Friday, 8 July 2016

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

This Books is in SBR's
2016 Top Ten Reads 

Publication date: 15th September 2015
Published by: Henry Holt and Company
Genre: Fantasy (YA)

Publisher's synopsis

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.

Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.

Sooz Book Reviews Gold Seal of Approval

My Review 
Six of Crows is a sort of spin off from Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy.  I have only read the first instalment of that series - Shadow and Bone - but I recognised the 'landscape'. 
It appears to take place post the Grisha Trilogy and I got the impression that Ketterdam is a city far away from the setting of the previous series.  There are Grisha in Ketterdam - people with supernatural powers.

As mentioned in the above synopsis, Ketterdam is a place where you can buy anything - including people.  In this book Grisha are sought after by slavers who sell them into slavery.  Although slavery is illegal in Ketterdam, most of the Grisha there are 'indentures', the same applies to humans who have been trafficked and sold for the use of 'pleasure seekers'.

Kaz Brekker is a complex character.  He is a sophisticated grifter, high up in the pccking order of a gang of organised criminals.  He leads his own gang who have become successful in carrying out high-risk jobs and not getting caught.  Kaz is infamous in the Barrel (the area of Ketterdam where his gang operates) and has a reputation for being so violent and ruthless he is known as 'Dirty Hands'.   

Throughout the novel, the reader gets flashbacks of Kaz as a boy and in doing so his backstory is revealed.  The contrast between the sweet innocent 9-year-old Kaz and the 'Bastard of the Barrel', as he sometimes calls himself, is significant.  It sparked intrigue as I found myself wondering how he got from the former stage to the latter.  

Six of Crows is also about 5 other characters, all carefully selected by Kaz because they have a unique skill, to work with him to pull of a near impossible heist.  The risks are so great their chances of survival aren't great, but they are tempted by the huge payment they are offered if they can pull it off.  They are not motivated by greed but because for each of them the money is an opportunity to improve their circumstances, and in some cases, secure their freedom (or the freedom of loved ones).  The novel gives equal focus on all the characters and their backstories.  We get flashbacks similar to the ones mentioned previously.  The heist leads to countless nail-biting moments that make this book a real page-turner.

I was a little reluctant to read this novel because I have become rather tired of YA fantasy - having overdosed on ones that seem to follow pretty much the same formula.  However, this novel did not disappoint.  On the contrary, it restored my faith in YA fantasy.  Here is an author who is actually doing something different.  She is swimming against the formulaic tide.  And she is doing it extremely well.  In both Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo has demonstrated that, when it comes to story-telling, she is an innovator.  We need innovators because they keep things fresh and they inspire others.

I am convinced that one of the books inspired by Bardugo's Shadow and Bone is The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon.  What is interesting about Six of Crows is that, although the story is very much it's own, the characters reminded me of Shannon's '7 seals', the gang led by Jaxon Hall in the same book.  I found myself comparing Kaz to Jaxon.  I suspect that these two authors are being influenced by each others' work, and the result is synergistic (the 2+2=5 effect).



If you want to read an alternative YA fantasy novel this summer, I cannot recommend  Six of Crows highly enough.  I can't wait for the next instalment.

This book has been selected as one of my recommended 2016 Summer Reads


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