Book Review: SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo




Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt
Price: $18.99 (Hardcover)
Pages: 462
Genre: High Fantasy, "Ocean's Eleven"
Year: 2015
Amazon Link: click here





This book is about the six outcasts Kaz, Inej, Nina, Matthias, Jesper and Wylan. They get together to master one impossible heist to gain a huge sum of money. Each of these characters has their individual depths and layers, which get discovered throughout the story. They are all very complex, very diverse, but somehow manage to act surprisingly well together. Among them are two POCs (people of colour) and two queer characters. Their plan is to break into the most secure prison in their world and to get safely out of their with a prisoner. They should free this specific prisoner because he is the inventor of a special drug that causes extreme damage to the Grisha. The Grisha have magic and are seen as abhuman and monstrous by some. This drug can do unimaginable things to Grisha and give them both extraordinary and terrifying powers. If the six "crows" manage to free the prisoner who invented that drug, the formula of the drug could be kept from those who abuse it.



The hardcover edition
I got this insanely beautiful hardcover edition as a birthday present and couldn't stop admiring it ever since. The blackness and hugeness of it shaped my whole reading experience extremely positively. I can strongly recommend the hardcover edition to you because it is such a treasure.
The pages all end black which gives the book a breath of darkness. It also makes it look like every page got burned at its edges, which I find pretty cool. I also adored the completely black double pages which divide the book into different parts. All of this made it way easier for me to dive into this other world because I also dove into this unique book.
I will definitely also buy the sequel to this, CROOKED KINGDOM, in the hardcover edition, which has red page ends *-*.

The beginning
I must say that it was quite hard for me to get into this story at first. It took me ruthly about 100 pages until I fully understood what was going on. At the beginning it didn't feel like the first book of a new series but rather like I've just gotten thrown into this other world with way too many complicated character and place names. I definitely felt lost and had to force myself through the first 70 pages. At first the two maps at the beginning confused me a lot because they seemed way too detailed for me. Later on they became my best friends because I relied so much on them and looked them up on every other page. I wanted to imagine everything and they helped a lot with that. But not in the beginning. What helped a lot then was my friend who had already read the book and told me that the only characters I needed to focus on were the six outcasts: Kaz, Inej, Nina, Matthias, Jesper, Wylan. She also said that this high fantasy world was based on our world and that the countries in it should resemble ours. That made it way clearer for me and took a bit of the fantasy element away from it and made it all more tangible for me. Now that I've read the whole book I'm thinking about rereading the first few chapters because I didn't understand much back when I first read them and would definitely be able to make more sense of them now.
But since it is the second high fantasy book that I've read in a long while I immediately compared it to A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES (click here to read my review) by Sarah J. Maas which introduced the reader way better and slower into its fantasy world. It wasn't as overwhelming as SIX OF CROWS felt in the beginning.
There were so many character names that totally confused me because they were quite unusual and there were so many of them that it was hard to keep track on them. I was also not sure as to how to pronounce 80% of the names and would have liked a pronounciation guide as it was the case in ACOTAR.
But now that I've read it all the beginning feels like ages ago and I can only recommend to you to force yourself through it because the story will get so incredibly good afterwards.

The characters
Kaz is probably the most interesting, most layered and therefore most fascinating character in the whole story. But he is also one of the most mysterious characters that I have ever read about in general. Kaz is someone to admire, someone to be in awe of, very hard to understand but therefore full of surprises and unpredictable. Kaz Brekker is probably the definition of unpredictability. It takes the longest until the reader gets more information on why and how Kaz has become the way he is now. His backstory was kept deliberately long in the dark and I still feel like there is probably so much more about him that wasn't shown yet.
It was quite hard for me to warm up to Inej, especially during her first chapters. She seemed to stay in the back in her chapters, wherefore I couldn't really grasp her. But now that I've read the whole book that might have been a deliberate move from the author because it fits her character that she rather disappears between the pages. Still, she never really grew on me because I could often not fully comprehend what she was exactly doing in certain situations. I did not dislike her but am rather still unsure about what I feel about her.
I immediately liked Nina. She opened up a lot to the reader and made it very easy to bond with her. The author can definitely write well because she manages to create such diverse characters with completely different ways of thinking, acting and believing. I really enjoyed Nina and Inej's scenes together because they had a beautiful understanding of and love for each other. They had some deeper conversations - which are always nice to see happening between two female characters. And although they did talk about boys during those conversations, I felt like their bond was much deeper than that. Since I already knew that some people ship them, I also considered that but haven't yet completely jumped on it because I still don't feel like I know Inej too well.
I wished there had been a Wylan chapter and very much hope that that will be the case in the sequel CROOKED KINGDOM. He felt way too underappreciated and worthy of much more. Since I got teased with a "gay romance" in this novel, I was a bit disappointed that Wylan and Jesper were both minor characters in comparison with the others and that their stories weren't really put in the foreground. I definitely hope for more there in the sequel. Still, I enjoyed the scenes they shared together very much.
Jesper felt very likeable and very flawed and therefore human to me in many scenes. Although I couldn't relate to his gambling obsession, I could find myself in some of his other thoughts. There was some darkness inside of him which emerged whenever he hadn't gotten involved in something, which I found interesting and which I hope will get explored more deeply in the sequel. There is definitely a lot of potential in this character and I am excited to see how he will develop.
Matthias felt so different from the others. That made him both refreshing and distanced. I really liked the flashbacks of him and Nina and his whole relationship with her. There was a lot of chemistry and emotion there. He was probably my least favourite character but still so necessary because he added a lot to the story. I wouldn't have wanted to have missed out on his parts.
I really liked that the book doesn't hold back the (often tragic) past of the characters. It is a nice change to get the information quite early within the book instead of having to wait until the close end to finally get a revelation of the tragic backstory of a character. Some of the flashbacks were woven beautifully into the present story.

