Kaz Brekker plans to do the impossible: He’s going to break into the Ice Court, a prison famed for its impenetrability. With thirty million kruge at stake, he reckons he and his gang of criminals, The Dregs can pull it off.
Kaz: Notorious criminal mastermind. He controls vast areas of Ketterdam at only seventeen.
Inej: Also known as the Wraith. Silent as a ghost, she can scale any surface. You never know when she might be nearby, listening.
Jesper: A crack shot with a weakness for the card tables.
Nina: Grisha. A heartrender who can choke a man at twenty paces.
Matthias: A lost fjerdan with a weakness for a certain Grisha.
Wylan: A merchant’s son looking for adventure in all the wrong places.
Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo is so much fun. It’s a classic heist, told from the perspective of five of the six participants. The cast of characters are diverse, coming from all areas of the land of Grisha familiar to us from the previous books in the series. They are of differing backgrounds, abilities, sexualities and motivations, and yet the group gelled straight away. The changes in perspective that came with each new chapter really added to the coherency of the gang. For much of the novel, we knew how they felt about each other even when the characters themselves were unable to see it. Experiencing each character in such an immersive way made the novel a totally absorbing experience. Now that I’ve finished reading, I actually miss these imaginary people and – in a way that is highly out of character for me – I can’t wait for the sequel.
Like I’ve mentioned, getting both characters thoughts on a relationship – as well as the judgements of everybody else in the group – meant that we were really allowed to experience all the complexities of the feelings everybody had about each other. What this also meant, is that this book is simmering with potential romance. And I’m not referring to cringe-ey instalove either. Sometimes I worried that the weight of all that sexual tension might sink the boat before they even made it to the Ice Court. We get some forbidden love, complicated bad boy love and the slowly emerging crush that comes from flirty, shipboard banter.
I also loved the scenes exploring Inej and Nina’s friendship. There are few moments where it is only the two of them, and fleeting as they are, I was the left with a concrete sense of how much these two girls cared for each other. They are totally different people – Inej is quiet and reserved where Nina tends toward the loud and dramatic, but rather than conflict they seem to draw mutual strength from their differences. I have read so many adventure stories where the only two girls involved totally hate each other, so it was refreshing to see such a deep friendship that had not emerged from a place of aggression. Plus it leads to my favourite exchange in the book, between Inej and Matthias:
“Are you worried about Nina being out there?” Inej asked.
“She’s very good at this, you know. She’s a natural actress.”
“I’m aware,” he said grimly. “She can be anything to anyone.”
“She’s best when she’s Nina.”
“And who is that?”
“I suspect you know better than any of us.”
He crossed his huge arms. “She’s brave,” he said, grudgingly.
“Foolish. Every last thing needn’t be a joke.”
“Bold,” Inej said.
“So why do your eyes keep searching the crowd for her?”
“They do not,” Matthias protested. She had to laugh at the ferocity of his scowl. He drew a finger through a pile of crumbs, “Nina is everything you say. It’s too much.”
“Mmm,” Inej murmured, taking a sip from her mug. “Maybe you’re just not enough.”
I don’t think I need much further evidence to prove that Inej is the best.
Obviously, I can’t end this review without talking about the heist. I love a good heist. Even in my sort-of adulthood, I still daydream about getting caught up in some ridiculous scheme. The adventure Leigh Bardugo takes us on does not disappoint. Kaz’s primary heist technique is pretty much to be as vague as possible. No one can wreck the plan, he supposes, if they don’t quite know what it is. This philosophy has varying levels of success. The Dregs simply have to believe that Kaz always knows what he’s doing. I’m not going to lie – their trust in this definitely wavers. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that some serious shit goes down. There was not a moment where I didn’t feel like everything was about to go catastrophically wrong. Again, the shift is perspective did a fantastic job of maintaining this. So many times Bardugo would end a chapter with someone in peril, before starting a new one from a different perspective and place. Reading it was the best kind of pain.
This book grabs you by the shoulders and drags you ever forwards. Sometimes you’re running to keep up. No matter the circumstances, for me at least, I was simply happy to be there.