There aren’t many books that make a reader sweat in nervousness, make them look back on what they just read to ensure they were reading it right or make their heart pitter-patter in uncertainty. Suddenly, “Six of Crows” makes reading become an exhilarating experience.
It’s an enticing adventure of thieves, daring feats, a prison escape and collecting stacks and stacks of riches. It fully captures the struggle to survive and, more importantly, the idea of finding a place in the world as condemned outcasts. Young adult author Leigh Bardugo writes intensely to weave together her dark fantasy novel, the first of the duology.
The setting is a murky seaside city called Ketterdam, where notorious street lord and money-maker Kaz Brekker finds an opportunity to make a fortune. This job entails breaking into the highly secured Ice Court and retrieving a mysterious man named Yul-Bayur, who created a recipe for disaster: drugs.
Yet, these drugs are anything but ordinary. Named “jurda parem,” the substance amplifies powers of magic-users in Bardugo’s universe, which threatens the world. Plus, greed-driven Kaz is a man who would never say no to an opportunity that brings him 100,000 kruge — currency in the novel. It’s his boldest decision and he can’t do it alone.
What is admirable about “Six of Crows” is the time spent learning about the relationships of the characters who must put their differences aside to form a team. The novel is definitely action-packed and brimming with suspense, but Bardugo makes the concept of bonding a priority too. Unlikely friendships are made between the diverse cast of characters — another element that makes the novel pop. It’s a cast of many skin colors and cultural backgrounds, and Bardugo includes characters with disabilities and mental illnesses that are rarely represented in novels today.
“Six of Crows” follows six protagonists, including Kaz, who are recruited for a daredevil prison break. The chapters alternate in their point of views. Bardugo describes the characters from “a convict with a thirst for revenge” to Kaz himself, “a thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.”
Kaz begins as very aloof from his teammates, even wearing his infamous black gloves to avoid the touch of human skin. As a reader, it was hard to crack open and understand this cold-hearted and ruthless character. Yet, throughout this mind-boggling heist, Kaz — once haunted by the loss of his brother, trickery by big bosses and overwhelming guilt — becomes a changed man who realizes his purpose in life. And it’s not all about money anymore.
Also, Bardugo succeeds in spending equal time developing each of the six main characters, making it difficult to choose a favorite. Despite the all-serious nature of the story, she’s able to incorporate humor within the personalities of the heroes as well as relatability. Throughout the course of the novel, it’s easy to see how each character has grown after taking on the biggest heist of their life.
The story itself is fast-paced and overflowing with well-thought out fight scenes, stunts and even the perfect dose of romance. Bardugo’s magical universe may initially stir some confusion to first-time readers, but it’s easy to catch onto the workings of her fantasy-ridden world after just the first few chapters.
What makes it even better is Bardugo’s fiercely detailed writing. It brings to life the scenery and emotions of the book, from chapters terrifyingly gruesome to chapters so profoundly touching they move the reader.
“Six of Crows” is one of those books that when once the reader starts, they can’t put it down. It’s a wild ride from start to finish, leaving a strong craving for more. I think this book can make any reluctant reader get lost in the story and love reading.
Contact Kailey Cheng at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.