Six of Crows (2015) – Leigh Bardugo

I came across this title on a list of fantasy novels that are must reads, and though I hadn’t read the other books set in the same universe, the Shadow and Bone series, that help compose what has become known as the Grishaverse, I figured I would dig in and see what it was all about.

Bardugo, who also wrote the highly entertaining Ninth House, delivers an epic heist story wrapped in the trappings of her fantasy realm that she has created with her novels. We join a collection of criminal outcasts, part of a gang known as the Dregs, led by Kaz Brekker, who are commissioned to pull off a daring heist.

It seems a drug, jurda parem, has been developed from an orange flowering plant that enhances the abilities of people known as Grisha, who have powers over some of the elements. It’s also incredibly addictive, and anyone who controls the plant and its drugs, can control the Grisha and turn them into a dangerous weapon.

The scientist who knows the formula is being held captive in the Ice Court, an impenetrable fortress but with the right crew, and the right motivation (money), Kaz may be able to pull it off. His team is all composed of late teens, much like himself (it is classified as a young adult novel after all), including Inej, a silent hunter, Nina a beautiful heartrender, Jesper, a shootist, Wylan, a demolition expert, of sorts, and Matthias, a former resident of the Ice Court who has been branded a slaver.

Through the engaging, epic page-turner, we learn the histories of these characters, the moments that defined them, what brings them close to one another, and what conflict exists between them. It’s a rapid fire story that doesn’t let up to the last few pages, which delivers a cliffhanger that will send us right into the sequel, Crooked Kingdom.

There’s a sense of life to these characters, they way they interact, banter, and the feelings that they share with the readers. And all of it is placed in this world, not so unlike our own, there are just some fantastical trappings to it, and it totally wraps one up.

The further I got into it, the less I could put it down, until I read the last third in one extended reading, late into the night. I had to know what happened. I delighted in the rendering of each and every character, and the wonderful diversity that is included in the world. But, just as importantly, I loved how engaging the story and the world that Bardugo created was. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the Grishaverse holds for me. And then I’ll be ready for the Netfilx adaptation!

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