I don’t read much YA fiction. I have nothing against it, but all the books that are recommended to me seem to either be dystopian, a genre I have little interest in, or have characters I either can’t stand (Robin LeFever’s His Grave Mercy) or just don’t care about (Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones). So I generally gravitate away from YA fiction. Yes, I loved Harry Potter, and yes, I read The Hunger Games, but that’s largely the extent of it.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I downloaded Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows from the library, read through the whole thing in a few days and discovered that the rest of Bardugo’s words were listed as YA.
I suppose the fact that the characters- teenagers all- were exceedingly mature and had done so many things in their short lives should have been a dead giveaway. After all, in most fantasy novels I read, the characters are in their twenties and thirties, and so have had years to build a life and a reputation. But then, there are works for adults where the main characters are teenagers, so I went with it.
The story follows a seventeen year old boy named Kaz Brekker, a notorious criminal, who is hired to pull of an impossible heist. To accomplish this task, he hires a group of ethnically diverse misfits with conflicting pasts and strange talents who can barely work together on a good day. Each member of the group has his/her particular skill and a role to play in the heist, assuming they don’t kill each other first.
It’s an interesting story, if nothing new. How many heist stories are out there, after all? If the characters weren’t as interesting as they were, I doubt I would have stuck with it. But they are a fascinating group of teens, and so the trope of the impossible heist and the leader who can anticipate all problems can be overlooked.
What aggravated me the most about this book was the number of flashbacks. The characters all have some sort of darkness in their pasts, and the backstories of four of the six characters are told through flashbacks. Far too many flashbacks. I understand that, say, Nina’s or Matthias’s actions are driven by that backstory and that it’s necessary to know what happened in their pasts to understand why they do what they do. But having the plot be constantly interrupted by relentless backstory got old very quickly. In some cases, the backstory could have been wound into the plotline itself. In others, it wasn’t necessary at all. We don’t always need to know every horrific detail of a character’s past to understand what drives them. Mystery is often what makes a dark character like Kaz Brekker more fascinating, not the revelation of the past.
Still, I enjoyed this book. Excepting the flashbacks, the plot cracks forward, the characters are intriguing and snarky in the best ways. Their conflicts don’t feel contrived, and their relationships are compelling without having to resort to irritating love triangles or other such devices. And without giving anything away, the end of Six of Crows perfectly sets up the next book, The Crooked Kingdom. I am definitely looking forward to its release this coming September.