Title: Six of Crows (The Dregs #1)
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Young Adult | Fantasy
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. 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.
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If I were to describe this book in one sentence, I would say it’s a delicious high fantasy about six anti-heroes performing one hell of a heist. That’s it. That’s what this book is.
I highly enjoyed Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy. Her world-building was immaculate, her writing was brilliant, and her ability to construct villains had me hooked from the very beginning. The Darkling is, and will always be, one of my most beloved villains of all-time, so imagine my delight when I realized that this book’s main character was a nicer, not-totally-evil version of the Darkling. Hell to the yes.
I went into this with very high expectations because of its rave reviews and its fantasy-heist premise, and I was not disappointed. I enjoyed every minute of it. It was fast-paced, twisting and turning with every page. The characters were complex and well-developed. The world building was taken to a new level, and I’m so excited for the next installment.
“I trade in information, Geels, the things men do when they think no one is looking. Shame holds more value than coin ever can.”
This series is completely separate from the Grisha trilogy; it’s set in the same world, yes, but the events take place after the events of the Grisha trilogy and there is 0 overlap except for the occasional mention of the characters here and there. Even so, I would recommend reading the trilogy before you pick this up just because the series gives a lot more in-depth explanations about the Grisha system and the world. But none of the books in the trilogy impressed me as much as this one did. Bardugo really stepped up her game with Six of Crows.
The first 60% of this book is, essentially, very little plot. It’s full of back story of all our six characters, and it contains a lot of development. Bardugo grounds her reader firmly into the world and her characters. When you’re comfortable with the backbone of the novel, things pick up, and they pick up in the best way possible. Bardugo shoves you into the action – there are twists and turns everywhere. You’re never sure what’s going to happen next, you’re never sure if there’s going to be a betrayal or a sudden death or a crazy revelation. They’re all there, and they keep the reader on the tips of his/her toes.
This book was perfectly balanced – there was just the right amount of information being given, just the right amount of lingering romance, action scenes, dialogue, back-story. It’s the perfect recipe of what a good fantasy novel should be. It is never heavy-handed. There are some tough themes in this including prostitution, racism and poverty, but they’re all dealt with beautifully and tastefully. Even the scenes that make you want to gag are there for a reason, and you end up appreciating them.
“Kaz leaned back. “What’s the easiest way to steal a man’s wallet?”
“Knife to the throat?” asked Inej.
“Gun to the back?” said Jesper.
“Poison in his cup?” suggested Nina.
Despite having a brilliant, captivating plot, the main force that drives this book are its characters. I don’t know how Bardugo did it – how she took six very flawed characters and turned them into people you fully root for. They are greedy, they are vengeful, they are despicable, they are violent. But they are also passionate. They care for one another. They are driven and you love them for everything they are. But there’s one character that soars high and above the others, and it’s Kaz Brekker.
“I’m a business man,” he’d told her. “No more, no less.”
“You’re a thief, Kaz.”
“Isn’t that what I just said?”
Kaz. I can write an essay about Kaz, and the only other characters I can say that about are Draco Malfoy and Chaol Westfall. Kaz is with them. His back-story pulled roughly at my heart strings; it’s tragic, dark, haunting. Bardugo gives us a first impression of Kaz, someone who is cunning, twisted, callous, and then she strips him down to what he truly is: someone who got dealt a very bad hand and had to deal with what he had to survive in a cold, cruel world. He is so complex, and he kept me on my toes constantly. I was always wondering if he had a trick up his sleeve. His cunning and intelligence knows no bounds, and that was such a delight to read. And despite being very, very problematic, I fell in love with yet another fictional guy with his immaculate suit, leather gloves and walking stick.
“Greed is your god, Kaz.”
He almost laughed at that. “No, Inej. Greed bows to me. It is my servant and my lever.”
I don’t have a lot to say about the other five people, but I do love them all. I was a little apprehensive about Matthias and Nina at first, but they grew on me as their back stories were expanded. Inej is a fascinating character, and her relationship with Kaz is so full of tension that you can’t help feel totally invested. Jesper and Wylan – I ship those two so hard, ya feel? Speaking of which, props to Bardugo for the awesome diversity.
Tremendous. Expressive. Vivid. Imaginative. Poignant. Epic.