Set in the city of Ketterdam, the Barrel is home to the cities’ thieves, gambling dens, and pleasure seekers. Survival on these streets requires nothing less than a steel spine and an unbreakable will. Yet, when the offer for an impossible heist is offered to Kaz Brekker, it will take him and an unlikely crew to pull it off.
I will let you in on a secret: I love action. And Six of Crows did not disappoint. Dull moments were non-existent in this novel. The story opens on a very intriguing note and propels readers forward until the last crescendo. If you enjoy slow-paced romance and sluggish plots, this is not the book for you. It’s not that the elements of the story hurl past you before you can register what took place. It’s merely that the author doesn’t leave you bored. There are moments when “nothing” is happening, yet, even in those moments, they are carrying you along to the finale.
“A slab of earth shot up from beneath Matthias’ feet, knocking him to the ground. Another erupted to Nina’s right, sending her sprawling. All around them, crooked monoliths of earth and ice burst upward, as if the ground were coming to life.”
(Six of Crows, p. 244)
Rather than stating a specific time frame or implementing a particular location, Bardugo created her own world within an unknown time. Much of the story carries a late 19th/early 20th century feel thanks to her use of weaponry and machinery. The setting, Ketterdam, carries a distinct European feel and as the plot progresses, the Ice Court and the Fjerdans will resonate as being Russian.
Yet, while the book is fascinating, Six of Crows simultaneously forces you to think. The story is thought-provoking, causing you to evaluate right and wrong while also delving through each protagonist’s backstory. As I collected more of the missing pieces in the characters’ backstories, I found myself evaluating their life choices. Sometimes I would disagree with them, while other times, I found myself acknowledging that their past justified their current situation. Kaz, the schemer, always seems to have a Plan B or a loophole to every predicament. As a result, some of his decisions are credible while others…aren’t. But as you learn more about Kaz and who he really is, you find yourself cheering him on hoping that he wins at the end of the day. The twists and turns found in this novel were refreshing and a thrill to read.
One of my favorite aspects of Six of Crows was its willingness to be real. The author didn’t shy away from the gritty or dark qualities that would naturally accompany this type of setting. The characters and the people they know aren’t exactly upper-class or reputable. This is a story about the outcasts and the rebels scraping by. So yes, the story demands the mention of less than desirable occupations, and yes the plot needs the characters to be flawed. The reason I loved this book was because the author not only mentioned these things, but also handled them exceptionally well.
First, let me start this section by reiterating that there are six main characters (hence the title of the book). The current trend in fiction seems to be switching between two protagonists; however, Bardugo decided to go a step further. And it worked. Really, really well. Within the first few chapters of the book, readers have been introduced to the main characters. If you haven’t read Six of Crows, this may sound confusing, but it isn’t. The transitions between characters was always clear because it was broken up by chapters. By doing so, the storyline flowed extremely well and stayed interesting. In many way, it reminded me a TV show. You catch glimpses of one character only to be pulled away to another one, leaving you hanging on what will happen next. The use of six characters was certainly an interesting concept and definitely one that I enjoyed.
To be more specific, the characters are a motley crew of thieves and vagabonds. For various reasons, they have found themselves in Ketterdam, most of them living in the Barrel, the less than desirable portion of the city. Kaz, the leader of the gang, is introduced as a cold, calculating thief who is a professional at what he does. With his black gloved hands and his walking cane, Kaz presents himself as a unique protagonist and one that I quickly appreciated. Readers are only offered small amounts of information on his backstory at a time drawing them farther into the book.
“He’d heard Brekker’s name in prison, and the words associated with him–criminal prodigy, ruthless, amoral. They called him Dirtyhands because there was no sin he would not commit for the right price.”
(Six of Crows, p. 110)
Other characters, such as Inej and Nina, were also interesting and well done. Serving as the book’s female protagonists, both carried fascinating roles and fulfilled their parts exceptionally well through and through. Neither character showed excessive frivolity or emotion, lending a realism that is seldom found in fiction. Although there is a love interest between Nina and Matthias and Inej and Kaz, neither seemed overbearing.
Another benefit to having six main characters was simply the variety. While you may prefer one character over another, each of them worked well together pulling the fibers of the story into a polished whole.
Overall, each character was well focused. It was interesting to see how some of the characters changed their ideologies and beliefs, while others began and ended the story much the same. The blend of dynamic and static characters was enjoyable and simply made sense.
“She glanced down again. Geels radiated anticipation. He took a deep breath, puffing out his chest. Inej’s steps faltered, and she had to fight not to go sliding straight off the edge of the roof. He’s going to do it. I’m going to watch Kaz die.”
(Six of Crows, p. 27)
The content rating for Six of Crows is definitely higher than some of my more recent reads. Although nothing was explicit or disturbing, there are many things scattered throughout the book that makes Six of Crows suitable for a more mature audience.
Violence: As a story about criminals and rebels, the protagonists have no qualms about resorting to violence. Shooting, stabbing, and so forth are mentioned throughout, and yes, people actually die in this book. Death is not excessive or overly morbid, it’s just simply mentioned. There are also portions of the book that speak about corpses, etc. which may be disturbing for a younger audience.
Sensuality: Yes, it’s in here, but not like you might think. Many of the references are referring to a pleasure house in the Barrel or a woman’s neckline. Prostitution is referenced in the book, but never in a positive light. Readers see the characters’ disgust at the system these women have been forced into. The only other main reference is a scene that takes place in a flashback. (Nothing happens.)
Language: While there are a few words in the book, they are used sparingly and I usually didn’t notice them.
Overall, the content is not awful. Just use some discernment before picking it up. It’s definitely meant for older teens, but it shouldn’t hold too many surprises.
So if you haven’t picked up Six of Crows yet, do it. This was an amazing book from start to finish and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. The writing style was masterfully done and the characters were epic. Once you start on the book’s many twists and turns, you won’t want to put it down.