ARC Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: Six of Crows
author: Leigh Bardugo
pages: 480
format: Paperback
isbn/asin: 978-1627792127
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 5/5 (from hated to loved) or 7.5/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of the Grisha (obviously), Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows, and movies like Ocean's Eleven, The Italian Job, and Pirates of the Caribbean.  
Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.

in short

Bardugo's Grisha series is one of my favorite fantasies.  The world harks back to Tamora Pierce but with Russian flavor, and the writing is beautiful and clever.  Six of Crows upholds that tradition and expands the Grisha world.  Now we're in Ketterdam, a Dutch inspired trading city where gangs rule the underworld.  In split POVs, Bardugo follows a cast of unlikely allies across the ocean to the frosty north, where Grisha are hunted and a prize worth millions hides inside an impenetrable fortress.  While the narrative can get choppy, it's a thrilling story overall, with characters that are easy to love (KAZ) and a plot that brings Ocean's Eleven to fantasy in the best way.  

in depth

we're back with our beloved grisha
I think this book will read best if you've read Alina's trilogy first.  While you don't need to know what happened there--it's a totally separate story--there's definitely less background about the Grisha and world in general than in the trilogy.  That said, I'm so psyched that we get to see another part of Bardugo's world.  Ketterdam feels alive and totally unique from Ravka.  Imagine Amsterdam crossed with 1920s Chicago.  It's a city of rich guildmasters and poor chancers and cheats.  Powerful gangs cater to a traveler's most perverse fantasy, and deal in death to those who don't pay up.  Bardugo also introduces us to the frozen lands of the North, where Grisha are seen as abominations and are executed for the glory of the realm.  It's a fittingly dark, glittering backdrop for a grittier fantasy.  

and some new rapscallions.
And this series is so much grittier than Alina's.  You know it from the very first chapters, when Kaz Brekker, king of the Dregs, ruthlessly mutilates a traitor.  You won't find halfhearted antiheroes here, just a cast of misfits you'll grow to love like family.  Kaz is enigmatic, ruthless, and wickedly, astoundingly brilliant.  He also may have a heart, but that's just a rumor.  His assassin is Inej, a refugee whose acrobatic skills make her the most silent assassin.  Her relationship with Kaz is complex and, even better, she calls him on his bullshit.  

I felt a little less enthralled with Nina, a Corporalnik saved from the brothels, but I still enjoyed her feisty spirit and kindness.  Matthias the witch hunter is almost excessively stolid (aka has a stick up his ass), but he begins to grow beyond the flat straight-man as the story goes on.  My only complaints are Jesper, who is hysterical and should have gotten more screen-time, and Wylan, who mysteriously didn't have a POV (six crows but five POVs!?).  It's a little obvious that Bardugo's energy went to the romantic pairings.  Even so, you get to know them all pretty well.  The complex relationships among the six of them are just as fun to tease apart as the heist.  

this crime heist / fantasy hybrid,
Don't expect a simpering romance.  Bardugo promises a fantastic heist, and she delivers.  The problem is a chemical created by a Shu scientist.  It gives immense, world-destroying powers to Grisha who ingest it--then leaves them hollowed and mad.  Now the northerners have the Shu scientist, and the guildmasters want him contained before he wreaks chaos.  Discretely.  Kaz and his gang risk hell to set up a team and infiltrate the northern fortress, a maze of dangers in which subterfuge and mayhem are their best allies.  The plot is taut from the first.  I was always holding my breath, racing through pages, forcing myself not to read ahead.  Bardugo knows just when to throw a character into hell and then switch POVs on you.  It was annoying sometimes because I had my favorites and felt rushed through other parts, plus I felt like there was too little Kaz, but it definitely keeps you on your toes.  

takes absolutely no prisoners.
The result is a fantasy book like no other.  It reads less sweet and magical than Alina's story of enchanted creatures and dark lords, and more like a swashbuckling adventure.  Bardugo's writing is tight throughout.  The descriptions paint the world in clear detail; the dialogue is snappy and vicious; and there are so many lines sharp with emotion that whittle away at your soul.  Kaz and Inej in particular have the wittiest, richest perspectives.  The ending is a bit rushed (are you seriously going full-on cliffhanger on me!?) and I think it's annoying that she seems to be trying to make sure everyone has a pairing.  However, it's a thrilling read imbued with Grisha magic, and I can't wait for more.  

Also, Kaz is mine.  Hands off.  Seriously, though, he'll stab you.  

in a sentence

Six of Crows is a gritty, swashbuckling fantasy that mixes the magical atmosphere of a fantasy world with the thrill and chase of a crime drama.         


will i read this author again?  Yes !

Note: I received this copy in exchange for a review. The price of the book and its origin in no way affected by stated opinions.


  1. I really need to read this when it comes out! Buuuuttt I still want to read the Grisha trilogy first! Great review!

  2. To be honest, all I need to want to read this is 'crime heist/fantasy hybrid'. Yes!

  3. This sounds absolutely amazing CJ! I really enjoyed the Grisha trilogy, and I am so excited to see what Leigh does with this new series. The combination of crime and fantasy sounds absolutely perfect. Thank you for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ♥

    1. It is! I hope you love it as much as I did. <3