It’s difficult to read “Six of Crows” without thinking of the movies — bated breath in the darkness, the rush of your heartbeat thudding in your ears, the comical wide eyes as the protagonist shimmies down a vault with a stolen crown of glittering rubies, narrowly missing enemy gunfire.
The same red-carpet feeling of the “Mission: Impossible” franchise is precisely twined into the “Six of Crows” books in a windswept, gripping series of pages that fly by quicker than Ethan Hunt leaping out of a plane. And that’s exactly why Leigh Bardugo’s fantasy trilogy is impossible to put down.
“Six of Crows” is a dramatic high fantasy heist story revolving around the mystical world of Grisha — those born with magical abilities — so real it seems as if it should have its own passport stamp. The book revolves around Ketterdam, a seaport bustling with trade, greasy gangs, and the beginnings of an industrial revolution.
Kaz “Dirtyhands” Brekker, a 17-year-old criminal prodigy, is offered an opportunity he can’t pass up: pull off a daredevil heist in return for riches beyond his wildest dreams.
His crew? Inej, “The Wraith,” an acrobat-turned spy; Jesper, a skilled sharpshooter and Grisha; Wyland, son of a rich merchant; Mattias, Fjerdan soldier and witch-hunter; and Nina, a girl who can slow a man’s pulse or snatch air from his lungs with nothing but her hands.
The target of the ragtag crew is Bo Yul-Bayer, a scientist in the Ice Court of Fjerda who holds the formula for jurda parem — a drug that amplifies Grisha power to the extreme.
As you read Kaz and his crew navigate through the whirlwind of their impossible heist with a new, lethal challenge at every twist and turn, you can’t help but wonder what happens next. Soon, the pages turn into vessels that carry you straight into the intricate heart of the Grishaverse, surrounding you with torrents of mischief, violence, crime and the occasional blow of classic wit and sarcasm.
Perhaps what’s so different about the Grishaverse is the unique culture, politics, humor and the hint of slow-burn romance intertwined into the story like a tapestry of dimensional realism.
The cast of multiethnic characters of diverse sexual orientations, each complete with their own set of quirks, perceptions and secrets — Kaz grappling with PTSD and disability, Inej and her history of forced sex work, the two-sided story of Nina and Mattias — bring a brave perspective that the fantasy genre rarely delves into.
There’s nothing quite like the thrilling art of Grisha orders coupled with Bardugo’s prose and power. Before you can even say “waffles,” the story will force you to fall in love with the entirety of the universe that Bardugo has so mesmerizingly created.