I’ll start simply: if, like me, you read one or more of the Grisha books and weren’t impressed, Six of Crows is so much better. So, so much better. If you’d given me them both and not told me the author, I wouldn’t ever have guessed that they were written by the same person. Six of Crows feels so much more mature in both style and content. It takes the distinctive setting from the Grisha trilogy and makes use of it, embellishing it to include more politics and history and fleshed out cultures. The characters are distinctive, feeling flawed and real, and their relationships are tangled and complicated. It’s an objectively really good book, not just a really good book in comparison to Bardugo’s earlier books.
The book manages to deliver a dark and twisted plot (and in some places, I do mean dark) that is also a heck of a lot of fun to read. There’s slavery, death, violence, racial prejudice and umpteen characters out for bloody vengeance but it never felt heavy. I was still always dying to pick the story up whenever I’d put it down. If you want ponderous fantasy, this one might not be for you but if you want something that’s full of action and intrigue and will have you staying up way past your bedtime, you could do far worse than Six of Crows.
Overall: If you’ve been avoiding this for any reason related to the Grisha trilogy, stop avoiding and get yourself a copy. There may well have been nuances that I’ve missed and allusions to the history of the Grisha that have passed me by but I never felt lost or as though I was on the outside of a series of ‘in’ jokes and references; this series stands up perfectly well on its own The next instalment, Crooked Kingdom, is out soon and I’ll definitely be picking up a copy and carrying on with the series.