Wednesday, October 21, 2015

look at her go: reviewin; reviewin': six of crows

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo


synopsis: 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

full review under the cut! 

Just a disclaimer! There will be spoilers in this review, I tried as hard as I could to keep them out of here but I think that with this book, it was unavoidable. However, if you have not read this book, what I can say is that this was on SO many people's highly anticipated lists of the year. Leigh Bardugo has written another trilogy set in this same world, the Grishaverse, and so many bookbloggy/tubing people were anxious to see the world from a different perspective. And let me just say, it did not disappoint. It is about six outcasts coming together to form a team and pull off an impossible heist. Look at the babies. 

Are they not the swaggest of them all? Let me say to you: they ARE all of the swag AND MORE. They are, from left to right, a thief, the bastard of the barrel, and most of all a boy: Kaz Brekker (aka Dirtyhands). Nina Zenik, savor-er of life in general, loud, flirtatious, and above anything a solider of the second army and master of the small science: corporalnik, heartrender. Inej Ghafa, the Suli acrobat and spy who has come to be known as the Wraith, slipping through the shadows with her Saint-named blades. Wylan Van Eck, a runaway with a gilded past, munitions expert and puppy mascot of the group. Mattias Helvar, honed as a blade by the Fjerdan north, recently escaped convict, trying to reconcile his deeply embedded hatred of Grisha with his feelings for Nina. Jesper Fahey, Zemini sharpshooter who can never walk away from a wager, no matter the odds, most at home with his pistols in his hands. They are thieves, convicts, morally gray at best, but together they make up the most deadly team that the world has ever seen. 

Let's take a moment and talk characters, because as much as this is a high fantasy with breathtakingly beautiful settings, above all it is driven by its 6 main characters, and I am in love with *all* of them.

Kaz: I'm going to assume at this point that everyone has read the book. Okay so Kaz. At some points I wanted to murder him, and at others I just wanted to give him a good squeeze. He's a hero, he's an antihero, he's a person with good and bad all jumbled into one. On the one hand, his backstory honestly made me emotional. I felt so sorry for the small boy that he used to be, lost in a new city with only his older brother for support. Then, conned and missing the one person in the world that was important to him, he becomes hard and mean, the only way he can survive. The scene where he wakes up on the reaper's barge or whatever it is called, just surrounded by corpses? It gave me chills. It also explains so much about Kaz – the gloves that he never takes off, the fact that Inej says touching Kaz is a good way to get yourself killed, the way he holds back from everyone. It also lends special significance to the scene where Inej places her hand on his cheek, and the fact that he isn't repulsed by her skin. HOWEVER! I also kind of wanted to throttle Kaz alot of the time. He almost gets everyone killed multiple times because he can't just open his damn mouth and TELL people what happened to him. How hard is it to say "Pekka Rollins is responsible for the death of the only person I cared about. I'm going to take him down." Honestly Kaz, everyone would be totally on board for helping you with that cause. I do have a ton of respect for Kaz though, because he is virtually untouchable, and his plans once they reached the ice court were amazingly brilliant. I love the general aesthetic of his character as well, the way he dresses impeccably but not gaudily, the crows head cane, the suave aura, the way he leads the team, and the Dregs, with impossible ease and grace. He's a very interesting character, for sure, but I don't think I would've loved him as much if we didn't get to see the way he feels about Inej. The parts where he's just working through in his mind when he came to care about her so much, the way he enjoys the times she scolds him, the fact that he carried her to the boat and worried himself sick when she was hurt, it all humanized him in a way that was impossible, even with his backstory. Sure, I was frustrated when Kaz didn't vocalize his feelings for her in the end, but I'm just waiting for the *big moment* in the second novel. 