The heist / The adventure
I loved to read about the sea journey. I am drawn to ships and the sea but haven't yet read any nautical books. The parts on the sea were also the ones that I could imagine the most vividly.
The quest reminded me a lot of the "Ocean's Eleven" storyline, although I have never seen any of those movies. There were basically two quests in this story that were both very thrilling. The further I got into the story the quicker I turned the pages and the more desperate I wanted to read on.
There was nothing I didn't like about this story during the middle of the book. It was a very well structured story that made it extremely easy to escape into it. The heist is full of unpredictable, surprising turns of events and is told in such a thrilling high pace that you can't but have fun while reading it.
The six different characters always offer six different perspectives to the situations and give the whole plot many layers.
I really liked that the last chapters were all defined by their main character and the time it took place. That small aspect made the whole inevitable situation much more dramatic.
The drama of a situation always seemed to shift from doomed to not so doomed because someone (mostly Kaz) had had something planned all along. It was fascinating to see how often I myself got fooled by them because I hadn't seen something coming.
This author is definitely the queen of making a situation seem inevitably doomed only to turn it all around in the last moment.

The last pages
A lot happened in the last pages and a lot of that was rather confusing and too much for me. It could have ended better in my opinion. I definitely want to read on now but I had still wished for a more satisfying ending to this great story.



I loved my hardcover edition of this book. It felt like a black treasure to me with its hugeness, its black page ends and general dark design. It made my reading experience very unique and fitting to the story.
I had some problems with the book at the beginning because I found it extremely hard to get into the story. I was too confused and overwhelmed by all the strange names and all the different characters and places and couldn't sort it all out. It took me about 100 pages to understand everything and everyone that actually mattered enough to fully dive into the story. Once I got comfortable with the fantasy world and the characters I started to really enjoy reading it. The six outcasts are all extremely interesting and layered characters. They are very diverse, both in their physical appearances and in their beliefs, their strengths, their pasts and their motivations to take part in the quest. It was fun to get to know them all. Their dynamics were an enormous plus point for me and also what made the book so good. If you have such detailed-written characters interacting with each other, it is just pure joy to read.
I used the two maps at the beginning of the book a lot and they helped me to get a better orientation and understanding of where the story actually took place. I could imagine everything clearer because of them.

It's a very good and multi-layered story with great character diversity.
The story moves very fast in the second half of the book, which makes it nearly impossible to put the book down.
I definitely want to read the sequel CROOKED KINGDOM because I want to know more about these characters and because I really enjoyed the storytelling in SIX OF CROWS. Still, I am not hyped enough to want to read on immediately. I will take a high fantasy break for a while and read on when I feel like returning to this world.
After I had gotten used to the plot and characters I adored this story. Only the ending couldn't satisfy me as much as I had hoped and thought it would. So I probably loved about 80% of the book and was confused during the other 20%.



If you are not completely opposed to fantasy stories, I would actually recommend this book to everyone. Both female and male. I think that everyone would enjoy this after the first 100 pages. It is definitely an amazing story and very worth reading. It also somehow feels like a movie, now that I look back on it. I could imagine most of what happened very vividly, which is why it feels like I have been on the adventure together with the characters. And shouldn't that be the ultimate goal of every book?


I award this book with 4 out of 5 stars.


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