Six of Crows (Six of Crows #01) by Leigh Bardugo Review

Six-of-CrowsKetterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

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.

Kaz’s crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first. (via Goodreads)

 

So, I made a few mistakes where this book is concerned. I started reading it while working on a project and the climax was clashing with the shoot dates of the project I was working on (I work as an assistant director in ad films) and I didn’t want to finish the book when work was so hectic so I set it aside for about 3 days and usually that is a horrible idea because it always breaks the flow of the story and I find it impossible to get back into it. (and that was a very long sentence)

Thankfully, that did not happen here. I fell back into this chaotic world without a hiccup. I fell in love with this book and its ragtag group of characters. I enjoyed the Grisha trilogy but I felt that series lacked something because while it had amazing secondary characters (Zoya, Genya and how could I possibly forget the Darkling) we never got to explore those characters (with the exception of the Darkling, I still wish he had lived!!) we never got to read their points of view. This was one the best things about Six of Crows, the multiple POVs.

Six of Crows is set in the same world as the Grisha, but with completely different characters. Some characters from the series are mentioned here but that’s about it. This story is about completely different characters.

Six of Crows is essentially a heist book. I’ve seen a number of films on the subject but haven’t read any books but nonetheless, I found this very thrilling. What also added to it was the group of characters. There was such diversity here and it made for a very exciting read.

One thing that struck me about this book was just how bloody and graphic it was. But I felt that it was in keeping with the characters where they came from. They were orphans from the rough neighbourhood with no one to watch out for them. They had to be hard as nails to survive, there was no place for kindness here. So in that sense, the violence made sense, and yet it was never overpowering and it was never gratuitous.

Six of Crows was excellent both in terms of world-building/setting and character development. Bardugo’s writing transported the reader inside the ruthless world of the Barrel. While reading, you can’t help but inhabit this world with all its ugliness. The pace is fast and as the stakes get higher, the tone of the narrative shifts to reflect that.

Where the characters are concerned, Bardugo really outdid herself here. It is easy to get invested with this group because for all their faults (and there are many) ultimately they are all on a journey, one that can change their lives. There are some who are out for revenge, others who want to atone for their own wrongdoing and yet others who just want another shot at life, a fresh start. Something most of us can identify with. And Bardugo never whitewashes the characters or their actions.

Kaz Brekker, easily the most ruthless of the group and the most unpredictable. He’s the one who always has his eyes on the prize and lets nothing and no one get in his way. He knows what he wants and how to get it. And at first, it is easy to see him only as dangerous, cold and unfeeling but as you get to know him better, that impression is far from the truth. He is anything but cold, but in order to survive and succeed, that is a facade that he’s created. He is calculating and is always two steps ahead of his adversaries. I liked his drive and his commitment and I loved that Bardugo didn’t make him softer to make him more appealing. He is his own prison and his need for vengeance is so great that it is impossible for him to see anything else.

I loved Inej, she was easily my favourite character (with Nina coming in as a close second) If Kaz was the brains of the operation, then Inej Ghafa was the heart. She kept everything and everyone together. And she was as deadly as the rest of them. She was the Wraith and you never saw her coming if she didn’t want you to. She was formidable but with her knives, she was unbeatable. I loved that she was far from a damsel in distress and there were times when she was instrumental to the group’s survival. I also loved that while she did care for Kaz, she never settled for less, she wanted Kaz to give her all of himself and not the scraps, he was comfortable doling out.

Then there’s Nina Zenik. She was the heartrender and only Grisha of the group. She is also the only one who has any connection to the characters from the other series. Now, can I just say how refreshing and heartening it was to have Nina not be thin, Bardugo states this explicitly. She’s not a particularly powerful Grisha, but that’s also because she didn’t complete her training, but that didn’t make her any less dangerous. She was selfless and willing to take risks to ensure the survival of those she cared about. In short, I loved Nina.

Another thing I loved in Six of Crows, was the friendship between Inej and Nina. They were so supportive of and looked out for each other. They were probably the only ones in the group who were truly honest with each other. Their friendship was one of the best parts of the book. Can’t wait for the havoc these two will wreak in the next instalment.

It took me some time to take to Matthias, mostly because he was so hell-bent on killing Nina. It was obvious that they had a bond, it was just not clear if they were going to survive long enough to find out more about it. He was not very trustworthy and he was so prejudiced that there were times when I wanted to hit him on the head. He was so blinded by his prejudice that he never stopped to question if what he was doing was right or not, he never bothered to think about his actions. But thankfully, he grows beyond his hatred starts thinking for himself.

Jesper Fahey and Wylan Van Eck seemed to blend in with the background, especially Wylan. There were enough hints that Jesper might be gay and that Wylan might reciprocate his feelings but that’s not something that was explored here. I suspect that we’ll see more of it in Crooked Kingdom. As characters they felt a little lacklustre and that was amplified when you put them next to Kaz or Inej. That’s not to say that they weren’t important, they were, its just that as characters, they fell a little short in comparison to the others.