If I *had* to pick a favorite on the team, it would be between Inej and Matthias, with Inej having a slight edge. I just loved her chapters so much, and I have so much respect for her as a person, for always sticking to her guns and giving up her entire self (and almost life, several times) for the team. It's like Kaz says, Inej is the glue of them all, and without her, it would fall apart. Though not quite as tragic as Kaz, her backstory was almost as bad. Stolen from her family and forced into prostitution is a fate like I can't even imagine, and when Kaz walks into Heleen's brothel and takes Inej away, giving her a chance to become the "dangerous girl" that he knows she can be, I totally swooned. It was odd to think of Inej as being afraid of Tante Heleen and her brothel, when we learned about it, because from our very first meeting, I had complete and utter faith in every single move that Inej made. Every step, leap, climb and word: I knew that it would work out in her favor. She's a badass who can make any climb, slip into any shadow, but she isn't an unfeeling soldier, she's also just a girl. She's a very wise and sanguine girl, but a girl just the same. I loved the scene where she realizes what her purpose in life is, because it was just so powerful: hanging from an incinerator shaft four stories up with melted shoes, resigned to death, she goes through this extremely intense moment where she takes her life into her own hands and decides that she needs to live for other people, not just herself. She needs to help the girls who went through what she went through. I had chill bumps all through that chapter, and I have them again now, just thinking about it. I also adore Inej's friendships with the people on the team that aren't Kaz. She and Nina having girl talk and having each other's backs just makes me imagine countless sleepovers between the two of them when Nina begs Inej to let her tailor her, and Inej halfheartedly protests until finally she lets Nina make her hair a little shinier and her eyes a bit brighter. Also, the soldier's respect that developed between Inej and Mattias was just heartwarming, and her deep bond with Jesper (the beehive conversation) I JUST LOVED IT OKAY? Inej is the glue, and everyone loves her, and so do I. I'm going to be so upset when she's not with the team in the second novel, but I am also going to be hella excited to see them swoop in and rescue her to repay her for all of the times in this book that she completely saved their asses. 

Of all the characters, we learn the least about Wylan. We know that he is the runaway son of the very mercher that sent Kaz and the others on this wild goose chase to the ice court, we know that he is good with drawing and also with blowing things up, and we know that he is often confused and resembles a puppy. Also that he plays the flute. I just loved Wylan because I felt like he was this pure thing that needed to be protected, especially among all of the darkness of the people on this team with him. I felt absolutely AWFUL in the end, when he disgused himself to confront his father, and the secret about why he was thrown out of his house was revealed. I just wanted to jump in and protect him from that hurt, even though he proved that he was absolutely strong enough to take it, and also that the team had earned his complete loyalty. Some of the best parts of the novel were when Jesper was teasing Wylan, and I love love love the hints of something (maybe romantic) growing between the two of them. When Jesper says something about Wylan kissing girls, and Wylan says "just girls" I think I actually screamed aloud. Jesper deserves someone more whole than Kaz, more full of life, and I think that Wylan, with his ink and gunpowder stained hands, delicate for flute-playing, could be just the person to fill that hole in Jesper's life. Since Wylan is still more of an unknown to me, I look forward to learning more about him in the next book, and I hope that he has a bigger part. 

I'm putting Nina and Mattias together, because so much of their story is completely intertwined. Mattias being the fjerdan-born soldier, trained from birth to hate and hunt down grisha, thinking of them as less then human. Then, Nina, vivacious and fearless, utterly stubborn when she sets her mind to something, comes into his life, and it changes him forever, because Nina is the very thing that he was taught to hate. When the novel first started, I hoped that Nina and Mattias would be a pre-existing couple that would just continue through this book, and when Nina told Kaz that she had asked for help for Mattias, I thought that I was getting my wish, but their relationship turned out to be so much more interesting than that. The chapters where they relived the shipwreck and the aftermath, where Nina and Mattias weren't fjerdan and grisha, but just a boy and a girl, were arguably my favorite parts of the novel. These two go together because they're both so completely stubborn and set in their ways, each trained to hate the other, but they bring out the best and change one another, for the better. The scene where they dig the graves together, when something intangible changes forever between them, was amazing, and I loved how everything between them from there was centered around them basically being obsessed with each other and risking their lives to protect the other. I loved how Inej described Mattias as perking up like a flower when Nina was around, and I loved how Mattias was so fixated on her every move, and on her scents especially. The part where Nina goes "if we survive this, I'm going to kiss you senseless" and also when Mattias says he doesn't care if Nina wants to go back to Ravka, he would follow her there in a heartbeat... I just... <3 I'm so in love with these two. They earned each other's loyalty, and though I have a hard time believing that it will be smooth sailing for these two from now on, I can't wait to see what comes next.

