Six Of Crows, Leigh Bardugo’s latest Grisha-focused novel, is not one that requires much knowledge of the previous books, though a little may help. It is at its core a heist tale, and in that sense it’s a great story.
The typical motley crew of magic-users, thieves, canny individuals and experts each have their own valued skill to bring to the ultimate goal of breaking into a never-before-breached military stronghold. It’s a little formulaic, and offers little to no surprises, but this blend of character ability works well.
However, within the grimy, gritty world that Bardugo has constructed, it makes sense for her characters to be hardened and wise beyond their years, but this band of youths just doesn’t feel particularly realistic.
That’s not to say they’re not engaging, and they certainly do let their emotions take over the situation, but there’s something in the way that they interact with each other that seems stilted.
Their character flaws only seem to remain as long as the story needs them to, conveniently softening only in times it would drive the plot forward. There are touching moments, but they feel rushed, while conversations between two characters form too much of the story.
Still, there are some excellent settings here – the city of Ketterdam is particularly well-realised, with an extensive and believably murky history. There’s plenty of action too, and it’s gripping and tense, but each exciting set piece is slowed down with conversations that seem more concerned with conveying the back story of the characters involved than with driving forward the plot neatly and realistically.
Ultimately, if you like your band of anti-heroes chatty and full of angst, then you can throw another point on the score, but for a world so well-formed and with the heist story told well, we’re hoping that Bardugo’s next instalment will provide a similarly high level of character development.