Welcome to the first ever Guest Review on my Blog done by Abby King. I have been struggling to read Six Of Crows, have picked it up several times and I’m presently stuck almost halfway through.So, when I saw a tweet from Abby offering to do a Guest Post, I immediately replied to her tweet, inviting her to my Blog. She PM’d me not too long after offering to do a review of a book and I chose Six Of Crows.
So without further ado, here’s what Abby had to say:
Post by Abby King | www.abbyking.co.uk/blog
Review: Six of Crows | Leigh Bardugo
I grabbed my passport and grappling hook and headed to Ketterdam, a city loosely based on Amsterdam, via Leigh Bardugo’s fantasy novel, Six of Crows. I must admit, I have never ventured so deeply into the fantasy realm, so it was with a mixture of trepidation and curiosity that I did finally set foot inside.
Now, upon my return to civilisation, what do I make of the genre? Honestly, I thought I would be quickly bored, unresponsive to the characters so far removed from reality, so seemingly unlike people I know. Yet Bardugo’s sextet of young men and women, each with their distinctively separate histories, identities and powers have convinced me otherwise.
However, I didn’t feel that way when I began reading. Perhaps that was because I am not well-versed in the “Grisha-verse” and because I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The first chapter and you’re pushed into murky underworld of Ketterdam – the “grey milk fog” where the “air hung thick with the smell of fish and bilge water”. But, as Joost – the character in question for this chapter – questions the colour of Anya’s eyes, the beginning of this novel reads more like a romance than outright fantasy.
“How much blood will be shed tonight?”
We then learn that Joost is a guard and Anya is a healer, and by chapter two, we meet Kaz Brekker and Inej Ghafa. In the aptly-named “Barrel” of Ketterdam, the fantasy begins proper, with apparently no relation to the events of the first chapter. Before long, there are knives, lead pipes and guns in the mix, as Kaz, or “Dirtyhands,” quickly establishes himself as the ruthless lieutenant of his gang, the Dregs. Away from the violence, he is also extremely intelligent and articulate, for example, noting that “every man is a safe, a vault of secrets and longings.”
Initially, I felt unable to connect with the gang. Like Kaz, Inej, Nina, Matthias and Jesper seemed equally cold-hearted despite their backgrounds; their range of superhuman powers rendering them above my sympathies. Also, the novel repeatedly makes reference to their ages: 17 (or thereabouts). To me, they seemed much, much older, possibly even in their thirties. As Six of Crows is a YA novel, I question whether their unconvincing ages would affect its readership. Yet perhaps this maturity-beyond-their-years was deliberate; after all, with everything the gang had witnessed and experienced, they would have had to grow up quickly.
“I protect my investments”
The idea of growing up quickly leads me to another point. The turning point in the novel for me, in terms of connecting with the characters, was discovering Kaz’s past. Learning why Kaz is so unfeeling is ironically the very thing that humanises him. Throughout his story, Kaz suffers great loss – his money, family, home, and his ability to feel. To him, people become objects, investments, means of survival, in sickening ways. His brother Jordie acts “as a raft”, and he treats Inej as “one of the best investments” he had made. He distances himself from his feelings towards her, fearful he would lose her after she is stabbed.
“He was the same Kaz… but beneath all that anger, she thought she’d seen something else”
As Six of Crows progresses, two romantic relationships prominently emerge within the gang – Nina and Matthias, and of course, Inej and Kaz. It is this element that most connects the non-fantasy reader to the plot, going beyond the knives, guns and jurda parem (the substance that becomes the most dangerous weapon of all…). In terms of character development, these relationships, pivoting from hatred to love in rapid succession, are crucial in understanding their motives. For Nina and Matthias, the history of their relationship actually forms their personal identities: “they’d managed to be Nina and Matthias instead of Grisha and witchhunter.” They also provide a form of escapism from the sterility and harshness of the world around them, although instead of flowers, men would give weapons: “He’d gifted her with her blade, the one she called Sankt Petyr – not as pretty as wild geraniums, but more practical.”
Overall, without giving much more away in terms of the plot, for my first foray into the realms of fantasy, I think Six of Crows was a thrilling place to start. Despite my unfamiliarity with the conventions of the Grisha, the novel still welcomed me in as a newcomer and the all-encompassing nature of Ketterdam really pulled me in. While it took me longer than I initially expected to connect with the characters, by the end of the novel I felt I could sympathise with the gang and their struggles.
I’d definitely make a return trip to see what the future holds for the sextet, and recommend Six of Crows to other fantasy newbies! So thank you to Cover2Cover for your recommendation and the opportunity to guest post on your blog!
Thanks again Abby! I really enjoyed your review!!