Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
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.
Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.
This is the best adventure book I've read in a long time, and maybe the best adventure book I've ever read.
I thoroughly enjoyed Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy, but I didn't love it like I love Six of Crows. Alina and Mal's story was engrossing and well-told, but it wasn't a five-star read for me, and Six of Crows definitely is. There wasn't a single thing about it that I didn't like.
The worldbuilding is beautiful and intricate and so realistic I had to remind myself that Ketterdam and Fjerda are not real, and I can't vacation there. The level of detail in the description of Kerch alone is mind boggling, and Bardugo put that much detail and more into six other countries in a god-like show of writing ability.
If Bardugo's writing prowess is evident in the construction of the countries and cities in Six of Crows, it shows even more in her skill at creating and developing characters. I have a certain weakness for bands of outcasts that form their own little families, especially when they're on daring, death-defying missions. But the Dregs blow all others out of the water. I love these stupidly brave, flawed characters with all my heart. Each of them gets near-equal attention from Bardugo, who gave them all a detailed backstory without bogging down the plot. The details of their characters were revealed so masterfully as the story progressed that it felt like I was getting to know them while going on this crazy, brilliant mission with them.
I don't think I've ever been so immersed in an adventure story. The realism of the story never broke down for me (and I know that someone somewhere is hollering "But it's unrealistic that teenagers could do the things the Dregs do!" To which I reply, the world Bardugo has created is very different from ours, and it is one where kids are expected to grow up very quickly, so I'm not surprised that teenagers in the Dregs' position are far more quick-witted and talented than most teenagers of our world. And if some of their skills still seem a little out of reach, remember that you're reading a book in which a kind of magic exists).
Everything that I loved about Bardugo's writing and the world she'd created in the Grisha Trilogy have returned tenfold in Six of Crows, without it seeming like a rehashing of the Grisha Trilogy. Whether you've read Bardugo's first series or not, Six of Crows is an imaginative and impressive story that will leave you anxious for more. As for me, I'm glad the Dregs' story doesn't end here, but not quite sure how I'll make it to Crooked Kingdom's release in September!
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?
The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.
But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?
I devoured this book. Bardugo’s world-building skills are incredible, and Ravka felt as real as any country I take a plane to. I loved the Russian (or what I’m presuming is Russian, forgive me) influence and the contrasts between the peasants and the Grisha. I was glad that Bardugo didn’t try to explain things too much and just make them confusing - she gave a good explanation that still left room for the imagination and left it at that. I’m even more glad that she pointed out the Grishas’ power was a sort of science, not really magic, even though it seemed that way.
The level of creativity that she put into the plot, setting, and characters added to the book tremendously. The one thing that I felt took away from it was the love interests, simply because neither of them really seemed to have been evidenced earlier. It’s just nitpicking, though, and I loved so many other things about this book that I don’t mind.
Alina’s story of finding her power and learning to control it, learning who to trust and who is deserving of mercy, is one of the best I’ve read in a long time. Coupled with beautiful cover art and fascinating world-building (complete with a map of Ravka!), it’s absolutely captivating.
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