Six of Crows
First Edition Cover
|Series||Six of Crows duology|
|Genre||Fantasy, Young Adult|
|Published||2015 Henry Holt and Co.|
|Followed by||Crooked Kingdom|
Six of Crows is a fantasy novel written by Leigh Bardugo. Six of Crows takes place in the Amsterdam-inspired city of Ketterdam. The new series takes place in the same world as the Grisha books but is set in a different location and time frame. Six of Crows is set in a world loosely inspired by the Dutch Republic of the 17th century, and based on a magical system. The plot is told from the close third-person viewpoints of six different characters, plus a first and last chapter from the point of view of two minor characters.
17 year old Kaz Brekker, an infamous thief known throughout the streets of Ketterdam as "Dirtyhands", is promised a very large sum of money to rescue Bo Yul-Bayur, a Shu scientist, from the Ice Court in Fjerda. Bo Yul-Bayur has discovered jurda parem, a lethally addictive drug that greatly enhances the powers of the Grisha, people with magical abilities. However, the Ice Court is the most highly protected place in all of Fjerda, and Kaz can't infiltrate it by himself; he needs a crew. He recruits several members of his street gang, the Dregs. Inej Ghafa is a nimble and stealthy Suli spy whom Kaz rescued from the Menagerie, a brothel. Jesper Fahey is a sharpshooter with a penchant for gambling. Nina Zenik is a Heartrender from the Ravkan Second Army with the ability to control the bodies of others. Matthias Helvar is a former Fjerdan drüskelle thrown into Kerch jail after being framed by Nina. Wylan Van Eck is a merchant's son with some skill at demolition. The task isn't easy, so in order to win, they'll need to work together and trust in each other.
In Ketterdam, the capital of the island nation of Kerch, Councilman Hoede tests a drug called jurda parem, lethal to humans and addictive to Grisha, on Anya, a Grisha Healer indentured to his house. The drug enhances Anya's abilities well over expected, allowing her to control and manipulate human mind as easily as any other muscle (which an ordinary Healer isn't capable of doing); therefore the security measures taken by Hoede to prevent disasters prove insufficient and Anya escapes after paralyzing Hoede and the city guards employed as security, but is eventually found dead in the harbor a few days later.
A week after the incident at Councilman Hoede's house, Jan Van Eck, a wealthy merchant, approaches Kaz Brekker, a 17-year-old criminal prodigy and second-in-command of the Dregs (a gang of the Barrel, the most infamous part of Ketterdam), with an impossible task. Van Eck shows Kaz the effects of Hoede's experiment on Anya (the conscious, but mindless city guards), proving what Grisha exposed to jurda parem can do. While the drug enhances the powers of a Grisha, it is highly addictive and the craving has a major debilitating effect on them (which is the reason Anya tried to come back into Ketterdam for a second dose instead of escaping the city). He informs Kaz that the inventor of the drug, Bo Yul-Bayur, is being held in the Ice Court, a military stronghold that has never been breached before situated in the Fjerdan capital Djerholm. Van Eck needs Kaz to rescue the scientist and prevent the secret of jurda parem from getting out into the world, lest it unstabilize the economy. Kaz agrees for the price of thirty million kruge and starts recruiting a crew. First he enlists the help of Inej Ghafa, widely known as the Wraith, his right-hand and spy whom he had saved from a pleasure house called the Menagerie two years before. Next, Kaz seeks out Nina Zenik, a Grisha Heartrender, who agrees when she learns that Kaz also plans to free Matthias Helvar, a former Fjerdan drüskelle (Grisha-hunter) who is currently serving a sentence at Hellgate Prison, for the job. The reason Matthias is detained in Hellgate is Nina's false testimony, and since she first arrived in Ketterdam a year prior she's been trying to make him evade. Along with Inej and Nina, Kaz also brings in Jesper Fahey, a Zemeni sharpshooter with a gambling problem. Together, they manage to break Matthias out of Hellgate. Despite his initial protests, Matthias agrees to help in exchange for a pardon that would enable him to be a drüskelle again. Kaz also recruits Wylan Van Eck, the runaway son of Jan Van Eck, as a demolitions expert but also as the crew's leverage against the latter.
