"Six Dangerous Outcasts. One Impossible Heist". That's the slogan at the start of this book and it's pretty accurate. First off, there's a thief named Kaz Brekker who is pretty much the most relentless and obnoxious protagonist since Enoch from Miss Peregrine. He then gets a small abduction from a businessman named Jan Van Yeck who informs him about a scientist named Bo Yul-Bayur who supposedly knows the formula for a drug called "jurda parem", which enhances the powers of Grisha ten-fold but also causes an addiction and craving almost impossible to get out of. And in case you didn't know, in this world, the Grisha, aka the magicians, and the Fjerdans, are pretty much mortal enemies. If Yul-Bayur is still alive, they're not sure, but the Ice Court is a place where the Fjerdans keep all their treasures, important documents, and most dangerous prisoners, but the reward is enough for Kaz to get a life that very few get to experience. To pull off this heist, though, he recruits five others. That's why it's called "Six" of Crows. And together, they are going to have to put aside their differences and make the heist of the Grisha universe!
As for the experience, just think of "Shadow and Bone" meets "This is Where it Ends" and that's the sort of book Six of Crows ends up being like. But let me say this isn't a book I think reluctant readers will immediately bite their teeth into and chew willingly. The first forty pages were kind of a pain to get through, because in the first chapter there's an unnecessarily giant handful of characters and then another amount in Chapter 2, and I was worried each character would be filled with a world of their own and have too many names to remember. And not only that, but Leigh Bardugo did something at the start I'm really not a fan of, and that's introduce all these characters and have conversations around them as if we know everything about them, and it's a little too much to process. I prefer when books show off characters one by one as the adventure goes along, so it flows better and each character gets a moment in the spotlight by themselves. So my initial reaction was bad. Then it picked up decently.
Minor spoilers here: this book may be about a heist, but it's also about the six characters. By the 100th page, the amount of important characters are massively shortened down, and we start to get a clear enough feel for each of them. But Leigh Bardugo uses flashbacks and stories to do so. And there are lots of flashbacks in this book. My reaction to that was bad, but as it went along, I differentiated the characters very easily and found that Leigh somehow managed to not make a single character overwhelming in their stories, allowing each character to be seen as, well, a person. If you're a fan of books with unforgettable protagonists, this is the book for you, even if it won't seem that way at first. And for the most part, whatever these characters are feeling is important to whatever's going on in the present, and I probably would've liked this book less if it didn't do that and went chronologically because if that happened, I'd be half done and still wouldn't know what the heist was going to be.
And does this book have action? Yes. Is it action-packed? Kinda. Sometimes the flashbacks were welcoming, but there were other times where they were flat-out distracting from the main plot, to the point where I didn't feel there was a real big-dictator antagonist. And something comes up involving one of the characters. "He" does something unacceptable and I told myself after seeing that that I wasn't going to give this book any higher than a 2 1/2 if he doesn't get punished for what he did or realizes what he did was wrong. If that happens I won't spoil it, but yeah, for most of the book that really damaged my rating. And in a book like this where everyone seemed to love it, I ended up being kind of picky at small errors, like when they mention how a dark-skinned character is blond, how there's a bucket of water that's probably supposed to be urine because it was important there was ammonia in it, but I swear, it was water. And the biggest flaw of all is when Kaz ends up dislocating someone's arm, and he makes that person stay quiet or else he would never be able to wear the arm again, and he agrees, so Kaz leaves him to weep. Do you see what's wrong with that? No? Well, unless I read it wrong, Kaz just tore his whole arm off of his body. The amount of blood loss alone could cause him to die. How is he supposed to keep quiet when he's in that kind of pain?
Now I know I sound very negative, but I promise, this is a positive review. One of my absolute favourite parts of Six of Crows is its great ideas for how to be a good thief, and very intricate and unhasty ideas to get in and out, like how to pick a lock the fastest; remove the hinges. And where the guards will look and when they tend to be where they are, the best logic, the list goes on. And the relationships between the characters are very effective, allowing the names of the six people to belong in fantasy but memorable and likeable. And Leigh Bardugo was able to make every relationship equally seerious. It's like she cooked up three cakes with the same enjoyment factors and the same size yet different-from-one-another ingredients. Jesper and Wylan are adorable in that brothers or cousins sort of charm, and the growth between Nina and Matthias is understandably confused, because of the fact they were together until something that might've been self-defence, or a misunderstanding. We don't really know, but since they're on a heist together, we're interested to see how they call a ceasefire. I also really enjoyed the premise of Nina and Matthias because of what Matthias was led to believe about Girsha in general. I think it's when Leigh goes through his mind about how Nina does and doesn't fit this stereotype when Six of Crows's writing is at its best.
It's also clear that Leigh Bardugo has tried very hard to make this an improvement over the Grisha trilogy, and a good book as a whole, so A for effort in putting the book together. As an author who's used flashbacks before, I know that juggling all these stories is hard and can be annoying. Bardugo tried very hard to write what she had to write and the way the book finished up was just enough to warrant a reccomendation, and the sequel Crooked Kingdom on my list of books to read.
In the end, Six of Crows was a mixed bag of goodies for me. Read it if you like books with dimensional characters and like a plethora of oddball storytelling.