Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

“Joost had two problems: the moon and his moustache.”

The world is already wary of the Grisha, those with abilities – to heal, to control the weather or bend metal or glass – so when a new drug arrives in Ketterdam, one which vastly increases Grisha abilities, everyone is worried. Worse, the drug’s inventor and sole source has been captured by a neighbouring state. So what else are the city powers to do except try to steal the man out from under their noses… and oh yeah, from the most heavily fortified prison in the world? Who would be capable of even attempting such a feat?

Step forward Kaz Brekker and his crew. Six mercenaries. One impossible mission. A reward beyond their wildest dreams. What could possibly go wrong?

Finding a piece of fantasy fiction that doesn’t just follow the same well-worn paths is always a joy, and as such I loved Six of Crows. The settings and names have Dutch and Nordic inspirations, which was nicely different, and that this is actually the fourth book set in the Grisha world (although a new, standalone story; I haven’t yet read the original trilogy, and didn’t feel I was missing anything except a good read) gives a real depth to the cultures.

I’m not sure how much of the grisha magic or the societal structure is explained in the earlier books, but the world building here is superb and rich, without a lot of info-dumping going on. The author skillfully blends action and backstory, from each of the characters, allowing a picture of not just the setting for the events, but a much wider world made up of different and often clashing cultures.

The characters are generally a rough bunch, thieves and swindlers. Each chapter is told from a different viewpoint – clearly marked in the chapter title – meaning we get to know all six of them well. The backgrounds that have led them each into a life of crime are all tragic, helping the reader root for each damaged soul even if their lifestyle ‘choices’ aren’t necessarily all that savory.

Completely recommended. I hear the original trilogy isn’t quite as fantastic, but I’m still going to backtrack – and wait impatiently for the next installment!

Paperback: 491 pages / 46 chapters
First published: 2015
Series: Six of Crows book 1 (set in same world as Grisha series)
Read from 4th-24th July 2016 (with unfortunate big gap in the middle)

My rating: 9/10

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