Oh, Jesper. I couldn't help but feel bad for him throughout the novel. I felt like he just couldn't catch a break. First of all, he's questioning himself and his place in The Dregs, and if Kaz really trusts him. Second of all, he is in a ton of debt, and he has basically gambled away his father's livelihood. Third, he can't walk away from gambling, even when he is supposed to be in university but actually in a street gang. Fourth, he is hopelessly in love with Kaz, and Kaz is hopelessly in love with Inej, so that makes him despair. Fifth, Wylan and some of the others are constantly questioning the need for a sharpshooter on a mission that doesn't involve guns. Sixth, he is a fabrikator, but not a trained one and one that has to keep his power hidden from everyone. Seventh, he is the one who let slip that he was leaving, which alerted Pekka Rollins team to the mission. What else could go wrong for poor Jesper? But at the same time, through all of these things that keep on turning south for him, he continues to be the comic relief in the story. He also turns out to be the one to save everyone's lives more than once, and I felt like a proud mother when that happened. When it was revealed that he was Grisha, I gasped aloud, because it was something so completely out of left field that I wasn't expecting *at all*, but it still made a weird sort of sense, and it made me think that maybe bad things keep happening to him because he hasn't found his way in the world just yet. I loved how protective he was of Inej, like she was his little sister or something like that, it just warmed my heart to see. And, as I mentioned, how much do I want Wysper (WHISPER WHAT A CUTE NAME) (wylan and jesper) to become a thing? SO MUCH! I also can't wait to see if Jesper and Kaz butt heads over what to do about Inej being kidnapped, because I feel like they both feel very strongly about Inej and will have ~opinions~ on what to do to save her. 

Okay but seriously: everything that happened in this book was complete insanity. From the very first chapter with the Jurda Parem, because when we were introduced to Jurda in the Grisha trilogy it was completely harmless, to the meeting between Kaz and the other gang where he just lets one of his own men, a spy, get shot, to the heist to the end, I was on my toes for the majority of it. The fact that there was a main conflict: how was the gang going to get into the ice court and out without getting themselves killed? (which was executed rather brilliantly) But there was also some minor conflicts that each character was dealing with on their own: Kaz and his aversion to humans, his anger, his vendetta against Pekka Rollins. Inej's inability to move past the tragedy in her own past and start living for herself. Nina's guilt about abandoning her country and falling for someone who she has sworn to hate. Same for Mattias, but I honestly just loved how funny he was without trying to be. Wylan and his separation from his family, not by choice, and the fact that he has fallen in with the unlikeliest of people. Jesper and his MYRIAD of problems, none of which I'm sure he really deserved. It was interesting to see how the character's personal problems affected the problem of the heist as a whole.

I loved how the action was interwoven with aspects of the characters pasts, and we didn't really get the full picture on anyone until we were in the ice court, and they had all learned to trust and support one another. I don't even think I can get into talking through all the events that happen in this book, because this review is already so long and I don't want to go on a rambly summary with my comments dispersed through, but I thought the pacing was incredible and all the major plot points flowed really well. Bardugo's prose reads like a poem most of the time, which made an enormous and intimidating book something easy to read, pages flying by. I loved Ketterdam, with its gambling halls and bustling streets, and I thought it was so interesting to get a look at Fjerda, which we only hear about in passing in the other trilogy. 

I love what Bardugo has done to expand and enrich the world that we had already come to love in the Grisha trilogy. It is a diverse world, and the more books we get that are set in it, the more aspects of all these different cultures we get to see, and I just ate them right up. I'm so deliriously happy that there is going to be a second book, y'all have no idea. I loved the little mentions of the characters from the Grisha trilogy, like Zoya and Genya and even Sankta Alina, and I can't wait to see if there are more appearances by old favorites in the next book. This is for sure one of my favorite books of the year, and one of my favorite and, in my opinion, one of the most different and original fantasies that is out there right now.

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