(Please note that this review may contain some minor spoilers for those who have not read the book yet – it’s simply too difficult to discuss the characters without divulging some minor details)
I loved this book. I didn’t know what to expect going into it, and yet somehow it met all my expectations, and more. Honestly, Bardugo has produced something incredible here, and I’m still so excited about it. The plot was complex, the story and characters rich with detail and intrigue, and plenty of action littered the pages.
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.
Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction-if they don’t kill each other first.
In truth, the story in this book was so complex that I feel as though I’ll have to reread it at least a couple of times in order to grasp all the subtle nuances and ideas underlining the main plot. This is perhaps the greatest testament to the masterpiece Bardugo; the sheer complexity and detail imbued into the plot, which is, at first glance, quite simple. A band of thieves and rogues, stealing heavily guarded treasure from under the noses of those more powerful than them for the greater good. And yet, the plot doesn’t like anything I’ve ever read before. The characters infuse the story with such, well, character, that it was impossible not to love them and root for their cause. Even if the group was divided in their cause.
- A convict with a thirst for revenge: Matthias Helvar. Matthias is a Fjerdan soldier—a drüskelle. He was imprisoned after being falsely accused by Nina, which led to years in confinement. Those years have made him cold and brutal, hateful and unforgiving. Matthias is perhaps the most simplistic of the characters, although in my eyes this is not a short-coming. If anything, it makes him easier to relate to, because his problems are understandable, to a degree. He’s a former soldier for the very country they’re trying to infiltrate, with a raging heart – both in terms of his feeling for a certain Nina Zenik and in regards to his feelings a patiotism towards his homeland. He battles with this throughout the adventure.
- A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager: Jesper Fahey. He has a gambling habit, which led to him dropping out of school when he got into debt. Jesper is friendly, witty, and sarcastic, a bright and talkative young man. However, Jesper is really all over the place in my mind; his perspective chapters didn’t seem to give away a lot in regards to his allegience, and only briefly hinted at his feelings towards his crew members – in particular, Wylan Van Eck. Jesper’s feelings towards Wylan are definitely different than his feelings towards the rest of the crew, bordering (actually, probably) leaning towards the more romantic, though neither seem to openly act upon their feelings. Jesper is also hiding some major secrets, the least of which is a very specific betrayal, which I feel may be part of the reason Bardugo kept his narrative so intentionally vague.
- A runaway with a privileged past: Wylan Van Eck. Up until literally the very end, all the reader really knows about Wylan’s background is that he is the son of the rich merchant, Jan Van Eck, who is the man that hired Kaz (and his crew) to steal from the Fjerdans. Wylan is (openly) part of the crew because of his knowledge in demolitions and (secretly, initally) his use as a hostage in negotiating the reward. Wylan struggles to develop a relationship with most of the crew, who view him as soft and childish, on account of his priviledged upbringing. Despite this, the relationship between Wylan and Jesper grows, although neither are open about their growing relationship. Later on, it is revealed that Wylan left his father’s house after suffering abuse, a result of his inability to read (which is attributed to a reading disability, not a lack of intelligence).
- A spy known as the Wraith: Inej Ghafa. Inej, who primarily goes by the Wraith, is Kaz Brekker’s spy and right hand woman. She is Suli, and was trained in acrobatics before being kidnapped by slavers and sold the Menagerie, a brother in Kerch, from which she was eventually bought by Kaz after promising to be useful to him. Kaz trained her to kill, pick locks, and build a reputation for the name, the “Wraith”. Inej struggles to come to terms with her time in the Menagerie, displaying clear symptoms of PTSD. Her greatest challenge, however, may be overcoming or accepting her growing feelings towards Kaz, who both frustrates and endears her. Inej’s story is a complex one, and Barduo revealed it slowly, building a rich and detailed character for the reader to fall in love with, which is exactly what I did.
- A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums: Nina Zenik. Nina has a story similar to Inej’s own, at least in its origin; kidnapped by Fjerdans for her identity as a Grisha, she was being whisked away from her home country of Ravka when the ship she was aboard sunk in a brutal storm. She was rescued/rescued Matthias, her sworn enemy, and a star-crossed love/attraction followed. Struggling to survive, Matthias and Nina worked together, eventually prompting Matthias to promise Nina her freedom. however for some (eventually disclosed reason) Nina turned him over the Kerch merchants meant to spirit her away, resulting in his imprisonment. Following his imprisonment, Nina remained in Ketterdam, using her power to survive the slums, as she tried to free Matthias. Nina’s loyalties and motivations are clearly all over the place, and Bargdugo slowly reveals more and more about her story, resulting in so intense character development.
- A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes: Kaz Brekker. Also known as “Dirtyhands”, Kaz Brekker is effectively the leader of the Degs, one of the gangs in the Barrel, in Ketterdam. He has a fearsome reputation of doing anything and everything to get what he wants. Kaz is clearly the protagonist of the tale, although the other members of his crew share in the job. Kaz has the most twisty, complex story, and at the end of Six of Crows, I definitely had the feeling that there was still more left to be revealed. Kaz’s nickname of “Dirtyhands” was earned less by his actions and more by his constant wearing of leather gloves, a habit which is revealed to have stemmed from a paranoia of skin on skin touch developped following the death of his brother, Jordie. He blames another gang leader, Pekka Rollins, for his brother’s death, and this vendetta is one of his driving motivators in life, and in taking the job from Van Eck. Kaz also has feeling towards Inej, which he first openly displays after she is almost killed, rushing her to safety and someone who can heal her, lashing out at any in his way. He continues to be soft towards her, despite feeling that the attraction is a weakness; his fears eventually prove to be true, in more ways than one.
Honestly, Bardugo’s character creation and development in this series is absolute perfection. I’ve cut it down, but I could go on about Kaz, Nina, Inej, Wylan, Jesper and Matthias forever. I love each and every one of them. Alas, I must also discuss the plot a bit before I wrap this up.
The plot, as I mentioned, is at first glance very simple. Six of Crows is in essence a story about a heist. Kaz is convinced to take a job, and gathers a team of close friends and allies to assist him in committing the greatest heist of the lifetimes – stealing a famous scientist from the grips of the Fjerdan Ice Court, in the midst of their biggest party of the year. Why? He’s seemingly developed a drug to magnify Grisha power, and potentially make the already powerful Grisha invincible, something Kerch cannot allow it’s enemies to possess. Seems impossible (a fact which Matthias reinforces quite firmly), and yet Kaz and his crew are set on pulling it off in spectacular fashion. They concoct a wild plan that seems destined to fail, and launch into a plot so full of twists, turns and betrayals that it’s hard to follow if you’re not paying close attention.
I won’t reveal anymore, because of course, you’re going to want to read this one yourselves. I loved every aspect of this book, and as a result Iv’e already picked up Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy to tide me over until Cooked Kingdom comes out in September.