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Book review: Bardugo's 'Six of Crows' combines a heist with a fantasy adventure


September 28, 2015

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"SIX OF CROWS," by Leigh Bardugo, Holt Books for Young Readers, $18.99, 480 pages (f) (ages 14 and up)

On the Kerch island, Ketterdam is a city teeming with traders, tourists and those looking for profit off of both in “Six of Crows,” which will be released on Sept. 29.

For teenage thief Kaz Brekker, known as Dirtyhands and the rising leader of the Dregs gang, he has his reasons for every move, business or otherwise, spun in the information he acquires and uses.

He gets an unusual offer by one of the city’s council members. Jurda is a common stimulant, but jurda parem, which is made from the same flower, has a different impact, as it causes Grisha, who are born with magical talents, to exponentially increase their powers, but at the price of a much-shortened life.

When Kaz is offered 30 million kruge to deliver the maker of jurda parem, which includes breaking into an impenetrable fortress called the Ice Court in the cold northern country of Fjerda, he accepts and begins scheming.

From his own gang, which runs the Crow Club, he invites Inej, known as the Wraith for her ability to silently move and defy gravity; Jesper, a sharpshooter who needs his share to pay his gambling debts; and Nina Zenick, a Grisha Heartrender who has been surviving in the city thanks in part to her magic.

Matthias Helvar, a Fjerdan druskelle or Grisha hunter, who they break out of prison, has his freedom within reach if he helps them. And Wylan Van Eck, son of a wealthy family, is a runaway with a penchant for explosives and mechanical things.

Each is a teenager who has his or her reasons for joining the heist, and each has flaws. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character, adding their insights and observations to the situation and many times a flashback to their past.

However, no one is a reliable narrator as author Leigh Bardugo weaves an intricate, engaging and engrossing story that includes more than a prison break as relationships, characters and the plot are unfolded one layer at a time.

Bardugo, who calls Hollywood home, returns to the same world as her Grisha trilogy, and many years have passed since it concluded. There are familiar names and events from the trilogy that come up. However, readers don’t necessarily need to be familiar with the trilogy to enjoy “Six of Crows.”

There is some mild swearing scattered throughout the books, and described relationships don’t go beyond kissing. As it is a heist novel, there is generally described violence, including shootings, fights, explosions and other deaths, as the six teenagers work together to make it back with their prize.

A sequel is planned and is scheduled to be released next fall.

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