Six Of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo – Review
I recently finished reading Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology series, shortly before the release of the Shadow and Bone Netflix adaptation, which I think it’s safe to say we all loved! Though I’ve never read the trilogy that forms the central focus for the on-screen adaptation, I was deeply invested within the show, particularly because all of my favourite characters from Six of Crows made appearances. To learn more about my thoughts on the Shadow and Bone Netflix adaptation, please check out these videos down below and don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE before you leave for more bookish content!
Six Of Crows:
Six Of Crows is the first book in the Six of Crows duology that takes place two years after the end of Ruin And Rising (Shadow and Bone trilogy). This edition was published in 2015 by Orion Children’s Books. It has been met with an overwhelmingly positive reception and has received multiple award nominations, including the Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award (2017), the Goodreads Choice Award for Young adult fantasy and Science fiction (2015) plus it won the Lincoln Award in 2018.
Set in Ketterdam, the capital of Kerch in a city known for it’s industry and commerce, we follow the main character Kaz Brekker, a prominent member of a street gang called the Dregs. His exceptional wit and cunning when it comes to criminal activity attracts the attention of a distinguished merchant called Jan Van Eck, who contracts Kaz to take on a deadly heist mission. Kaz must infiltrate a Fjerdan prison and kidnap the scientist Bo Yul-Bayur in exchange for thirty million kruge. Bo Yul-Bayur has developed a powerful drug that can be used to control the enhanced beings known as Grisha, with abilities that involve manipulating fire, wind, metal or even a person’s heart.
Unable to resist the offer of thirty million kruge, Kaz Brekker leads a crew of exiled and outlawed individuals into the impregnable walls of the Fjerdan Ice Court.
Six Of Crows is a young adult fantasy heist thriller that transports the reader into a stimulating world of magic. The story also has a steely realist quality, but Bardugo effectively weaves this into the fantasy in such a way that was hard to fault. She also delivers all the fantasy fanservice I love, including a detailed magic system, exquisite world-building, a feeling of high stakes and heart-racing action, not forsaking the intricate maps we find at the beginning of the novel that add an extra layer of thrilling escapism.
The characterisation in this book is definitely another one of its strengths. Each of the main characters have memorable traits and a beautifully developed backstory that endears them to the reader. I particularly loved the forbidden lovers arc that characterised the development of Matthais and Nina’s story, but with a such a diverse set of characters, there are many more narratives to get lost in. *Character list below.*
I had to suspend my disbelief at times when it felt like this cast of primarily teenagers behaved in ways that would have you believe they were worldly wise adults, Kaz especially. Thankfully it wasn’t too much of a stretch for me because each of the characters were developed in such a way that explains their loss of innocence, whilst also acknowledging the vulnerabilities of their youth.
I thought this book had an edgy, gritty plot that while directed at a younger audience, is sure to appeal to adult readers as well!
Crooked Kingdom is the sequel novel in the Six of Crows duology. The edition pictured below was published in 2016 by Orion Children’s Books. The events in this novel take place a month after the Ice Court mission of Six of Crows. It was nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fantasy and Science-fiction in 2016.
Kaz Brekker and his crew have successfully completed the Ice Court mission with their prisoner, Kuwei Yul-Bo (Bo Yul-Bayur’s son), in tow. They narrowly escaped the Fjerdan army and have made their way back to Kerch. Kaz, Jesper, Inej and Matthais, including Wylan, cleverly disguised as Kuwei, meet up with Jan Van Eck on the stranded island of Vellgeluk in order to exchange their prisoner for the promised thirty million kruge. Van Eck goes back on his word and uses Grisha under the influence of jurda parem to take Inej prisoner. Kaz and the rest are faced with a new mission; rescue Inej, take revenge on Van Eck and get their money back.
Crooked Kingdom did not disappoint me and proved to be every bit the melee of pulse-racing action, infallible ploys and compellingly complicated relationships I hoped it would be. It maintains the steely grit of the Six of Crows, as we learn more about the characters we’ve grown to love, despite all their flaws. Bardugo gives us even more cunning and intrigue in this sequel novel but even with all the pragmatism, she still manages to transport the reader into a world of enthralling magic. We discover more about the skeletons Kaz and his crew hoard from their past and this made for even more addicting characterisation.
