Book Review: “Six of Crows” Expertly Tells of a Fantastical Heist
“Six people, but a thousand ways this insane plan could go wrong.”
In Leigh Bardugo’s newest novel, “Six of Crows,” she returns to the universe of her bestselling “Grisha” trilogy, which consists of “Shadow and Bone,” “Siege and Storm” and “Ruin and Rising.”
This is not a sequel to the “Grisha books,” though. It’s a fully standalone novel with an entirely new plot and cast of characters, so readers—like me—who never picked up one of Bardugo’s books before “Six of Crows” are not at all at a disadvantage.
“Six of Crows” tells the story of a group of six young gang members and criminals who are hired for a job that could make them all rich beyond their wildest dreams—if they manage to survive it. Their objective: to break into the most secure palace and prison complex in the world and retrieve the scientist responsible for making a drug that has the power to change life as they know it. In other words, the pressure is on.
In this world, some people are born as Grisha and have the ability to manipulate one specific substance, such as water, metal, or even the human heart. However, the Grisha do not consider these abilities to be magic; instead, they refer to it as the Small Science.
A Grisha healer explains in the book’s prologue chapter that she does only what the human body naturally does, but more quickly. She is no more magical than our own white blood cells. Grisha are powerful, but they have limitations.
However, a new drug called jurda parem is poised to change all that. Grisha who use the highly addictive substance are able to do things that can only be described as magic—they can fly, control minds and turn lead into gold, taking their original powers to unheard-of extremes. Widespread use of jurda parem would lead to military and financial devastation for the whole world.
Now, the scientist who created the drug is being held captive at the Ice Court, the famously impregnable capital city of Fjerda, and soldiers and professional spies from every nation are in competition to steal him away and learn the formula for parem for themselves.
But Kaz Brekker doesn’t care about any of that. He and his crew were promised forty million kruge for the scientist’s retrieval, and Kaz wants to get paid.
Bardugo’s prose is bursting with wit. She is able to weave together humor and genuine emotional power into a rich tapestry of a story, all while crafting an action-packed plot with enough twists and surprises to keep readers guessing until the last page.
One of the best things about this novel, in my opinion, is its characters and their capacity for growth. Each member of the main cast is exceedingly well-rounded and memorable, and each is on their own independent journey throughout the book. It is a delight to watch them all develop into themselves over the course of the story, and to witness the forging—and testing—of many strong, nuanced relationships and friendships.
The narration alternates between several different characters’ points of view to great effect—each character’s voice is distinctive enough to give the reader valuable insight into their personality while still maintaining a cohesive overarching style, a delicate balance that Bardugo strikes perfectly.
I also love “Six of Crows’” blend of genres. It combines a high fantasy setting with a gritty story about morally ambiguous characters, gang turf wars, and audacious strategy reminiscent of popular heist movies. As a result, it appeals to a wide audience, including those who are not normally fantasy readers.
“Six of Crows” is the first instalment of a duology; its sequel, “Crooked Kingdom,” is set to be released in September of this year.
For me, and for all the fans, September can’t come quickly enough.