Fantasy and heist novel combined? Yes. The roughest face of the harbor district is entrusted with an action spanning countries. The target is a scientist whose invention exponentially amplifies the power of magic users but quickly fries them in return. Well, that doesn’t sound too good.
The first part of Six of Crows is about assembling the team. It’s cool. The characters are unique and memorable, hello Kaz, Nina, and the Wraith! The setting, the slums of Ketterdam, bears an uncanny resemblance to a slightly twisted version of a possibly still-existing Dutch city from the past (maybe Limburg or Utrecht, right now, I can’t really tell all of a sudden). What’s a bit strange, though, is that all the main characters are teens. To cater to the similarly aged target audience? Probably. Or maybe I just hadn’t realized until now that I’m reading young adult fantasy. (Quite possible.) The plan doesn’t work, though, because the human mind, this wonderful contraption, constantly corrects itself, and the characters’ age is automatically adjusted to over 20 in thought. Because it’s unimaginable that 15-17-year-olds are so proficient in so many areas.
The second half is the action itself. Our small team, consisting of ten or twenty-year-olds, infiltrates the Ice Court, THE MOST HEAVILY GUARDED FACILITY IN THE WORLD, and starts wreaking havoc. They roam around based on a rough plan sketched out about a thousand kilometers away and, with the help of the TOOLS FOUND ON THE SPOT, the team’s MacGyvers get to work. Whoever comes their way, they take down. Luckily, there”s hardly any guard IN THE MOST HEAVILY GUARDED FACILITY IN THE WORLD. If a few do happen to stroll around that area, they’re all idiots. And here, the book truly descends into young adult fantasy. Unbelievable and stupid twists alternate, and you just look and think, what the heck is this. Based on the first two chapters of Six of Crows, this story should be at least a masterfully crafted, twist-filled heist with, for example, something like the Casa de Papel TV series.
What somewhat saves this part are the interjected flashbacks depicting the deep, tragic (and silly misunderstandings-filled) backstories of some characters. These create a noticeable contrast with the clumsy chasing in the Ice Court and the lousy closing chapters. It’s as if Leigh Bardugo dreamed up this epic story, then wrote and wrote enthusiastically, and then halfway through, oopsie, got tired of of all the fuss and said, ‘eh, I don’t give a frak,’ and from then on just tried to get through her own book as quickly as possible.
Despite its flaws, Six of Crows still outshines most of the young adult genre. The first half is genuinely high-quality writing, and it doesn’t feature the continuous stupid whining that usually inundates similar works. But still, it’s quite a shame.
Oh, and it has a DOUBLE romantic plot for romance enthusiasts. Mostly, in a young adult way, it consists of yearning.
Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1) by Leigh Bardugo
465 pages, Hardcover
Published in 2015 by Henry Holt & Company