Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:
Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)
Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)
Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)
Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.
I believe at this stage it is quite unnecessary for me to summarize what happens in the book. Everybody seems to have read Six of Crows and if you haven’t, the blurb is really all you need to know about the plot. Go into it with as little knowledge as possible because it will deliver. The book is marketed as Game of Thrones meets Ocean’s Eleven. I haven’t seen the Ocean’s movies so I wouldn’t know how accurate or fitting the parallel is. However, while the heist should be the most centrepoint of the story, you’ll get so much more… revenge, subtle relationship dynamics, cultures and classes clashing, gang wars- they’re all equally present in the book. And of course one could argue whether we’re dealing with a heist <SPOILER> or a rescue mission for which our characters are getting paid for.</SPOILER>
There is truly so much to grab a reader. It will not be a lighthearted, faeries and unicorns, pixies spurting magical sparkly dust kind of read. It will be about survival of the fittest in what is a dark existence for most of our characters. And money… Everything in this and any other possible world revolves around money!
The first half of the book was a bit of an uphill climb for me. I was finding myself content, very content, with the writing but it was the pace that threw me a bit. It was all systems go, stop, systems go, stop… Every paragraph gave me hope for the momentum to keep up the pace, only to wind down to some background story, a glimpse of the past… all very interesting, don’t get me wrong, but, in my eyes, not the perfect timing for things to take the Reader Adrenaline and flush it down the toilet with a mini info-dump. This is the god-honest truth (and coming from me, this sounds like blasphemy): when something exciting happened, I was hoping for it to keep up. It kind of didn’t. Minor grievance though because the build up was totally worth it in the end.
Characters: I have to admit, there is a certain fascination about the characters. They’re the extreme that I normally like, right? The anti-heroes, the broken and bruised, their souls like phoenixes rising from underneath their horrible experiences. The motivations for each character were valid, yet I couldn’t help thinking even if they didn’t have a motivation to take on the heist, they would have done it anyway. With or without broken hearts, broken souls and loyalty to Kaz, they would have done it anyway because- money!
The most intriguing dynamic I found in the book was in between Nina and Matthias. These two had some serious hatred-static in between them, it excited me to find out how those two were gonna pluck their chicken! Tons of pent up anger, betrayal and underlying temptation which also sets up some really good twists.
- Kaz Brekker- the One that is the most powerful and has the most conflicting emotions within. With an air of mystery about him, I was looking forward to finding out his background and when I did- well… it just all made sense. The darkness made sense, the greed made sense, the gloves made sense. His ambitions made sense… and no matter how much Bardugo tried to show me how unafraid and forceful Brekker was, every leader has a weakness and I was looking forward to discovering it. Even though one could predict. Infinitely clever and always one step ahead, Kaz is a force to be reckoned with. He doesn’t pussyfoot, he doesn’t hesitate… <SPOILER>I found it a nice touch in the story to see his character realize that no matter how ahead of the game he is, he forgot about being blindsided by his very self. </SPOILER>
- Inej- while I enjoyed her character (what she did, how she did it and who she was) she didn’t stand out to me that much. I probably took her ability to silently operate in the shadows quite literally- she stayed in the shadows.
- Jesper- now that’s a guy! A character that portrays many a stereotype in real life. The gambler, the mouthy, the balls-to-the-wall lad who’s always up for a fight and a good time. He had depth to him but his issues overshadowed the depth and made him a flawed character, indeed. I did enjoy his playfulness and the few surprise elements. Because I have decided not to read CK at this time (more on it at the end of post) I think I will most miss the development around his character.
- Nina the Grisha- I liked her role in the book. She had moments of lighthearted fun about her and when it came down to it she displayed selfless courage and continued to prove a certain someone that what they think about Grishas isn’t always a black&white situation.
- Matthias- his character was interesting <SPOILER>and while it was your typical set up of ‘Hello, I’ve been brainwashed and wearing blinkers for most of my life’</SPOILER>, the development of Matthias was, for me, by far the most interesting to follow. Talk about stuck in between a rock and a hard place.
Writing: Sublime… This is the best way to describe the writing. Very strong, very steady and full, I mean full to the brim, of fantastic descriptions, details and facts. None of it felt lazy or rushed and anyone could admire the thought and work that has gone into writing SoC. But… there were times when I skipped over a paragraph or two (really, just 2 or 3, not more) when I just didn’t want nor need the fluff (that’s the pacing issue, yes?!). When the situation had my heart pumping with anticipation I did not care for the background details, not then. Not in that exact moment. The ending was somewhat predictable to me but knowing that Kaz has always thought of Plans A-Z, I was always expecting a redeeming twist.
The multiple POVs worked amazingly well… it added a layer of change and freshness and also the opportunity to find out more about each character.
Overall, I had a very vivid and colorful idea of what the characters looked like, what the places looked like.
The World: I must admit, I enjoyed the place and character names- it felt like the cultures of our current world somehow influenced what Bardugo had created and it felt very global. The magical Grishas are definitely a wonderful creation (I haven’t read the Grisha series… yet), they sure add some new flavor into the world of fantasy and for a change I am glad there were no traditional necromancers, mages or elves. It was different and new. To me, anyway.
Complex enough to make a fantasy reader feel satisfied indeed, Ketterdam is one of those settings that draws you in, no matter how seedy and corrupt it is. It’s a city of endless possibilities if one has the resources and will to take what they want.
The Ice Court was just fabulous- there is something about cold, icy settings that calls to my heart; the Fjerdan culture and beliefs were something that added that extra layer of something different and set up the basis for more twists and suspenseful moments.
So, you can probably see, I enjoyed this book.. I enjoyed it for it’s intricate world and anti-hero-like characters. I love the corruption, the lies, the character flaws that blow the straight forward plot into a frenzy… and yet, after finishing Six of Crows, I went on information gathering mission… Will I, or won’t I, read Crooked Kingdom?! I read some reviews (good and bad) and I allowed myself those dreaded spoilers, as well. I’m glad I did… At the moment, while I am attached to a couple of the characters I do not want to go and feel the same frustration some of the other readers have had. This is my defense mechanism (I’m finally making good use of it, hey!)… <SPOILER/>when something is described as ‘pointless’ and ‘unworthy’, then I gladly leave CK be for now.. And I don’t think I’m just yet ready for twist I know I will hate</SPOILER>
Writing this review, I have realized I enjoyed SoC more than I thought I did. Surprises keep on coming, I seem to be using my brain as well for a change! I can’t say it was an experience on par with some of my most favorite reads, but I can tell you that I have a lot of respect for this book, for this world, for the solid writing. I realize now that down the road, when I feel like putting myself through the ringer, I will try CK. But not just now… not now when I feel like in my head a different version is playing out… and I am happy with that. There has been the biggest inner turmoil regarding the rating… I have to take into account everything, the whole reading journey and while my ever so kind self would love to slap 5 stars on the book for ideas and writing alone, I have to stay honest. I did have some issues while reading the book, to counter everything did come together nicely at the end and I can’t ignore the fact that by the end of SoC I was fully engaged. I’m in between 3 and 4 stars… but the half rating ain’t gonna help me when I have to submit it on Goodreads and Amazon… pffft… Did I like it or did I really like it? [insert long thinking pause] Nope… This remains a solid 3.5 rating. I can’t help it… I’m unwilling to budge on this decision… On Amazon this rating will convert to 4 stars (I liked it) and on Goodreads it will convert to 3 stars (I liked it). That’s as fair as I can get!