Audiobook Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Series: Book 1 of Six of Crows
Publisher: Audible Studios (9/29/15)
Mogsy’s Rating (Overall): 4 of 5 stars
Narrator: Jay Snyder, David Ledoux, Lauren Fortgang, Roger Clark, Elizabeth Evans, Tristan Morris, Brandon Rubin | Length: 15 hrs and 20 mins
Okay, I’m intrigued. Very intrigued. Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows may have fallen slightly short of my expectations, but it’s still great. And honestly, it was going up against a super high bar, considering the ridiculous number of good books I’ve read this year so far and the fact that I can be very finicky about my heist stories.
First though, let’s get something out of the way, since I’ve gotten asked this question a bunch of times: You don’t need to read or even be familiar with the Grisha trilogy before starting this book. It is set in the same world, but other than a few references to events and people from the other series, Six of Crows features an all new story and an all new cast of characters. Personally, that made me very happy. As much as I enjoyed the Grisha trilogy, it didn’t end as strongly as it started, and I was definitely ready for something fresh.
So here we find ourselves in the new setting of Ketterdam, a bustling trade city and home to a gang of thieves calling themselves the Dregs. Kaz “Dirty Hands” Brekker is their fearless leader and mastermind, willing to take on any job for the right price. When tasked by a powerful crime lord to rescue a scientist with a secret formula from the impenetrable walls of the Ice Court, Kaz goes forth and gathers his crew in preparation for the heist of a lifetime.
For better or worse, the heist itself actually takes a backseat to the amount of attention given to the members of the Dregs. This also means the plot is decidedly uncomplicated once you pare it all down, because the complexity is all in the characters. Probably a good thing too, when you have as many as six crew members to follow.
Kaz is the clever one, the one who makes the plans and takes care of the boys and girls in his crew. A child of the streets, Kaz’s background is one huge sob story, which lends sympathy to his thirst for revenge against the man he blames for his brother’s death. Reserved and coolheaded, Kaz also wears fancy-pants clothes and walks around with an ostentatiously well-fashioned cane due to a “childhood” injury to his leg (in quotes because right now he’s still all of what, 17?) Kaz is interesting, though whenever I think of him I picture a kid trying to play at being an adult, and unfortunately that whole persona tends to drive me crazy.
Then there’s Inej, also known as the Wraith. Her talents lie in being able to melt into the shadows. She has a pretty sad story too (okay, I’m just going to say right now, ALL of them have pretty sad stories. Seems like that’s Bardugo’s go-to approach for every single one of her characters) but out of everyone, Inej was my favorite.
Jesper is the sharpshooter, and he’s also the joker of the group. I don’t think he got near enough the attention he deserved, which is a shame because I really liked him. There was also this great dynamic between him and Wylan, the Dreg’s “outsider” who nonetheless found his way to a special place in my heart. Seriously, the two most interesting members of the crew with the best banter got shafted here, because the story decided instead to shine all the attention on…
Nina and Matthias. The Grisha and the Witch Hunter. Nina brings the magic and Matthias brings the insider knowledge of the Ice Court and its security systems. Together they bring enough YA clichés to fill an ocean. Normally, I am all for forbidden love and a romance between characters who start off hating each other’s guts, but these two were downright insufferable. Just shut up and make with the kissy-face already. Plus, Matthias was distractingly perfect. And Nina was distractingly awkward whenever she attempted her sexy act. Every time they interacted, I had to fight the urge to cringe because it all just felt so damn scripted.
Personally, I would have been happier with less drama, more action (more heist!) The story was also a little slow to take off, with a long and drawn out intro. Most heist stories typically use this time to focus on the planning and preparation, but Bardugo has opted for a different strategy, giving us background information on the characters in the form of flashbacks and memories instead. I really enjoyed some of these flashbacks (Inej and Kaz had great backstories) while others felt more like a distraction (Nina and Matthias), which makes me think your mileage may vary depending on how you feel about the various members of the Dregs. This is very much a character-focused story, which is great, but when you have such a big cast, I will invariably connect with some more than others.
And speaking of a big cast, the audiobook is also a fantastic format to enjoy Six of Crows. I simply adore huge productions that involve multiple narrators because each perspective character gets to have their own unique “voice”. Six of Crows features a whopping seven narrators, many of whom are big names in the world of YA audiobooks. Several of them I’ve had the pleasure of listening to their work in the past, like Elizabeth Evans (she’s great on the Throne of Glass series), Lauren Fortgang (from the Grisha trilogy audiobooks), David LeDoux (who narrated Sam’s chapters in Maggie Stiefvater’s Shiver) and Jay Snyder (from Peter Clines’ Ex-Heroes). Everyone delivered fantastic performances, including the narrators who were new to me.
Bottom line, this is a great start to a series with some serious potential. It wasn’t exactly the type of heist story I expected, though it just as well Leigh Bardugo made it all about her characters because characters are what makes a good book. Even though I despised the corny romance, there are some wonderfully unique and memorable personalities here, and I’d like to see more of some of them in the next installment.