Very much enjoyed this novel, which is basically an elaborate heist story with six intriguing POV characters in a detailed fantasy world.
This fantasy world, I know, was introduced in Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone trilogy but that just didn’t look as interesting to me as this did. And honestly, I don’t regret that choice; while it’s obvious that things have happened in the world before this story starts, it never feels like there’s anything “missing”. This book stands on its own two feet.
That said, the major flaw to this book probably is the slow and confusing beginning. I could easily imagine Bardugo having drawn up a detailed city map of Ketterdam, with every building labelled, and being unable to resist the temptation to put all that information into the story. So many names of different gambling dens, brothels, gangsters, gangs and neighbourhoods just get thrown at you in a very short space of time. I’m glad I’ve never had something like a “read the first hundred pages, then decide if you want to keep going” rule because this book would’ve been thrown on the backburner so fast and then I’d have missed out on something that becomes a really great story, once it gets going.
The core cast consists of six characters, all of whom are interesting if (inevitably) to different degrees. My two favourites were Nina and Matthias, who have a complicated history with each other. They fought on opposing sides of a devastating war, and have a relationship full of mistrust but mutual attraction. I just devoured every page with them – and it helps that Nina herself is a fun character, flirty and hedonistic but extremely clever and a dedicated spy.
Kaz Brekker, I did not like so much at first. He’s set up as this seventeen-year-old criminal mastermind, the kind of character who’s cold-hearted and arrogant but the reader’s supposed to like him anyway, just because. More depth is added to him over the course of the novel, so I did warm up to him a bit. He gets paired up with Inej, whose background involves being captured by slave traders, sold into a brothel, and then purchased by Kaz’s boss because Kaz was impressed with her sneaking skills. Her major skill is climbing. Then, bringing up the rear, we have Jesper – another member of Kaz’s gang – and Wylan, the runaway son of a powerful merchant. These two also get a great rapport going.
Once we actually get into it (and that takes a third of the book), the heist plotline moves swiftly, full of tension and excitement. Unsurprisingly, there is a twist at the end, laying the ground for the next book. The real strength of this book, though, has been the major characters, and it’s out of interest in them that I’ll be reading the next one.
Books in the Six of Crows duology
- Six of Crows (you are here)
- Crooked Kingdom