A clever and dark YA fantasy—featuring a well-rounded cast paired to a heist plot that tugs at the mind as well as the heart.
Disclaimer: No actual crows were harmed in the telling of this story. >.>
This was my first experience with any of Leigh Bardugo’s work. (And if this one is any indication of overall quality, it won’t be my last.) Despite it being set in a previously-established world with powers-based fantasy element, this book—and series—stands completely on its own. No need to have read about the Grisha before encountering them, as you will quickly and clearly get the idea as you go along. Their inborn powers are central to the plot, as the creation of an amplifying drug is evidently turning them into superweapons and controllable addicts.
Those who control the amped-up Grisha will, pretty obviously, control the world. But that little issue is only readily relevant to a few of the thieves who are collected in the name of rescuing/abducing the drug’s creator…
Initially, none of the characters we meet come off as particularly sympathetic (with the exception of the exotic and deadly Inej, who desires to find some trace of redemption in her tactically brilliant boss.) I found for the first 1/4th of the book I was reading just to figure out what was going on and why. But patience gradually pays off, and bits of their unique backstories are meted out in unobtrusive morsels as the larger story progresses. Every one of the six are flawed—some more horrendously than others. But all of them, even “dirtyhands” Kaz, have their soft spots, and their reasons for being the way they are. By the end I found myself genuinely endeared to most of them, and largely pleased with their growth.
The pacing is clipped, the worldbuilding solid, and the descriptions are nigh-cinematic. Rotating POVs lend to selective reveals and interesting twists. I was a little annoyed there seemed to be an intention of conveniently pairing off all members of the crew in a romantic sense, and I’m not a huge fan of the cliffhanger ending that made this ultimately feel like a super-sized half book… But my reservations are relatively minimal when contrasted with my overall enjoyment.
If you like to find yourself rooting for the “bad guys” (who are really more like chaotic good with a dash of chaotic neutral), this may be just the book for you.
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.
“The easiest way to steal a man’s wallet is to tell him you’re going to steal his watch. You take his attention and direct it where you want it to go."