Review – Six of Crows

Six of Crows

by Leigh Bardugo

Synopsis

A convict with a thirst for revenge. A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager. A runaway with a privileged past. A spy known as the Wraith. A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.  A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker is offered a chance at the most dangerous heist yet that can make him richer than rich. But he cannot do it alone. He and his crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first, that is.

Overview

One of the best books I’ve read this month. So glad I picked up this little beaut. I do believe I have been caught under Bardugo’s spell. I’m completely enraptured. My life was consumed for five solid days reading this book. With no wifi and a need to lock myself away from the world for a bit, I devoured this in five separate sittings with sides of coffee and emotional breakdown sessions in between, inflicted by the very book itself. Consider me a part of the Grishaverse fandom and one of Leigh’s recently recruited fans!

 

Kaz leaned back. “What’s the easiest way to steal a man’s wallet?”
“Knife to the throat?” asked Inej.
“Gun to the back?” said Jesper.
“Poison in his cup?” suggested Nina.
“You’re all horrible,” said Matthias.

 

Bardugo has created a masterpiece of a world. And not your typical high fantasy recreation, either. No, it is much more than that. The Grishaverse is a treasure among the reigning worlds of fantasy authors, on par with the likes of Westeros and Middle Earth. It incorporates everything world building desires – the engagement of languages and cultures with its own politics (Fjerdan, Kerch, the Grisha, so many), a flawed but lovable cast of characters (namely Kaz, the Wraith, Nina, god I love them all),  a twisty and evolving plot, pinches of humour and romance coupled with the epic and emotional, memorable quotes, and a revolving perspective that shows steady character development yet somehow keeps the reader on board without the confusion so often found in changing POV narrative. And so much more. You will find yourself growing attached to Kaz before you realize it. You feel pangs for the bad guy who was once a good guy. One moment you are reading about a fragmented soul damaged by his younger years, the next you are behind the cruel Dirtyhands and understanding his controversial actions, hoping for him and his motley crew to survive the intricacies of the Ice Court and outdo the competition to a point where it rules your everyday life – in the shower, washing the dishes, walking to the bus stop; all the time, your thoughts go back to Kaz and his crew, until its all you can think of and you need to know – just know for your own well-being- that they pull off the impossible heist, and just like that the book draws you back in. Always the Grishaverse has its hooks in you.

As I’ve stated before, one of the most important aspects of a book is its characters, and this story delivers. I even managed to feel for Wylan, actually, who could be described as somewhat of a lesser character. Wylan serves as a useful Grishaverse guide, walking us through the world as a simple merchling, occasionally giving us chapters seen from the newbie perspective. Ideal, I think, for those new to the Grishaverse. But a character I liked more so was the Wraith, or more arguably the idea – an assassin-like spy surrounded by a built legend but equally just as human, her ‘Saints’ an intriguing aspect of Suli culture, to say the least. When I read a book I like to feel invested in character interactions and relationships, too, and not necessarily the romantic kind. I loved the trust between Kaz and Inej, and enjoyed their exchanges, my fangirl heart skipping a beat when [spoiler] Brekker rescued his Wraith last minute at the Ketterdam dockside [spoiler]. Small things like that make characters much more precious to me. Lord knows I’m officially a Kazej shipper of some sort now. (‘Kazej’, that a thing?)

 

“I’m a business man,” he’d told her. “No more, no less.”
“You’re a thief, Kaz.”
“Isn’t that what I just said?”

 

Nor does Six of Crows ring with quite the same vibe as Leigh’s Grisha trilogy, either. I can see now why everyone hops aboard the hype train for its sequel Crooked Kingdom. This is a darker approach than Shadow and Bones, exploring a different place, a different assortment of cultures, a different arrangement of characters – Six of Crows is full of greys, ignoring the black and white and creeping into the Grishaverse’s deeper, darker crevices, presenting to us an insight into previously uncharted areas outside Ravka. I prefer this series to be honest. Would recommend!

 

Off topic, but completely relevant (or so I tell myself)

I would also like to show you a certain picture, taken from this post I discovered on Leigh Bardugo’s own tumblr blog. Ahem. Yes, spit at tumblr all you want, but you know it’s where all the authors are at. Tumblr has evolved beyond hipsters these days.

kaz-brekker

Just take a moment to visualize it. Kaz Brekker in the image of Luke Evans. Yes, I said it. Luke Evans. As our antihero Kaz Brekker. Go on. The brooding stare and well-fitted suit, that chiseled face and devilish flair. You know you can see it. Look at him all smart and fabulous. A real treasure. All Luke needs is those mysterious gloves and a murdery glint in the eye. Or do you already see it?

If you haven’t read Six of Crows, go on and digest it and then come back to ogle at this here beauty. And on a further side note, you’d be surprised how big a fandom this book has. (And how big a fan it now has).

 

 

Advertisements

Review – Conspiracy

Conspiracy

by S. J. Parris

Synopsis

The city of Paris appears degraded by political bloodshed, under threat of royalty and religion and harboring a ruthless Catholic League to be feared. It is tearing itself apart. Caught by this perilous web, spy Bruno is thrust involuntarily into the depths of religious politics in Paris, confronted by his past haunts as well as the darkening present.

