September 6, 2017

Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, by Leigh Bardugo

I read these at the beginning of the summer (yes, still behind on my reviews!) If you like heist movies or books, the first one should be right up your alley. This is a dark world, without a lot of goodness or hope. Perhaps that is so the friendship and loyalty between the characters shines more brightly.

Of the two, I liked the first one better.

Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1), by Leigh Bardugo

3.5 stars: A team of underdogs takes on the impossible. 

Kaz Brekker has a lot of secrets and knows a lot of things. One thing he knows is that money talks. He needs money to pull off his ultimate plan of revenge. Ever since he and his older brother were swindled as country boys and thrust onto the streets of Ketterdam City, he has lived to pay back the crook that did it to them. Not the momentary type of revenge, either. The type that will leave his enemy utterly ruined.

Kaz, now known as Dirtyhands, has come far since those naïve, trusting days. Now he trusts no-one. He basically runs the Crow Club, where he used to crash as a lowly new kid on the totem pole. He is always 3 steps ahead of his foes, prepared for every contingency in every underhanded deal. He is ruthless. Whatever soft spots or weaknesses he may have, he keeps them well hidden. Make no mistake about it, his bad leg and that deadly cane don't factor in as weaknesses.

So when he gets the opportunity to make more money than he has ever seen, he has to take it. Even though the job is basically impossible. He will have to "liberate" an important prisoner from the Ice Court. This political prisoner has created a substance that greatly enhances any magical powers of its users, though the effect is temporary, while also being highly addictive.

He won't be able to do it alone. He chooses his crew from amongst the underworld that he inhabits. Though they all have skills and a few even have magical powers, none would be what you might call influential. More like misfits. But Kaz would trust them with his life--and he's going to have to.

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Kaz defines anti-hero. He has gotten to where he is by his intelligence and fearlessness, sure, but also through his callousness and brutality--at times. Through flashbacks and his memories, we get to understand what has made him the way he is, but it was rather difficult to cheer him on. Pity him, but not root for him. (It would probably make him furious to be pitied.)

The interactions of the gang added some lightness to what otherwise was a gritty, rather grim tale. Two of the characters are gay and begin to develop a relationship.

Content: Overall tone of this one is pretty dark, so keep that in mind. Violence, innuendo, gang wars, talk of prostitution, and probably other stuff I'm forgetting. Older teens and adults.

(Finished reading June 10)

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2), by Leigh Bardugo

3 stars: Kaz and Co. are going to get their due, no matter what.

After being cheated out of his reward money, Kaz is ready to set his ultimate plan for revenge into motion. Of course, every plan has unforeseen difficulties. Kaz prides himself on preparing for those difficulties and throwing in a few of his own for the opposition. However, he never could have guessed that Inej, the Wraith, would meet her match.

Now Inej has been kidnapped. Kaz and the gang are going to have to get her out. Revenge and rescue. It will take a master planner with a cold eye toward emotion. Sounds like Kaz is the man for the job, all right. 

This time it's all or nothing. Kaz and his friends are either going to the top or the bottom. Or technically, the top of the bottom, as The Dregs are not what your average person would aspire to.

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The characters continued to be developed, including a painfully awkward, stop-and-start attempt at romance between Kaz and Inej. Kaz seemed a little more human in this one, which almost made his choices more disturbing. In fact, it was a bit hard to tell who was the villain. In allowing himself to become consumed by revenge, Kaz had become at least as bad as the man he wanted to bring down this whole time.

I thought the characters were well done. I was interested in the plot and wanted to find out what was going to happen. The magical element was woven in well. Even with all of that, I still liked the first better. The heist added the element of a mental puzzle--here was a seemingly impossible task; how would they achieve it? This one was missing that element and we were left with--well, The Dregs.

Content: Much the same as the first: violence, innuendo, criminal behavior, and so on. As far as I can remember the romances stayed clean (hazards of waiting 3 months to review it!) Again, for older teens and adults.

(Finished reading June 12.)

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Have you read either of these? What was your take on them?

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