I have been putting this book off since it came out. I’m a big fan of all the tropes in it – found family, street gangs, heists – but something just wasn’t speaking to me. Perhaps the fact that I DNFed the Grisha series mid-way through the second book? Still, I finally made myself sit down with Six of Crows this week, and was ultimately… kind of underwhelmed.
Book: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Read before: First chapter only.
Oh man, am I going to be eviscerated for not loving this one. It’s not bad, per se, but I think that Leigh Bardugo and I just don’t see eye to eye on what makes an engaging read.
I would have quite happily started this whole book at the start of Part 2 (over 100 pages in). This would have nicely thrown us in in medias res, with the characters all ready to go, and some connections and backstory for the reader to work out. With broken characters, they are interesting because of the way their traumas and hang-ups influence their actions on the page – taking long flashbacks specifically to the moment each character broke is something that can kill all suspense. It’s also deeply boring to see this before you love a character, and actually ended up being pretty formulaic – “oh, it’s time for X’s exposition”. It’s weakly written and poorly paced, and ultimately, I didn’t care.
It felt like I was looking at a plotting board full of post-its, with Bardugo matching up each character to a Significant Backstory Moment. That lack of finesse in character writing is a real shame, because as I say, on paper, this ticks all my boxes. I love powerful sneaky girls who escape brothels; I love mysterious charming gentlemen rogues; I even enjoy an enemies to lovers romance. But ultimately, I felt like I was watching a bunch of sketches go about their business, not a bunch of people.
I quite liked Kaz Brekker, but as surprisingly young gang leaders go, he’s no Locke Lamora. He barely seems to have the loyalty of his crew, and not in a way that makes you wonder “how will he get through this?”, more in way that made me think “why on earth are any of these people still here?”. I did like that he was a great example of a disabled character who turns everything to his advantage, with his scary cane and the mythos around why he always wore gloves. This is a fantastic study in rumours and gossip, and how to turn them to your advantage.
Plot-wise, as I’ve mentioned, NOTHING HAPPENS for a good half of the book. It’s set-up, backstory, and some more set-up. I was itching to get to the heist! Then, when we finally got there, it took so long. Characters split up, and it was impossible to keep track of who was where, when, and why. This took soooo long to resolve that all my anticipation and excitement just dried up. Also, why, for the love of plot, was each character able to solve a personal vendetta in the middle of the heist? You’ve just explained why this is a super-scary high-security fortress in the middle of nowhere. You had to take a 3-week ship journey to get here. Why are your own personal villains randomly here? Kaz, Inej, Matthias and Nina all get to face off with the one person they need to. That’s just lazy.
I will read Crooked Kingdom, as I’m interested to see if more time with the characters will flesh them out a bit. I didn’t hate this. It isn’t bad. But it’s not great, and I really wanted it to be.
Can I recommend The Lies of Locke Lamora if you like con men, street gangs, heists and actually good broken characters?
A faint-praise 3 cats.