As they are about to sail from Ketterdam, the crew is ambushed by rival gangs. They manage to all get safely aboard their ship except for Inej, who is gravely wounded in the skirmish. Kaz rescues her, and upon torturing the man who stabbed her (Oomen), they learn that Pekka Rollins, leader of the Dime Lions (another Barrel gang), is after the scientist as well. Kaz holds a deep grudge against Pekka for running a con on Kaz and his older brother, Jordie, when they were young and new to the city, eventually leading to Jordie's death and setting Kaz on a dark path. Under Nina's care, Inej recovers during the voyage.
On the boat, Kaz elaborates the last details of their plan. The plan intends for them to enter the Ice Court as prisoners, then cross to the embassy sector through the roof (as the Ice Court is divided in two rings separated by a moat, and the three sectors of the outer ring, embassy, prison and drüskelle facilities, aren't connected in any other way for security matters), and from there "borrow" some clothes that will make them look like foreign dignitaries (they are taking advantage of a Fjerdan festival, Hringkälla, which will warrant the presence of guests from many other nations), and after finding and freeing Yul-Bayur from the White island (the inner ring), they will exit from the embassy sector.
Upon reaching Fjerda, two Grisha on jurda parem bearing the Coin of Passage (a symbol of the Shu government) attack the crew. While they emerge victorious, Nina is shocked to discover that one of the Grisha is an old friend, a boy who served with her in the Second Army in Ravka. However, the Grisha doesn't even recognize her, only begging for more of the drug before succumbing to his wounds. Troubled by the Grisha's deaths and believing they would have survived were they not drastically weakened by the drug, Nina stays behind to bury them. Matthias helps her, giving them time to finally talk about her betrayal. Nina is a Grisha soldier of the Ravkan Second Army who was captured by Matthias and his party, all Fjerdan drüskelle trained to hunt Grisha whom they believe to be unnatural monsters, while on a mission to the Wandering Isle to find and rescue other Grisha. Along with other captured Grisha, Nina was put on a ship bound for Fjerda for her trial and eventual execution. The ship sank during a storm, and only Matthias and Nina survived. Nina was able to free herself of her bonds because of a cup Matthias had earlier given her to drink water from (which is the reason she then saved him when the storm struck). They reached the shore together and helped each other survive until they found their way back to civilization, falling in love along the way. However, when they reached a city (where they were planning to find passage to another state and start a new life together), Nina was recognized by Grisha spies who questioned her about Matthias (having recognized him as a drüskelle). Nina led them to believe she was undercover on a mission and would hand Matthias over to them the next day, truly intending to gain time in order to be able to leave with him. However, they were spotted once more as Matthias tried to book passage for them in the harbor, and to save him, Nina approached a Kerch trader and accused Matthias of being a slave trader, securing safe passage to Kerch but not knowing that Matthias would be thrown in Hellgate as soon as they docked. Instead of going back to Ravka, Nina stayed in Ketterdam to try and free Matthias. Matthias softens upon hearing her story and agrees to help Nina kill Bo Yul-Bayur, as they both agree that jurda parem is a threat to Grisha and Fjerdans alike.
The crew intercept a cart of prisoners being taken to the Ice Court and take the place of six of them. Kaz loses consciousness because of the cart being too crowded, and a part of his past is revealed. As a child, after he and his brother were conned by Pekka Rollins, the Lady's Plague swept through Ketterdam, killing many residents of the city including Jordie. Kaz caught the plague but was able to recover. However, he was mistakenly thought for dead and tossed in the Reaper's Barge with the bodies for burning. He was only able to survive by swimming to shore using the dead body of his brother as a buoy. The experience created an intense, lingering aversion to any sort of physical contact with human skin, prompting him to always wear gloves. He wakes up as they enter the Ice Court, discovering that the men Pekka Rollins sent ahead of them have been captured, their bodies mounted on pikes above the courtyard.
