Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Six Of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Rating: ★★★+.5 | 15 hrs 14 mins | Brilliance Audio | YA Fantasy | 09/29/2015 
I'm on a mission to read the Grishaverse series before the Netflix show comes out and right now I have Crooked Kingdom and King of Scars left.

The Plot
Six of Crows takes place across the True Sea in Ketterdaman where instead of mysticism, war and rebellion being the driving force... it's capitalism!

Set in what appears to be an Industrial Era-inspired Amsterdamn, six outcast team up a la Suicide Squad to sneak inside one of the most fortified cities in the world to steal a secret that could change the world of Grisha forever.

Bardugo is clearly doing something very different here from the first series and I enjoyed it more than the Shadow and Bones series.  I think as far as Shadow and Bone goes, there is an established formula or expectation for how a teenagers-rebelling-against-the-enemy story plays out however with something like Six of Crows--which features six main characters on a cross-country mission--there is a lot of room to play and Bardugdo goes for it. Along the way, we do deep deep dives into the characters and what bought them the slums of Ketterdam.

As far as backstories go I'm just going, to be honest--there is a lot of trauma and a lot more slavery than I like in my fantasy.

The Characters
Kaz is a cunning and heartless leader who was reborn on the streets, Jesper is a gambling sharpshooter and Inej is a displaced thief and collector of information. Then we have Nina the loyal Grisha with feeling for Mattias, a falsely imprisoned Grisha-hunter and finally Wyland the prodigal son who will never return with a talent for explosives.

I was worried about how this book would flow with so many characters but the pacing was even and we get a good balance of backstory and the heist with all its wrong turns and plan b's.  The ending went a little over my head. I had a hard time visualizing what has happing but once they reach the end of the heist---woo. I mean...I kind of feel like this could have been a standalone. The very end of the book felt to me like an excuse to keep it going.

Bardugo pairs the characters with the person they have unresolved conflict/feeling with to develop and grow their relationships. I could see the framework this was sitting on--especially with Jesper and Wylan who I kind of felt were added in at the last minute.

I mean Jesper is a sharp-shooting gambling college dropout lying to his parents who is *slight spoiler* a Grisha but remains one of the least explored characters. It's like she didn't know quite what he was supposed to.

Structurally I didn't really understand why this book was split by POV. It's in the third person so did we really need it to split? I feel like this was something they did because it was YA. I just get a little annoyed when we are rushed to catch up with a POV we didn't get before.

Like with the other Grisha books I still have a hard time understanding the Grisha power and I was even more confused in this book. The limitations and abilities the Grisha have seems to vary and I still can't keep up with all the orders.

I'll dive in here and say I actually had an issue with the way Inej was portrayed. I sometimes feel like the book went out of its way to exoticize her. Her main descriptor is her bronze skin, that she's slim, wise and is often fetishized. This is all in addition to being taken from her family only be saved by the white man.  At points, the book is aware that this exoticizing is bad but it doesn't always show in the text. I mean Jesper is clearly supposed also be dark-skinned as well but it's just wasn't treated the same way to me.

(*Sigh* I wrote this review before the cast reveals and neither of them are dark-skinned so ...yeah.)

My Thoughts vs. Kat's Thoughts
Kat reviewed this book first and unlike Kat I actually like the relationship between  Inej and Kaz.  They both have something they are reaching for which means they can't be together.  I mean sure I could have used a little less of Kaz (I say this so much about YA male characters) being afraid of *the feels* but I don't know... I kind of ship it. Slight spoiler I clocked that Kaz not liking touch thing because I started many a historical romance with heroes like this.

Like Kat I also wasn't loving whatever was happening with Mattias, l just couldn't unsee the metaphors to Nazis but I don't think he is beyond redemption.

The Audiobook Review
The audio features multiple narrators. Kaz was probably the trickiest to do for the narrators because he is described as having a very distinct voice, though I believe one of the narrators tried to do a Mid Atlantic accent which seemed apropos. Unlike Kat I kind of like Elizabeth Evan's voice for Nina, I think she was trying to be cheeky and confident. I've heard Jay Snyder in an adult audiobook before and I would have never seen him as YA because of his deep mature voice but he takes on Mattias, the oldest character in the book. Fred Berman was ideal for Kaz but based on samples I've heard I feel like he was holding back the gravel in his voice just a tad.

 I do have one nitpick about this book so...SPOILER ALERT. Jurda Parem is a powerful substance that turns Grisha into superheroes and everyone is so amazed and afraid of how powerful it makes the Grisha but like...what about The Darkling? Like are we forgetting a Grisha killed thousands of people with a shadow? If you read the first series you'd know how The Darkling lived forever and how Merzots bought people back to life and how Alina was the Sun Summoner and as readers we're supposed to be shocked and amazed by this?

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