the Small Science. A Squaller controls the wind; a Corporalnik heals; a Fabrikator creates; a Tidemaker controls currents, summons water from the air, and manages the tides; a Heartrender specializes in emotion and are experts at doing damage; a Tailor is like a plastic surgeon; Healers heal; and, Inferni control fire. Genya Safin is a Grisha who developed a tincture to change eye color.

The Shu Han are…

…uneasy allies. Bo Yul-Bayur is a Fabrikator scientist who created Jurda parem from jurda, a stimulant made from dried blossoms. His son is Kuwei Yul-Bo, a Grisha Inferni, who has been staving off the Fjerdans. Nestor, a Grisha Durast Fabrikator who specializes in metal, glass, and fibers, is part of a Shu government mission; he had been a good friend of Nina’s in Ravka.

The Wandering Isle is…

…where they found the Witch of Fells, an old Heartrender. I believe the Kaelish are the inhabitants, and that it is based on Ireland.

The Cover and Title

It’s a grim cover with its billowing clouds of gray, a dual image that is a detailed black crow from one perspective and a night sky that reveals thin, dominating towers poking up into that sky from another. An info blurb and the series information is at the top in a white gothic font with the author’s name below that, and then the large-sized title followed by a quick summary below that in red.

The title refers to the team of gangbangers with a mission, the Six of Crows, who aim to succeed.

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