The crew are split up, as males and females are taken to different cells. After knocking the other prisoners out using a chloro gas, Jesper, who is revealed to be a Grisha Fabrikator, then fashions lock picks from the cell bars using his ability. Kaz unlocks the door, then proceeds to free Nina and Inej from the female section while Matthias and Jesper gather as much rope as they can find. Kaz, however, deviates from the plan and goes with Nina to search the other holding cells for Yul-Bayur, while according to the plan she was meant to go for Matthias. They split up, with Kaz pursuing his own agenda and finding Pekka Rollins in a cell. In the meantime, Nina is spotted by guards, who manage to raise the alarm before she can kill them. She hurries to the basement where the rest of the crew is gathered. By then, Inej has miraculously scaled a six-story incinerator shaft to the roof, securing an escape route for the rest of the crew. Kaz arrives last, and they all manage to get to the roof.
With the alarm triggered, their first plan is blown to bits and the crew come up with a new plan to get to the center of the Ice Court, where the scientist should be. Inej and Nina get in by taking the place of two Menagerie girls. However, only Nina gets through the guards; Inej is held back. Matthias and Kaz get in through a secret bridge known only to drüskelle. Jesper and Wylan move on to destroy the ringwall gate and trigger the Ice Court's Black Protocol alarm.
While trying to coax information from a Fjerdan official, Nina is shocked to see Jarl Brum, a notorious Fjerdan commander she had presumed to be dead but had apparently also survived the shipwreck that bound her and Matthias together. Nina takes a risk and allows Brum to show her around the prison cells that were especially constructed to detain Grisha. Brum, however, knows who she really is and locks her in a cell. Matthias, who appears to have betrayed her, shows up, but he turns against his old commander and frees Nina, making a sacred Fjerdan drüskelle vow to keep her safe until he dies. They start looking for Bo Yul-Bayur, but they find that the scientist is dead. His son, Kuwei Yul-Bo, is alive and is being forced to replicate his father's research. Matthias and Nina refuse to kill him as he is just a child (fifteen) and also a Grisha, an Inferni. They take the boy and leave, blowing up the lab as they go. They meet up with Kaz, and they all escape through a waterfall unearthed by Kaz upon destroying the sacred ash, the tree at the center of the White Island that is said to carry the voice of Djel (the Fjerdan god).
On the other hand, Jesper and Wylan succeed in destroying the gate and triggering the alarm, but are attacked by Shu Tidemakers. Jesper once again Fabrikates metal and ends up killing the Tidemakers. Meanwhile, Inej is spotted by the leader of the Menagerie, her old employer Heleen van Houden (Tante Heleen), who informs the guards of Inej's true identity. The guards march Inej back to prison through a glass corridor. Jesper and Wylan rescue her, and using the diamond Inej stole from Tante Heleen, they cut the glass and hijack a Fjerdan tank. Inej, Jesper, and Wylan use the tank to ram through the walls and escape, eventually rejoining the others who have survived the icy waters of the wellspring and emerged outside the Ice Court. They head toward the dock where they are supposed to rendezvous with their ship, but to their horror, they find a large Fjerdan party waiting for them, a Heartrender at the fore. Without any other choice, Nina takes jurda parem and subdues all of them. Jarl Brum and a team of drüskelle make an appearance, but before she can kill them, Matthias intervenes and begs her to let them live. Nina relents.
The crew safely reaches Ketterdam, with Nina already suffering from withdrawal. They leave her behind with Wylan, while the rest of the crew take Kuwei to Jan Van Eck. Van Eck, however, reveals that he only wanted the formula for jurda parem in order to profit from the fallout of its release to the world. He sinks the crew's ship despite Kaz's warning that Wylan is aboard. As it turns out, Van Eck deems his son unfit to inherit his business empire as Wylan is unable to read or write. Kaz, however, still has the upper hand, revealing that the boy Van Eck thinks is Kuwei Yul-Bo is actually Wylan, whom Nina has tailored to look exactly like the scientist's son. Furious, Van Eck kidnaps Inej with the help of Grisha under the influence of jurda parem and gives them seven days to bring him the real Kuwei. Unwilling to endanger Inej, Kaz lets the merchant go.