Overview

Fabulous, as anticipated. (Dear lord, I need that next installment already). Also, check out that cover. I love it. I’m not much for historical thrillers, or even a major lover of crime fiction, but Conspiracy handles these genres extraordinarily well and orchestrates something gripping and intriguing that will leave you unable to put this book down. 4.9/5 stars, if I had to rate it.

I felt more indulged than with Treachery, the book before this one (also something I urge you to read), since the crime thriller vibe came in far sooner with the death of Father Paul Lefvre early on which immediately sparked subsequent mystery. Who and what is ‘Circe’? That question stayed with me the whole time.

Adored the whole exploration of Italian theatrics as well, with returning characters and mentions drawing acknowledgement to Bruno’s previous ventures. The locations in Conspiracy add to the thrill too – the heart of the Palace was by far home to the best chapters of this book, and costumes (Doctor Bruno in the doctor outfit though). King Henri III was especially brilliant, a perfect comedic touch on what were dark and edgy themes of murder and peril. This is not to mention the persona of the queen mother Catherine de Medici, which was really quite scary (think old stern woman whose house you never wandered past at the end of the street) in conjunction with the mysterious Paiget, who I found a unique antagonistic figure. His snips of humour and choice of words are so sixteenth century cheeky aristocrat. Not your usual villainous character, by any means.

As expected there were subtle twists and turns. The book is littered with characters steeped in French history, and Parris as usual does her research, being careful not to overload the reader while also flourishing her knowledge of the 1500s. I like a well-informed piece of writing, and Parris always gives a snip of grit and reality amidst her descriptive prose and imagery.

(Also – Parris writing a book on Paris. There is potential for a pun there somewhere. Just. C’mon.)

Review – Shiver

Shiver

by Maggie Stiefvater

Synopsis

For years, Grace watches the wolves in the woods behind her house. One wolf in particular, a yellow eyed one, is a presence she feels drawn to. This teenage girl falls in love with the supernatural creature, and risks life and limb to be with him.

 

Overview

Not for me, I’ve decided. Enjoyable for some, yes, but there’s something about the story. It screams Twilight. Actually, it takes me back to a book called Fallen – something I’ll never read again and with good reason. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good werewolf story, and love reading an ol’ supernatural tale especially, but no, not with this book. I feel like Maggie tried to be a Stephenie Meyer. On Goodreads you’ll notice I gave it a two star. This is for several reasons.

1.

Characters are paramount in any book. I don’t care what else you throw in there, it’s the characters that hook me first. It’s the protagonist and antagonist that first reels me in. But these characters… I feel like I’ve read them all before.

Let’s take a look at our broody protagonist, Sam. Werewolf Sam. Sam, who wants to eat his true love at first sight, and Sam who is rude and impolite to everyone despite being apparently a cashier (how he has that job is beyond me), ignoring everyone, including Grace may I add, and who I can only compare to an ’emo’ through and through (forgive my stereotypical branding of the character, but it really is what comes into my head). He writes bad songs and broods so constantly its like he invented the term. Okay, so maybe he improves a little, but it’s like someone took Edward Cullen and recreated him as a werewolf. Perhaps Maggie was a ‘Team Jacob’ supporter, who decided to write out a Bella and Jacob version in the form of Sam and Grace.

She draws patterns on my face / These lines make shapes that can’t replace / the version of me that I hold inside/ when lying with you, lying with you, lying with you.

Just look at that masterpiece of a lyrical work. Good job, Sam. Really. Totally feeling it.

Parts of Sam also remain unexplained to me, such as how he remembers Grace although werewolves do not remember being the wolf, though in the book’s defense I suppose this is all because of ‘true love’ and the romantic impact Grace apparently has on him.

2.

This is something I also find hard to digest – the romance. What is the romance? I feel like there is little chemistry bubbling there for Sam and Grace. I realise they share no hobbies, no common interest, no twin desires to search for something or protect something.

If Sam had saved Grace from being eaten by the wolves, maybe then I would understand. Maybe then I could see the beginnings of why this romance takes place. But he doesn’t. He wants to eat her. (Remind you of anything? Twilight maybe? Ed lusting for Bell’s blood? No? Alrighty.)

Contrariwise, you could argue Grace’s adoration of her wolf is what links them together. But why? And what exactly does Sam see in Grace? This never becomes completely apparent for me. I struggled with shipping this ship. I think the relationship certainly has its good points – Grace accepts Sam for who he is right at the beginning, and they do show care for each other the further you read into the book, but it’s like something is missing. There is no solid connection. Just Grace’s attraction to ‘her wolf’. Doesn’t quite cut it for me. I’m sorry. I tried to like this ship.

3.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some hater. I try to justify my disliking of a book with reasons. As I said, characters are everything in a book and they are what draws me in primarily.

But there’s a far bigger problem. Characterization. I don’t really think there is much, if any, in this book. Sam is fleshed out a tad – he lost his father figure in the pack, he has the inner holding-on-to-humanity battle inside, he has the double lives, so on – but still I feel it is not enough. There could be so much more depth. There was potential for Sam.

