If you have followed this blog, then you know that I am not the biggest fan of YA literature, but I love a good one every once in a while. After reading some really heavy stuff (think ‘Beloved’ and a dense magical realism novel about Franco’s dictatorship in Spain), I realized I need something much lighter than that. So for that reason, I have decided to go back to Grishaverse and continue reading it. I have finished the ‘Shadow and Bone’ previously and while I did not have the highest rating for it, I expected a fun read. Given the reviews for ‘Six of Crows’, I also expected that the characters are a lot more compelling and interesting than in the preceding trilogy. With some flaws in the writing and especially in the romantic relationships, that seems to be exactly what I got here.
‘Six of Crows’ is placed in the same universe as ‘Shadow and Bone’ , but follows different characters and the setting. Even though the events to not directly continue onto the previous trilogy, it does throw you directly into the Grishaverse, especially in terms of how Grisha magic works, so I would definitely recommend reading this after ‘Shadow and Bone’ where the rules of the universe are explained in more detail. The main characters live in Ketterdam, a city that reminded me very much of Amsterdam, with the narrow streets and canals. In the novel, this is an international hub where the division between the rich and the poor is very obvious. Kaz, Jesper, Inej and Nina belong to one of the gangs that live and work on the streets of Ketterdam, while Wylan and Matthias join them later. The brunt of the novel is the offer for the seemingly impossible heist they receive from one of the merchants in exchange for life changing amount of money.
Each chapter belongs to a different character and while I did not feel like each of them has their own distinct voice and it still very much felt like an author writing about them, I did like this decision. This way, a lot of events is covered and a lot of background information about the characters is given to us. I also like that the focus in this novel was on the characters that are on the margins of their societies, for one reason or another. This moral ambiguity, their vices and the unresolved traumas that they carry with them made them feel that much more human to me. Some relationships between them worked better than others. For example, the friendship between Nina and Inej totally made sense, as they were two girls in the group who went through similar things, while Kaz’s feelings for Inej simply did not work for me. It felt like it was just written because YA tropes say that there has to be that kind of romance included. The fact that he rescued her from a brothel and that she still works for him and does his bidding makes the relationship so uneven in my eyes that I do not like it all. When it comes to the main enemies to lovers story between Nina and Matthias, at times it worked well, but at times it made me want to DNF the book, that’s how toxic it was. In addition to the main six characters, there are plenty others, but I will not go too much into them, as they are not that important.
I know that a lot of people love the way this novel and the whole Grishaverse is written, but it is just really not for me. A lot of times, the narrator will simply state the obvious under the guise of providing the internal world of the characters. Honestly, without all the repetition about the characters’ motivation and feelings, this book would have been at least a hundred pages shorter. For example, at one point Inej’s character becomes more about her feelings for Kaz than the effects of the fact she was an actual sex slave. If the author wanted to include such a horrific backstory like being sold to sex slavery, I wish that more focus and consideration was placed on what kind of trauma that would leave on her rather that pushing her to be in love with someone who has shown himself to be ruthless and cruel. Similar story lies with Nina as she too was kidnapped and enslaved only for her story to tie so closely with the man who did that to her. I think that the bond Nina and Matthias have could have been explored so much more and better rather than how it was presented here. I worry about so many people romanizing this relationship that should not have even happened had Matthias not been an actual nazi. I think that the fact they are all teenagers (except Matthias, which makes the whole relationship with Nina even worse) makes these decisions even more jarring.
This really messes up the pacing of the novel for me as well. The offer for the heist comes really soon into the novel to Kaz as he is the leader of the gang which sets the events into motion. This works quite well, as the characters and their relationship is introduced gradually and readers are given time to meet them before going to the next one. However, I really did not care for the way in which many of the details of the logistics were introduced. For example, the place they are supposed to infiltrate is notoriously complicated and it was explained in an info dump. Later on, it becomes obvious that knowing this place in detail is really important as the plans inevitably changed as they do, but for me it was so hard to imagine this place and how it works. Additionally, a lot of times, some of the characters (more often than not Kaz) will just pull an ace out of nowhere and still be the smartest person in the room. This would not be an issue per se, but a lot of times, this solution would come out of nowhere. I will allow some leeway as it is possible that I have missed some of the bread crumbs, but this aspect simply did not work for me. There are supposed to be these larger than life characters, but at times it felt like they had borderline superpowers.
One thing to note is Kaz’s disability. In the novel, he is frequently described as walking with a cane. Later on, we are informed that this is because he broke a leg while robbing a bank and that it never healed properly, causing him to have a limp and thus needing a cane. I did not think too much of it as I was reading it, but a commentator on goodreads mentioned that for her it seems like Kaz’s cane at times felt more like a prop than an actual aid, as often he is seeing walking, swimming and even fighting without a cane. There is obviously nothing wrong with the idea that disabled people are strong and capable, but I just wonder how successful this depiction of disabled character is. I am not disabled and do not use a walking aid, so if you are comfortable sharing, let me know what you think of it.
The ending was fine, as it was obvious that the author was setting up to write another book. I will probably read the next book as I am interested to see what kind of events will happen in it and how the characters continue to develop. At the end, I rate this 3/5 as it had good moment, excellent world building and the overall story is well done. However, there was far too many red flags and weird moments for me to score it any higher.