In the final scene, Kaz and his remaining crew go to Pekka Rollins. It is revealed that Kaz had set him free back at the Ice Court, and the man had somehow found his way back to Ketterdam. Kaz sells his shares in the Crow Club and the Fifth Harbour in order to raise the money he needs. Then he starts to hatch a new plan to get Inej—and the money they were promised—back.
- Kaz Brekker, seventeen, a master thief and lock pick with a reputation of doing anything for the right price. He is also known as Dirtyhands. He is described as having dark hair shaved on the sides and dark brown eyes, always wearing black leather gloves and uses a cane with a crow's head on it to walk. He is a lieutenant of the Dregs.
- Inej Ghafa, sixteen, a brown-skinned Suli acrobat who has a talent for sneaking around and knifework. She's described as being short, having "burn caramel" skin and black hair. She was kidnapped and forced to work in a brothel known as the "Menagerie" until Kaz bought her contract. She is also known as the Wraith.
- Wylan Van Eck, sixteen, a merchant's son with some talent for demolition, whom Kaz takes on as a hostage in hopes of using him as leverage against his father, Jan Van Eck. He is unable to read due to his dyslexia.
- Matthias Helvar, eighteen, a former drüskelle (witchhunter from Fjerda). He has a history with Nina, as the two of them helped each other after a storm destroyed their ship. They trusted each other, until Nina accused him of being a slaver, leading to his incarceration at a prison in Ketterdam notoriously known as Hellgate. He hates Nina for her betrayal and for his initial prejudice against Grisha, but he also loves her and starts to trust her again once he learns more about her background. Kaz frees Matthias from Hellgate because of his knowledge of the Ice Court as well as for his skills as a soldier.
- Nina Zenik, a powerful Heartrender who worked in a brothel named "The White Rose". She was a soldier of the Ravkan Second Army who was captured by Fjerdan drüskelle, leading to her first encounter with Matthias. She betrayed his trust to protect him from Grisha spies, choosing to stay in Ketterdam in the hope of finding a way to free him from prison. She was initially recruited by Pekka Rollins to join the Dime Lions, but after meeting Inej, who brought a counteroffer from Kaz, she decided to join the Dregs instead.
- Jesper Fahey, a dark-skinned Zemeni sharpshooter with a gambling problem. It is revealed he is a Fabrikator (Durast) as well later in the plot. His father believes that he is studying in a university at Ketterdam.
- Jan Van Eck, a rich and prominent merchant who sits on Ketterdam's Merchant Council. He makes a deal with Kaz Brekker to retrieve the creator of jurda parem from the Ice Court.
- Pekka Rollins, Kaz's ultimate adversary after he conned him and ruined his life. He is the rich owner of a successful casino in Ketterdam and is always up to no good in one way or the other.
According to The Guardian, the plot of the book is filled with action. It is fast paced with an urgency in the change of point of views and plot twists throughout the book. It is further added that although the book is structured to the typical format, it is rather unpredictable as it transcends towards the end.
NPR books criticized the characters, claiming that the characters do not have the mindset according to their described age. That is, the characters display the wisdom and traits of much older people.
According to The Times of India, different perspectives in the book each provide an in-depth view of the each character's traits and backgrounds. It further says, "Bardugo's language and her intelligent storytelling effectively makes The Six of Crows a white-knuckle page-turner."
In January 2019, Netflix green-lighted an eight-episode series based on Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy Book 1) and Six of Crows. Bardugo is also serving as an executive producer on this series. No release date has been set as of June 2019.
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- Petski, Nellie Andreeva,Denise; Andreeva, Nellie; Petski, Denise (2019-01-10). "Netflix Orders 'Shadow And Bone' Series Based On Leigh Bardugo's Grishaverse Novels From Eric Heisserer & Shawn Levy". Deadline. Retrieved 2019-06-26.