In Ketterdam, a lively center of international trade, there is nothing that cannot be bought and no one knows it better than Kaz Brekker, who grew up in the dark and damned alleys of Barile, the most infamous area of the city, a receptacle of dirt, vices and violence. Kaz, also known as Manisporche, is a ruthless, liar and without an ounce of conscience who moves with ease among clandestine gambling dens, illicit trafficking and brothels, wearing the inevitable black leather gloves and a stick decorated with a raven’s head. One that, despite his young age, everyone has learned to fear and respect.
One day Brekker is approached by one of the richest and most powerful merchants in the city and is offered an exorbitant reward as long as he manages to free the scientist Bo Yul-Bayur from the legendary Court of Ice, a fortress considered by all to be impregnable. An impossible mission that Kaz is unable to tackle alone. Hired the five adventure companions – an inmate with a thirst for revenge, a sharpshooter with a gambling habit, a runaway with a privileged past, a spy that everyone calls the “Ghost”, a girl with magical powers -, thieves and criminals with out-of-the-ordinary skills and so desperate as not to hold back even in the face of the concrete possibility of never returning home, Kaz is ready to attempt the ambitious as well as risky blow. To succeed, however, he and his teammates will have to learn to work as a team and to trust each other, because their potential can lead them to accomplish great things, but also cause great damage …
The first novel of the duology that has consecrated Leigh Bardugo as one of the most talented and authoritative voices in fantasy fiction. A series set in an articulated and extraordinary world, the GrishaVerse, where skilfully constructed and multifaceted characters move. An adventurous story full of twists that you will miss the moment you read the last page.
“Six of Crows” is not a fantasy in which magic is given a lot of importance, there are no legends or mythological creatures, it is one of those fantasies in which the plot is perfectly built on the dense network of intrigues and machinations hatched by the characters (in particularly from Kaz) which are the beating heart of this whole book.
Six of Crows, sounds like the name of a playing card in a poker game.
We come very close to it, because in this book an intricate plot of bluffs, bets, tricks and tricks up its sleeve unfolds, in which cunning and skill in scams and conjuring is the only thing that can avoid a certain death.
Six protagonists, each with unparalleled ability and a tormented past behind them, and also the prospect of an even darker future lurking.
Until the chance of a lifetime comes, they can finally get rich and get whatever they want: rescue a Shu scientist captured by the Fjerdians and taken to the Ice Court, a fortress that has never been breached in the center of their capital. , Djerholm. It matters little if the blow seems impossible, or if this scientist has found a way to make the Grisha even more powerful and unstoppable, an army that every nation would desire and kill to get, the prize at stake is too tempting to miss. They just have to survive long enough to get their reward (and spend it).
The story takes place in the fictional city of Ketterdam, in the same world in which the Grisha trilogy is set and a couple of years after the end of the latter.
Ketterdam is vaguely modeled on the image of a 19th-century Amsterdam, flourishing thanks to the neutrality of the state of Kerch and the incessant trade with other nations. It is a gloomy city, where the smell of the port, canals and humidity prevails over everything else, where the only thing that matters is money and how to get more of it, and not always in a legitimate way. Under the gleaming veneer of the business world hides a dense network of slums made up of rival gangs vying for supremacy over a territory and the right to “pluck the chickens” of their money.
It is in one of these gangs, the outcasts, that we find our protagonists.
A gambler, an inmate, a rebellious son, a lost Grisha,
a Suli girl who had become a killer,
a Barile boy who had become something worse.
Kaz had to learn from an early age that pity is not allowed in order to survive in this city. With his brilliant mind and his ability to deceive, he quickly earned a reputation among thugs, and he himself feeds the aura of mystery and terror that surrounds him.
Inej is his spy, The Ghost. Once an acrobat Suli in the lands of Ravkan and then captured to be sold to a Ketterdam brothel, Inej is now a key member of the gang, quieter than a cat and utterly lethal with her daggers, even as she prays for forgiveness for every life she takes away.
Jesper is infallible with guns, but his hands are pierced. His greatest weakness is gambling and he has debts over his head. Restless, he seems to find peace only when he’s in the midst of a gun fight.
Nina is a Heartbreaker Grisha, a former member of Ravka’s Second Army, who now makes a living using her powers. But the only reason she still stays in Ketterdam is to get Matthias out of jail after she got him inside.
Matthias hails from the kingdom of Fjerda, where the Grisha are considered witches and sentenced to death. Superstitious but honorable, he was hardened by his time in prison and his hatred of the Grishas only increased.
Wylan is a runaway boy, still too innocent for this world. But his skill with explosives and his identity make him valuable.
As in the previous trilogy, we find the Grisha, people endowed with powers that they call the “little science” and who are divided into categories:
GRISHA Soldiers of the Second Army
Dominators of Little Science
(Order of the Living and the Dead)
(Order of Summoners)
(Order of the Fabrikators)
However, if in the kingdom of Ravka the Grisha are soldiers of great value, in Ketterdam they are kept under binding contracts, which are nothing more than a legal form of slavery. But it could end worse, they could be burned alive like in Fjerda or subjected to scientific experiments like in Shu lands.
But if in the Grisha trilogy the focus is on a bloody war and the direct confrontation between good and evil, in Six of Crows the atmosphere is more of a cross between a gangster film and Ocean’s Eleven, but with much more ruthless characters. It is impossible, however, not to become attached to the protagonists after that, with flashbacks placed at specific points in the story, we can see their past and what made them what they are today.
Through the points of view of all of them (except for Wylan who will only receive POVs in the second book) we can understand what is real and what is fiction, what drives them and why. But much more is hidden from the reader. As in a well thought out sleight of hand, we are misled by our senses. When we think that things are going a certain way, everything turns upside down. We are distracted by minor details and don’t notice the relevant ones until the cards are revealed. When we think that everything is falling apart, it is nothing more than a plan within the plan and a series of daring deeds that leave you with bated breath. In some places, the astonishment is so great that it is impossible not to laugh at the ingenuity of the deceptions.
You might think that with so many in-depth characters and such an intriguing storyline, little space is left for romance, and at first glance, that’s right. Their stories have left their hearts hardened, experience has taught that no one can be trusted, that one cannot show any weakness if one does not want to become victims, and so love also risks turning into hate and contempt.
But not even these six outcasts can be completely immune to it, and by reading carefully you can find very deep feelings in a glance or in an unspoken word.
Six characters, three couples? Perhaps, one can only hope that their happy ending is not just money and freedom, but something far more valuable.
Once the reading has begun, it is impossible to break away from it. You immerse yourself in this world, through a fluid and elegant writing in which each word has its own weight and musicality, but at the same time the scenes are very cinematic, full of humor and action. Emotions dig into you and you go from fun, to emotion or sorrow, your heart throbs in anxiety or anticipation and, when you close the book, you feel more alive but also more empty for having to abandon these characters and you know that, sooner or later, you will have to take this duology in hand to revive them.
For its originality and depth, I certainly recommend it to those who want to throw themselves into a reading that will conquer them body and soul.
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