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 five different characters, plus a first and last chapter from the point of view of two minor characters.
The book is the first in a duology, followed by Crooked Kingdom. Both books are set in the same world and universe as Bardugo's previous "Grishaverse" trilogy, which includes Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising. Reading both series will provide a deeper understanding of the Grisha world. Bardugo has since also written The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic which features several short stories from the Grishaverse, and King of Scars, a spin-off from the "Shadow and Bone" trilogy.
Kaz Brekker, a 17-year-old criminal prodigy 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 a group of criminals and misfits who each bring a different skillset to the heist. 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 Grisha Heartrender from the Ravkan Second Army with the ability to control the bodies of others. Matthias Helvar is a former Fjerdan drüskelle - a Grisha hunter - who was thrown into a heavily protected Kerch jail after being framed by Nina. Wylan Van Eck is a rich merchant's son with a skill for bomb-making. The task isn't easy, so in order to win, they'll need to work together and put 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 minds 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 set things right. 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, also known as Dirtyhands, seventeen, a master thief and lock pick with a reputation of doing anything for the right price. He has a personal vendetta against Pekka Rollins, as Rollins swindled a younger Kaz and his late older brother Jordie out of all of their money when they first arrived in Ketterdam. He is a lieutenant of the Dregs, and is considered the de facto leader of the Crows. He is severely touch-phobic, due to a traumatizing incident in his childhood. 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.
- Inej Ghafa, sixteen, a Suli acrobat known as the Wraith. She is a spy for the Dregs, and is considered the best in Ketterdam. Due to her background as an acrobat, she is extremely agile and lightfooted. She is rather religious and superstitious, and with perhaps the exception of Matthias, is the most religious out of the Crows. She has an aptitude for knives, always carrying around her six favourites (named after Ravkan saints). She was kidnapped and forced to work in a brothel known as the "Menagerie" until Kaz bought her contract. Since then, she has proven invaluable to Kaz and the Dregs. She's described as being short, having "burnt caramel" skin and black hair.
- Wylan Van Eck, sixteen, a merchant's son with some talent for demolition, whom Kaz takes on as a member of the crew in the hopes of using him as leverage against his father, Jan Van Eck. He is unable to read due to his dyslexia. He is described to have curly red-blonde hair and pale skin.
- Matthias Helvar, eighteen, a former drüskelle (witchhunter) from Fjerda. As a child, his entire family, along with most of their village, was killed by Grisha Inferni. He was recruited by Commander Brum shortly thereafter. He has a history with Nina, as the two of them helped each other after a storm destroyed a ship they were both aboard. They trusted each other, until Nina accused him of being a slaver (unbeknownst to Matthias, this was to protect him from Grisha spies). This led to his incarceration at an infamous prison in Ketterdam known as Hellgate. He hates Nina for her betrayal and 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, seventeen, 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. At "The White Rose", she specializes in altering her client's moods; she reportedly has a "lucrative side business" as a Grisha tailor as well, but she does not have much of an aptitude for the field.
- Jesper Fahey, seventeen, a dark-skinned Zemeni sharpshooter with a gambling problem. He is described as being tall and lanky, with an intense facial bone structure. 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. Uses the alias Jakob Hertzoon to con Kaz Brekker.
Prior to its publication, The Hollywood Reporter described the duology:
"The project, described as a blend of Ocean's 11 and Game of Thrones, is set in Kerch, a small island nation in the "Grishaverse" (meaning the same universe as her Shadow and Bone books) with tremendous economic power, the hub of all international trade and a country rich in art and culture, but also home to a teeming criminal underworld. A crew of dangerous misfits face impossible odds when they are pulled together to break into one of the most guarded places in the world."
The New York Times recommends Six of Crows in the YA Crossover shortlist: "There’s conflict between morality and amorality and an appetite for sometimes grimace-inducing violence that recalls the “Game of Thrones” series. But for every bloody exchange there are pages of crackling dialogue and sumptuous description. Bardugo dives deep into this world, with full color and sound. If you’re not careful, it’ll steal all your time." It was also included in "Seven Great Fantasy Novels for Teenagers".
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.
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 greenlit an eight-episode series based on Shadow and Bone (The Grisha Trilogy Book 1) and Six of Crows with Eric Heisserer as showrunner. Bardugo is also serving as an executive producer on this series. Production began in October 2019 with Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker, Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa, Kit Young as Jesper Fahey, Danielle Galligan as Nina Zenik, and Calahan Skogman as Matthias Helvar. The first season will serve as Book 1 of Shadow and Bone and a prequel to Six of Crows.
- Wappler, Margaret (October 23, 2015). "Y.A. Crossover". The New York Times. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
- Press, Daily (January 25, 2016). "Criminals attempt intricate heist in 'Six of Crows' - HRBooks review". dailypress.com. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
- "'Six of Crows' continues Leigh Bardugo's streak of smart fantasy novels". Washington Post. November 16, 2015. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
- "Leigh Bardugo Talks Six of Crows, Heist Movies and Skinny Dipping". The Huffington Post. September 29, 2015. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
- Bardugo, Leigh (September 24, 2015). "Leigh Bardugo reads from Six of Crows". the Guardian. Retrieved February 17, 2016.
- "Shadow and Bone Author Gets Two-Book Deal With Henry Holt & Co". The Hollywood Reporter. May 22, 2014. Retrieved April 1, 2015.
- Wappler, Margaret (October 23, 2015). "Y.A. Crossover (Published 2015)". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 13, 2020.
- Russo, Maria (January 6, 2020). "7 Great Fantasy Novels for Teenagers". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved October 13, 2020.
- Nava4 (January 21, 2016). "Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – review". the Guardian. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
- "'Six Of Crows' Is A Well-Turned Heist Tale". NPR.org. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
- SIX OF CROWS | Kirkus Reviews.
- "Micro review: 'Six of Crows' moves beyond genres - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved June 6, 2018.
- Petski, Nellie Andreeva, Denise; Andreeva, Nellie; Petski, Denise (January 10, 2019). "Netflix Orders 'Shadow And Bone' Series Based On Leigh Bardugo's Grishaverse Novels From Eric Heisserer & Shawn Levy". Deadline. Retrieved June 26, 2019.
- Harris, Latesha (October 2, 2019). "TV News Roundup: Netflix Reveals Cast of New Series 'Shadow and Bone'". Variety. Retrieved October 2, 2019.