My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Kaz Brekker is a cunning and ever-resourcefull young thieving mastermind, conducting business for the Dregs in Ketterdam, a hub of international trade and much criminal activity. When Kaz is taken by an unknown party he is sure he’s gotten himself into trouble. Instead, he is made an offer too good to refuse. He is to break into the impenetrable Ice Court and break out the man responsible behind the powerful and extremely addictive drug, jurda parem. All this for a price of 30 million Kruge. Kaz’s intelligent mind is already working on the impossible plan, but first he needs to find some help.
Leigh Bardugo became a popular and well-received young adult author after the success of her YA fantasy Grisha trilogy that begins with Shadow and Bone. Six of Crows is the first novel in a duology set in the same universe, and, although one does not necessarily need to read the Grisha trilogy to be able to follow the story of Six of Crows, it is fairly clear, after reading the latter, that it skips a very basic introduction to the Grisha world. Going into Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo provides enough information to help the reader ease into her world and magic system, although for younger readers the prefered order of reading suggests to start with the Grisha trilogy. Six of Crows holds the title of multiple YA awards, including the Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction, implying that the novel is a wonderful literary piece for young readers, something with which I disagree.
Many boys will bring you flowers. But someday you’ll meet a boy who will learn your favorite flower, your favorite song, your favorite sweet. And even if he is too poor to give you any of them, it won’t matter because he will have taken the time to know you as no one else does. Only that boy earns your heart.
It is fairly difficult to formulate a very unenthusiastic book review for a novel that is so well-received by a large reading population. So, what do we have here? This is a young adult fantasy novel told from multiple perspectives following six adolescents forming a group that attempts to break in and out of, supposedly, highest security prison. The first half of the book narrated that journey to finding and gathering the six teenagers that will participate in the heist, while the second half describes their adventures at the Ice Court. Sounds familiar? It’s basically a retelling of Ocean’s Eleven. An impossible heist attempted by six teens. Obviously, one goes into this plot not for its predictable outcome, but for the fun of reading a pure escapism novel. I can see why Six of Crows has gained so much popularity among readers of the genre.
The heart is an arrow. It demands aim to land true.
It is extremely disappointing though, to be served such a mediocre and over-regurgitated tale of familiar tropes put into an amplifier for maximum effect, especially after consulting the reviews on Goodreads in hopes of finding a worthy YA novel. In order for me to properly discuss my problems with this novel, this review may contain spoiler from this point on! I’d like to start with the complete lack of originality that surrounds the six characters Leigh Bardugo came up with. We have Kaz Breker who is supposedly unapproachable, has a special gift in thieving and outsmarting others and is pushed forward by his troubled past. There is also Inej, a girl with an equally difficult past that has made her similarly closed of from opening up to others. We have the makings of YA Formula number 1 and 2: Make a romantic interest out of the two protagonists. Make the protagonists have a troubled past that doesn’t allow them to express their romantic interest for each other so the reader can patiently and eagerly wait for the love to sprout during the whole novel. Enter Nina and Matthias, Formula number 3 in YA literature: A boy and a girl who hate each other and fight through the whole thing but secretly have feelings for each other and change each for the better. But because 4 out of 6 is not enough, there is also a third couple that is obviously pushed into a yet another romantic story with a trend that seems to appear everywhere lately; gay side characters. This could have been renamed into Cliché of Tropes – sorry, I couldn’t stop myself.
No mourners. No funerals. Among them, it passed for ‘good luck’.
Apart from the terribly overused and completely unoriginal characters, the story is told from multiple points of view in order to allow each character to provide a back-story. Still, apart from a few amusing exchanges between the characters and the easy-to-follow and very basic plot, I cannot say that this novel offers anything that cannot be found in literally any other YA SFF series out there. In the Lunar Chronicles all of the protagonists are in love with each other. In The Darkest Minds two characters that hate each other end up loving each other. Although, thankfully there is a queer romantic interest presented in the Six of Crows, it is poorly done as if the author is tiptoeing around the subject and using the most basic assumptions about gay men to guide her through it. It’s a book. It has a plot and it has characters. It is every YA fantasy book that is marketed and pushed by big publishers harming all the while other novels of the genre that are much more deserving.
I just read a novel with a basic plot, markedly based on regurgitated characters one can find in ostensibly most YA fantasy and science fiction series greatly marketed by publishers. A very mediocre novel which I can only praise for avoiding to portray some characters as the ethical automatons that never kill and at no time have bad intentions towards other, as is the case, again, with most novels of the genre these days. Yet, another disappointment risen to success.
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