I was a bit hesitant to rate this book 5 stars due to the lack of development into the Khergurd soldiers from Shu, specifically in terms of what their motives were and other such logistics. Also a tragic death occurs at the end where it felt like that the story moved on from the event just as soon as it happened and I wanted a bit more…stillness?
Enjoyment-wise though, I thought Crooked Kingdom was absolute genius with the perfect payoff at the end.
Kaz Brekker – Lieutenant of Per Haskell’s gang, the Dregs, one of many rival gangs situated in the Barrel, which is a part of Ketterdam known for its unsavoury, lawless reputation. Kaz is nicknamed DirtyHands or the Bastard of the Barrel, due to his ruthless nature and criminal mind. He has unresolved issues from his past which mean that he is constantly seen wearing leather gloves. He is also known for using a crows’ head cane to walk because of a limp he has in one of his legs.
Inej Ghafa – Inej is of Suli heritage and comes from a travelling family of acrobats. Her family was attacked by Kerch slavers who killed her parents and indentured her to Tante Heleen, owner of the Menagerie which is a brothel in Ketterdam. She subsequently joins the Dregs after Kaz secures ownership of her indenture and becomes known as the Wraith, owing to her ability to spy out enemies and steal secrets without leaving a trace of her presence.
Jesper Fahey – Jesper is also a member of the Dregs. He is known as the Sharpshooter because he always carries around revolver guns that he is able to aim with acute accuracy. His gambling addiction is such that is severely in debt, but despite this he maintains an easy, carefree nature. He loves action and is constantly restless.
Nina Zenik – A Heartrender from Ravka. She is a type of Grisha known as Corporalki or the Order of the living and the Dead. Nina was formerly part of Ravka’s second army but was captured by Fjerdan druskelle soldiers and taken prisoner. Whilst on a ship bound for Fjerda, a storm destroys the ship leaving Nina and Matthais Helvar stranded. They travel together until Nina is put in a position where she has to lie to Kerch travellers about Matthais being a slaver. She then travels to Ketterdam to work in a brothel, called the White Rose. She is also part of Kaz Brekker’s gang, the Dregs.
Matthais Helvar – Formerly a Fjerdan Druskelle soldier. Druskelle means ‘witch hunter.’ He was raised harbouring a strong hatred towards Grisha owing to their unnatural abilities which he considers an affront to his god, Djel. He travels with Nina after the devastation of the storm and after he was accused of being a slaver by Nina is arrested and taken to Hellgate prison.
Wylan Van Eck – A demolitions expert and son of Jan Van Eck. Kaz brings Wylan along on the Ice Court mission not only because of his ammunitions experience but as insurance to guarantee that his father pays Kaz Brekker and his gang the money they are owed. Wylan left his comfortable life as the son of a prominent merchant to join the Dregs. He has a quiet, timid disposition and gravitates towards Jesper more than any other member of the gang.
Jan Van Eck – A well-respected merchant and member of Ketterdam’s Merchant council, Jan Van Eck contracts Kaz Brekker, after hearing about his prodigious reputation, to take on a heist mission to break into the infamous Fjerdan Ice Court and retreive the prisoner Bo Yul-Bayur in exchange for thirty million kruge.
Bo Yul-Bayur – A scientist from the county Shu Han. He created a drug called jurda parem which is an extremely dangerous and addictive drug that can amplify Grisha powers. He was captured by Fjerdans and imprisoned within the Ice Court.
Pekka Rollins – Kaz Brekker’s arch enemy. Pekka Rollins is the leader of one the rival gangs in the Barrel, known as the Dime Lions. He owns a popular casino called the Emerald Palace and is known for his gaudy fashion sense. He was also secretly contracted by Jan Van Eck to take on the Ice Court mission in case Kaz Brekker failed.
Per Haskell – Leader of the Dregs, in name only. Kaz Brekker is really the one in control. He is old man who likes money and dislikes confrontation. He owns the Crow Club, situated on East Stave and is also known for drinking too much.
Thanks for reading! Let me know in the comments who your favourite character from Bardugo’s Grishaverse books is and if you’ve read the Shadow and Bone books.