Isabelle, I didn’t mind. I liked Isabelle. She was a decent side character, had good dialogue, she loved her brother, she refuses to believe he is dead and so has a right to embark on the whole ‘Grace knows something’ train. Naturally. After all, Grace has a special connection with the wolves. But doesn’t this say something, actually finding a minor character more interesting than our main characters?

Additionally, I cannot find any quotes to support the idea of character development. I see none. In fact, I’m not even quite sure what the plot of this book was. There was no conflict, no sort of quest, no real sense of story here. Not for me, anyway. It is entirely character-driven and no solid plot exists for it to be plot-driven in any way. The good outweighs the bad, and while this isn’t for me, it might be for some readers out there. Who knows.

Review – The Too-Clever Fox

The Too-Clever Fox

by Leigh Bardugo

Synopsis

In Ravka, just because you avoid one trap, it doesn’t mean you’ll escape the next. The cleverest fox in the forest is charged with stopping Ravka’s most perilous hunter to save the forest and its inhabitants.

Overview

An interesting little companion folktale to the Grishaverse with a moral at the centre of it as should be expected of any fable. Bit of an Aesop-esque vibe, I’d say.

This book caught my eye courtesy of its amazing cover. A nice little read. Would recommend to any fans of Bardugo’s – and even those who have never read one of her books before. You will love the clever little Koja.

I read this because of Six of Crows, initially. But I’m glad I did. It doesn’t necessarily enhance anything for you in the Grishaverse, just acts as a fun little side tale if you’re interested in the Grishaverse’s stories and such. And can I just say again… that cover though. Look at it.

the-too-clever-fox

Review – Clockwork Angel

 

Clockwork Angel

by Cassandra Clare

Synopsis

1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. Her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters, Will and Jem. They find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club: secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans with an unstoppable army of clockwork creatures who look to control the British Empire.

Overview

So, Clockwork Angel. I must say, Cassandra has outdone herself here. Though I started out with modest expectations, I love everything about it. The writing so perfectly reflects nineteenth century London, everything about the dialogue is so quirky and real of that time. While I didn’t finish City of Bones to the end, you could say I’m somewhat informed on the world of Mortal Instruments. Therefore I had familiarization with the world of the Shadowhunters. But even without that prior knowledge, I think it’s still possible to breeze through the book. Cassandra writes clearly and her prose is alluring. Whereas with some writers it is easy to lose the flow along the lines and you find yourself having to reread a sentence, I did not encounter this problem with Clare’s writing.

Victorian London is delivered well. Cassandra materializes for us a dark city with cobblestone streets home to the clap of hooves and carriages in crawling fog overseen by the heaving Thames. Shades of romance and hints of humour are dotted throughout the story. I also like that the book does not solely focus on the romance of the lead male and lead female which dominates everything, but that characters supplement each other and highlight aspects of one another’s personalities, and the differing romantic possibilities are always there. Never does the universe center on the lead roles. It feels character-driven as well as plot-led. Bonds and interactions became exciting for me, and I really grew to care for the characters which felt authentic. Themes of companionship and rivalry have become common in Clare’s world, but City of Bones is not repeated, and this is a new take on these themes, no regurgitated characters or plot, just a cleverly interlaced series of twists, turns and emotion.

One thing I loved about the book was the heroine, Tessa. She is not immediately a badass or professional. She starts out courteous, polite, as women of Victorian London were expected to be, but she transforms and is enveloped by character development, something I love to see in action. By the end of the book she is strong and courageous and I look forward to seeing her develop further in the Infernal Devices series. It’s good to see a refreshing female character playing her role well, fleshed out with a distinct personality, having potential for growth.

Will and Jem make for comedic gold at times. Their dialogue makes the book a laughing pleasure to read. While Will is great and all, tormented handsome fellow that he is, it is Jem’s wit that keeps the humour on point. I loved the interaction between the two and Tessa. Each character has their intricacies and backstories, but the supporting cast of characters are equally as rich and developed as our main trio, which really gives substance to the content.

I’m open to both third and first person, but I always favour the third if pulled off well. Cassandra does not disappoint. Her take on third is great and her handling of three main characters is also executed brilliantly. Sometimes it is easy to get lost with a cast of three main characters, however this did not happen in Clockwork Angel. I followed each of their stories enthusiastically and was attached to all three by the end, feeling that everything about their interactions and portrayal was natural and real.

 

“Remember when you tried to convince me to feed a poultry pie to the mallards in the park to see if you could breed a race of cannibal ducks?”

“They ate it too,” Will reminisced. “Bloodthirsty little beasts. Never trust a duck.”

page 199

 

Naturally, with the book ending on a colossal cliffhanger, I am eager to read the next installment. I never thought I’d be a fan of Clare’s, never much taking to her earlier books nor finishing any of them, but perhaps her writing style has developed or she has taken on another approach, I’m not sure. Either way, Clockwork Angel is certainly working for me. Cassandra Clare has successfully gained a new fan!