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Six of Crows, Book 1
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows is related to her Grisha trilogy, but you can read this first book of the related series without reading the trilogy first. As in the fantasy series, the content is consistently mature and a better fit for mature teen readers. Characters are complex, flawed, and sometimes responsible for despicable acts, such as plucking out a man's eye in one gruesome scene. More bloodshed includes arena fighting in prison where a man is mauled to death and wolves are killed, a gang shooting where a boy is left for dead, a knife wound that nearly kills a main character, and more. Backstories of the main characters can be jarring, such as a recalled childhood scene of a character being buried in corpses on a barge, imprisonment and near-starvation, and characters being beaten and forced to work in brothels. No details are given about life in the brothels, but there's some kissing and nakedness in other scenes. Strong language is pretty infrequent, with only one use of "f--king." Readers will learn the backstories of these characters as the novel progresses, each bringing up themes of survival and overcoming loss. Though greed and revenge seem to motivate characters on the surface, there's also an underlying desire for connection.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Kaz is the brilliant and ruthless face of the Dregs gang in Ketterdam, a city whose slums team with brothels, gambling, thievery, and plenty of shady deals. Rarely does real opportunity for something better come knocking. But it does one night when Kaz is knocked unconscious on the docks and woken up by a powerful local merchant named Van Eck. Van Eck has a job for him. A new drug called jurda parem causes the already magical Grisha people of Ravka to amplify their powers. It's dangerous for the Grisha -- the addictive properties of the drug can kill -- and it's dangerous for society: The Grishas' powers could topple whole governments. The only known maker of jurda parem is rotting in a prison in the frigid and militarily powerful country of Fjerda in a virtually impenetrable stronghold called the Ice Court. Van Eck's impossible job for Kaz, if he wishes to accept it, is to break the drug maker out and bring him back to Ketterdam. In response to the proposal, Kaz does what he does best: ask for an insane amount of money while stealing Van Eck's wallet and jewels at the same time. Then he assembles a team. Inej and Jesper from his gang are easy choices, and so is the Grisha, Nina, who has powers that can stop a person's heart. And he smartly chooses Van Eck's son, Wylan, as collateral. That leaves one more: the Fjerdan, Matthias. But if they want Matthias' help breaking into the Ice Court, they'll have to break him out of a Ketterdam prison first.
Is it any good?
This spin-off series to the Grisha trilogy is equal parts nail-biting Mission: Impossible-style excitement and intimate, compelling portraits of flawed and complex characters. It's hard to know what to rave about first. Even readers who think they've seen it all when it comes to twists and turns will still be wowed by every crazy plan Kaz comes up with to get out of the last one that went horribly wrong. And Kaz never shows his whole hand, so until that plan goes wrong you're still guessing.
Then, in-between breaking into and out of prisons and fighting gangs of rogue Grisha, the backstories of each of the six fascinating characters emerge. Their harsh situations and determination to survive only increase the nail-biting when it seems like they can't possibly make it out of the next scrape alive. Add to that two star-crossed love stories and the pages turn even faster. What a phenomenal start to a new series.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the main characters. What do you like about them? Did learning each one's story change your opinion of them? Who are you rooting for the most? The least?
Did you read the Grisha trilogy? If so, how does Six of Crows compare? If not, do you want to read it now?
Kaz is clearly a genuis, tactical and otherwise, but he's stuck in his position as gang leader. What do you think he could have become had he been a merchant's son?
- Author: Leigh Bardugo
- Genre: Fantasy
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Henry Holt & Company, Inc.
- Publication date: September 29, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 17
- Number of pages: 480
- Available on: Nook, Audiobook (unabridged), Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.