Six of Crows (英語) ペーパーバック – 2015/9/29
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"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"--
Six of Crows is a boisterous, confident heist story a la Ocean’s Eleven that draws readers back into the richly layered world of the Grisha Trilogy. Bestselling author Leigh Bardugo expands her Grishaverse ten-fold, shifting the landscape from Russia-esque Ravka to the nearby island of Kerch, an obvious Amsterdam analogue where Grisha magic is both coveted and reviled.
Darker and more fantastical than the aforementioned series, the book’s gritty nature echoes the dingy, unforgiving streets of Ketterdam, the decadent merchant city where Six begins. In Ketterdam, poverty reigns and money is worshipped. Rival gangs rule the underworld and slave brothels can be found on every street corner. Amidst the close-knit buildings and snaking canals, the Barrel district is teeming with child pickpockets, shady deals, and every dubious character you meet seems right at home in the squalid, Dickensian conditions. To put it mildly, Ketterdam makes Gotham City look downright demure.
To say that Kaz “Dirtyhands” Brekker is a resourceful thief would be an understatement. He’s a criminal extraordinaire with a bottomless bag of felonious tricks. As the face of Ketterdam’s ruthless Dregs gang, Kaz cultivates a fierce reputation and countless rumors about his black-gloved hands. When an evolved form of magic threatens destruction, a lucrative albeit dangerous proposition prompts Kaz to undertake a grand magical heist adventure to achieve immeasurable wealth. But he won’t be going it alone. To surmount the insurmountable, he enlists a daring mix of ragtag ruffians—the eponymous Six. Motivated by greed and revenge, these scrappy misfits each come with their own unique skill sets and questionable pasts. Inej (a.k.a. the Wraith), a fleet-footed Suli spy and Kaz’s moral compass; Jesper, an exceptional sharpshooter with a weakness for gambling; Nina, a bold and curvaceous Heartrender from Ravka; Matthias, a fallen-from-grace Drüskelle soldier and inmate-turned-gladiator who harbors a homicidal vendetta against Nina; and Wylan, the self-effacing demolitions expert. With murder and deceit threatening to divide them, the team embarks on a veritable suicide mission to procure a captive chemist from Fjerda’s ancient stronghold—the impenetrable Ice Court; the imprisoned scientist possesses the secret formula for a highly addictive drug capable of amplifying a Grisha’s powers to extreme ends. Unforeseen complications and betrayals abound, and the prospect of everyone surviving is never a foregone conclusion. And if this motley crew should fail: “No mourners, no funerals.”
With every chapter Bardugo hands off the POV to a different player in the group. A logical choice as the alternating viewpoints yield layer after layer of needed depth, enriching both the dark motivations and actions of Kaz’s diverse team. When it comes to characterization, Bardugo is a literary mastermind. Her polished touch renders each voice distinct and vital, providing rich backstories that not only delineate the characters in our imaginations but paint the human condition in not so easily dismissed colors.
Truly engaging stories live in the gray area between right and wrong, and nowadays the morally ambiguous anti-hero is vastly superior to the straight-arrow protagonist. With his brutal amorality and callous efficiency, Kaz Brekker isn’t destined for herolatry. Although moulded by childhood trauma and destitution, Kaz is too dastardly and hard-bitten for the tender age of seventeen. Still, his arc is a satisfying one. With the exception of Wylan, the other Crows seem far too mature and world-weary for mere teenagers. We get it, though—Bardugo is shooting for that YA market. But what the characters lack in believability Bardugo makes up for with memorable dialogue and an endless barrage of twists. What’s more, Bardugo effortlessly weaves social commentary into the fabric of the storyline and character interactions. Take for example, this witty exchange between Kaz and his faithful keeper, Inej:
“‘I’m a businessman…No more, no less.’
‘You’re a thief, Kaz.’
‘Isn’t that what I just said?’” (p.23).
Despite its YA leanings, this 460-page novel pulls no punches. Bardugo doesn’t shy away from eye-gouging violence and makes no bones about depicting subjugation, sex slavery, and coldblooded retribution. Bardugo’s gift for ingenious plotting and remarkable world-building puts her in the elite company of George R.R. Martin, J.K. Rowling, and the like.
A heart-wrenching combination of caper novel and grimy fantasy, Six of Crows is an intimate and compelling portrait of flawed, complex characters each deserving of their own spin-off. The initial chapters are relatively dull and primarily serve to situate readers into the world and its characters; after that the book is impossible to put down. Deftly paced and beautifully descriptive, this sultry, high-stakes tale is not to be missed.