[A quick note: I started reading this purely because of my sister’s recommendation to do so. Granted, the Grishaverse books have been on my TBR for ages, but I probably wouldn’t have gotten to them this quickly. However, with the upcoming Netflix show “Shadow and Bone” I’m really eager to get the remaining books read quickly.]
“The heart is an arrow. It demands aim to land true.”
― Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows
(4.5/5⭐️) Kaz Brekker is somewhat of a criminal prodigy on the streets of Ketterdam. He’s seemingly untouchable, until a rich merchant captures him and offers him the deal of a lifetime—more krug than he knows what to do with. The catch? He must break into a notoriously impossible prison and free a man whose recipe for a new drug has the power to rip the Greshaverse apart. What Kaz needs is a band of misfits. Who better than his right-hand-man sharpshooter Jesper, his Wraith Inej, a boy with a tendency to blow things up, Waylen, an ex-witch hunter, Matthias, and a Grisha woman with healing powers, Nina? Together, this band of six must pull of an unthinkable heist. But what happens when the person they find isn’t the one they expected? And what happens when the deal goes sour? Can Kaz hold his band together? Is four million krug really worth their lives?
What an excellent introduction into the Greshaverse! Leigh Bardugo fills the pages with characters that are unique, memorable, and full of flaws. Her portrayal of Ketterdam was rich and descriptive. She swept me away into a world that was easy to follow and took very little adjustment. The streets of Ketterdam are brutal. You could feel it in the writing, in the struggles and pasts each character portrayed.
I loved the way Bardugo handled the plot. You see each character in his/her current state, yet, their obvious flaws make it clear that there’s more beneath the surface. Bardugo is excellent at showing small glimpses into each character’s past as the story progresses. You see just enough to leave you desperate for more. The longest flashbacks didn’t happen until the second half of the book, during much of the action. But I didn’t even care that the action was interrupted because I was so invested in each character.
My favorite was Nina. I felt that her past was more tortured than some, though each had his/her own struggles. She made some heart wrenching decisions, yet, she was capable of forgiveness and able to look past the flaws of others. Yet, all the characters were incredible.
“When everyone knows you’re a monster, you needn’t waste time doing every monstrous thing.”
Kaz has so many demons. He’s morally gray, yet, you understand each of his decisions. You realize that beneath his stony exterior, there’s someone hurting. It takes him an entire book to work out what he really wants, and even then, he doesn’t fully succeed.
“No mourners. No funerals. Among them, it passed for 'good luck.”
The world building is what really distinguished this book from others. The streets of Ketterdam were rich with description. Yet, I never felt overwhelmed. Bardugo had a way of sprinkling the right information at the right time. I learned about paintings, and gangs, and establishments, and locations, and...you get the point. All of these detailed facets of the city, though unnecessary in some books, were critical in helping me understand the world these six misfits were a part of. Why they did the things they did. Why they were the way they were. It was excellent!
I considered giving this book five stars because it seems perfect in nearly every way. The only thing that was missing was a certain riveting flare that keeps me thinking about a book even when I’ve set it down. For me, I try to reserve five stars for the books that consume me both while I’m reading, and while I’m not. You know, those books you can’t stop thinking about ALL DAMN DAY while you’re going about your routine? This one didn’t do that for me. While I thoroughly enjoyed it, I didn’t find it all-consuming the way other books have been. So I’m subtracting half a star, which seems a fair distinction between the books that simply take you over the top.
Do I recommend it? Hell yes! I can’t freaking wait to dive into Crooked Kingdom. This book has everything. Magic. Misfits. An impossible heist. Political intrigue. You name it. Go read it!