Six of Crows


Leigh Bardugo


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

October 1, 2021

his wildly popular novel has received a bushel of praise. It seems that every new fantasy novel comes out with a blurb on its cover comparing it to Six of Crows. Apparently, the story has been made into a Netflix series. At the time of this writing, it has 63,101 reviews on GoodReads with an average rating of 4.47 stars. Does Six of Crows merit all of this praise and these plaudits? For the most part, my answer is yes. It is an entertaining novel with an involved plot and a band of desperate rogues trying to carry out an impossible heist, sort of like The Dirty Dozen set in a fantasy world.

Six of Crows features a cast of six characters who are part of a gang called the Dregs. They are the cast offs and downtrodden in the gritty city of Ketterdam. The leader of the Dregs is Kaz Brekken, who is a brutal and ruthless young man (Kaz is only seventeen) yet also brilliant at scheming and plotting. Kaz is invariably two steps ahead of his opponents, planning for circumstances that no one else sees coming. Kaz walks with a limp (an injury from an earlier crime that went wrong) and carries a variety of walking sticks, which double as weapons. Kaz meets with a Ketterdam councilman named Van Eck who explains that there is a new drug called jurda parem that amplifies the magical powers of the Grisha (in Bardugo's fantasy world, there a three different types of magic users - Corporalki, Etherealki and Materialki, collectively, these sorcerers are called the Grisha). Unfortunately, jurda paremn is so powerful that it quickly overwhelms any Grisha who takes it, leaving them a dying husk after a brief burst of incredible power. Van Eck explains to Kaz that the inventor of jurda parem is being held in an unescapable prison in the icy kingdom of Fjerda. Van Eck will pay Kaz 30 million kruge if he can free the inventor from the Ice Court (the name of the fortress). It is an impossible task, but Kaz is arrogant enough to believe he can succeed where all others would fail, and 30 million would nice to have too!

Kaz devises a plot, and then selects the best members of the Dregs to take on the mission:

Inej, the Wraith. Just sixteen years old herself (all of the members of the Dregs seem to be under age 20); Inej is a master of stealth. I was never sure if she was actually invisible, or if she had some Jedi-type mind trick that meant people could look right at her yet still not see her, but Inej moves silently and swiftly over all kinds of obstacles. She is unparalleled in her ability to climb walls or twist through tight spots. Obviously, Inej is ideal to have on convert operations. She may be a little bit in love with Kaz as well, but Kaz is a cold and ruthless young man and certainly would never return any affection.

Jesper is a sharp shooter. He carries two pistols at all times, and of course is incredibly good with any sort of firearm. Despite his youth, he is a veteran of many battles and adventures. Unfortunately, Jesper loves to gamble. He can't resist card games and wagers; this sometimes leads to unfortunate situations...

Nina is a Grisha. She is a heart-render, which makes her good at healing, and using her powers to influence the minds of normal humans.

Matthias is a druskelle, an elite soldier from the northern country of Fjerda. Having served in the Fjerdan army, he has inside knowledge of how the Ice Court is constructed and guarded, and if there are any weaknesses in its formidable defenses.

Van Eck is a rich boy, the son the councilman who has offered this impossible task to Kaz and the Dregs. Van Eck and his father have a deep rift, and so he is determined to show that he can make a life on his own. Fortunately, the younger Van Eck is handy with explosives, and that might be just the thing need to get the team into, or out of, the Ice Court.

Each chapter is told from the point of view of one these characters. Kaz gets more chapters than any of the other characters, but each of them get tell a portion of the story from their point of view. The story moves in a linear fashion forward, it just isn't all told from the viewpoint of an omniscient third party narrator. Eventually, each of these characters has a chapter or two that explains their back story, how they ended up being a member of a ruthless criminal gang.

The plot is involved. Bardugo obviously put a lot of thought into all the obstacles and circumstances that could thwart Kaz and his team. The are a few genuine surprises. Kaz has some clever ideas. The world seems well fleshed out, there is history and climate and culture. Plus there are plenty of bad guys. Six of Crows tells a complete story, yet then finishes with another daunting challenge for Kaz. The story concludes with Crooked Kingdom, which is definitely on my list of books to read in the future. The only reason that I didn't award Six of Crows five stars is because I thought some of the final circumstances at the Ice Palace were a bit too much to be plausible, even for a schemer like Kaz. It is a fun book.