Me: I'm not one for causing myself unnecessary pain
Also me: won't stop re-reading this fucking book
How have I never written a review for this book? How can I write a review for this book? If you ask me what my favourite book is, odds are I'm going to say this one. I love everything about it. The setting, the characters, the plot, everything. It's changed how I think about my body. It's changed how I think about what I want in life. It was my gateway drug into my love of fantasy crime stories (Locke Lamora, Jade City). It means so much to me. And it's also a super fun thrill ride of a book.
The best part of Six of Crows is the characters. They're vivid and unique and flawed and badass. They jump off the page at you and, very quickly after you've started the book, you get the sense that you know them in a way many other books fail at.
Let's start by talking about Kaz Brekker. I love Kaz Brekker. Leigh Bardugo just writes him so perfectly. He's ruthless and cruel and self-interested, with a few redeeming characteristics, but only a few. This is not his redemption story and god forbid it ever be. There are so many great moments with Kaz that have me screaming. (THE EYE AND THE OYSTER KNIFE! THE EYE AND THE OYSTER KNIFE!)
Next, let me give the spotlight to Nina. Curvy, bold, confident Nina. A bit of background: I'm on the curvy side, and, while I'm not plus-sized, it's weird how easy it is to feel that I'm abnormal even though most women aren't a size four or anything. That I'm undesirable. So reading about Nina -- flirty, brash, beautiful, curvy Nina -- meant the world to me. Not only is she a canonically curvy (!!!) character, she's also just a great character on her own. She's the sort of girl that scandalizes grandmothers and buttoned-up Nordic witch hunters (her dynamic with Matthias is *chef's kiss*) and that's never presented as something bad or wrong. Instead it's something to admire and aspire to. In an age when slut-shaming is still very much a thing, Nina is a breath of fresh, proudly promiscuous air. I love her so much.
The other characters are just as good -- Jesper and Inej and Matthias and Wylan (don't worry, I have plenty to say about them, I'm just saving it for my Crooked Kingdom review). Inej and Kaz have me screaming whenever they're together. Matthias is hilarious in his primness (see you're all awful and my ghost won't associate with your ghost and all his interactions with Nina are amazing. At some point in the past I read somebody say that one amazing thing about this book is how Leigh Bardugo manages to generate more heat in a look or a phrase than some books do with an entire sex scene and that is so true. There are so many little moments between Nina and Matthias (and Kaz and Inej, and Jesper and Wylan, but most notably these two) that have me swooning. (What did you do to me in your dreams? Everything. The entire flashback to the two of them in Fjerda.) I'll just be over here, wailing.
The setting is also so good. I'm always shocked whenever I re-read Six of Crows how little time is spent in Ketterdam because, even before Crooked Kingdom came out, I felt like I knew Ketterdam so thoroughly. Ketterdam feels like a real place that Leigh Bardugo has visited, lived in. Six of Crows is frequently described as being set in an "Amsterdam-inspired" city, but it's so much more than that. The aesthetic is very Amsterdam, but there's also so much that reminds me of Victorian London, New York, and, of all places, Manila. The Kerch literally worshipping profit feels very American and Republican to me. And the other settings are just as vivid. The Fjerdan north was vivid and cold, and Djerholm was memorable. (Also, I know Fjerda is supposed to be Northern Europe, but the descriptions of Djerholm and its colourful buildings made me think of Saint John's, Newfoundland. Seriously, google it.)
And, of course, the plot is stellar. It's complex, perfectly tuned machinery, everything falling into place so well, page turning and surprising but completely inevitable. Are heists your thing? Read Six of Crows. Please. Leigh Bardugo nails the heist story here. There are twists, there are turns, there are plans falling apart and new plans being cobbled together at the last minute and everything pays off. Yes, this may be a long book, but it's actually quite lean in a way. Everything is in the story for a reason, and there is nothing more satisfying than seeing all of it pay off.
Six of Crows is a rare, rare book. It's surprising, it's entertaining, it's intelligent and vivid and so good. The characters! The plot! The setting! Everything works perfectly together while still leaving you begging for more. (That ending!) It's lightning-in-a-bottle good and I honestly believe there's something in here for everyone. (I'm so excited and afraid for the Netflix series.)