Six of Crows was a amazing read and one that I wish I had read at a better time. It was fast-paced with plenty of action. Its characters are beautifully layered and flawed and yet for all their flaws, you can’t help but root for them. I loved every aspect of this book and I have a feeling I will definitely be rereading this in the not-so-distant future. It is thrilling, engrossing and with leave you hankering for more.

I mentioned at the beginning of the post, that I made some mistakes while reading the book, the worse of them is that I read it now when the release of Crooked Kingdom is so far away! I’ll have to wait till September to read it and right now, it feels so long! Six of Crows doesn’t exactly end on a cliffhanger, but it does leave the reader hanging and that’s the worse feeling ever, especially when you realise that you could have avoided that feeling by just waiting a little longer. *long suffering sigh*

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Untitled (Sweetest Dark #03) by Shana Abe UPDATE

So, I asked Miss Abe on facebook if there was any update on the third Sweetest Dark book and she replied stating that the book was almost finished and that she would be posting an excerpt sooner than she had initially planned.

Now, she still didn’t mention a specific (or even a vague) publishing date but it gives me heart to know that she’s almost done. Also, she suffered a fractured thumb so that added to the delay since she was unable to type.

So hopefully, we’ll hear something from her or the publisher pretty soon… Here’s hoping!

The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine Review

theshadowqueenThe Shadow Queen is a Snow White retelling and as far as retellings go, this was pretty good. Fairy tale retellings can be a mixed bag because on the one hand, the reader already knows the broad aspects of the story, as the author, you have to add enough elements to make it fresh and new while still keeping the core elements intact. This was something that Lili St. Crow did very well with A Tale of Beauty and Madness series and Sara J. Maas with A Court of Thorns and Roses. The Shadow Queen was a welcome addition to that list (though it isn’t as dark as the other two series mentioned above)

The tone of the book is surprisingly light while surrounded by danger. This was very refreshing. The pace was also pretty quick making it a fast and engrossing read. Its light tone also made it quite enjoyable. The world building was good and concise and the characters were well developed. There was also a very limited number of them so that made the story even more contained. Also, the narrative was told from three points of view but all three were compelling and added to the overall plot.

Lorelai is the main protagonist and a princess in hiding after her aunt, Irina killed the king and took over the kingdom of Ravenspire. The Queen thinks that Lorelai and her brother were killed along with the king so that gives her an element of surprise. What I liked about her was that she was decisive. She had to make some tough choices along the way and she made them and stuck to them. She was also stubborn but not in an annoying way. She was also cautious (a trait so rare in most YA heroines) She had a will of steel and always had a plan in mind in case things went south. She was analytical and didn’t get swayed by emotion. She was level-headed.

Prince Kol, the newly crowned king of the neighboring kingdom of Eldr has troubles of his own. His kingdom is being attacked by Ogres and they are overrunning the Eldr forces. His people can turn into dragons and still they are no match for the ogres since they are being helped by magic. At his wits end, he finally visits Queen Irina to ask her for her help. She agrees but asks him to complete a task for her, he reluctantly agrees. I liked Kol. He was honourable from beginning to end, and was willing to sacrifice his life if it meant that his kingdom was safe. Even when he was under Irina’s spell, he fought her every step of the way. He kept Lorelai safe and more importantly, trusted her to know what to do and help both him and his people.

I was thrilled to read Irina’s perspective and it is so rare to get an antagonist’s perspective. Hers added more layers to her character and her motivations. She was twisted and greedy but there was also genuine regret about what she did to her sister. But that regret could never overpower her hunger for power. She had someone who was devoted to her and who loved her for who she was and she sacrificed him in the quest for more power. She was the wicked queen but she was also kind to Lorelai. The sad thing is that she would have had the power that she so desperately sought if only she had not bespelled those around her. The king already loved her and both the children were young enough that they would have come to love her. But she never gave them that choice. Once Lorelai discovered what  Irina had been doing, it was too late for everyone. She set her own downfall in motion and she was too blinded by power so see it.

There were a number of other characters, among them, Leo was a favourite. I loved him and his flair. He was a lot of fun and he kept Lorelai laughing. Easily the most lovable character in the book. Then there was Gabril, he became their father figure after rescuing the children from the castle. He loved them and they loved him. He was loyal to Lorelai but also someone that Lorelai needed guidance from. There were also two other Draconi, Trugg and Jyn and I wish we had seen more of them. There were absent in the entire middle portion of the book and I kept expecting them to turn up. I enjoyed their banter. I hope to see more of them in the next book.

The Shadow Queen is a fun read but I’m not sure its conclusion is open enough for a sequel. I think it works well as a standalone but Redwine has already stated that there is at least one more book. I am curious to see where it leads us, perhaps the kingdom of Eldr and the menace of the ogres? Let’s see. I liked the way The Shadow Queen ended but I am open to seeing more of these characters.

Supergirl – Thoughts So Far

supergirl-first-look-image-full-body-2So, I am finally all caught up with Supergirl (episode 15) and I am more than a little sad that we have a week-long wait ahead of us for the next episode and in the meantime, not even a promo to help tied us over.

When Supergirl started, I wasn’t all that impressed but soon found myself, helplessly drawn towards these engaging, complex and flawed characters and loving every minute of the ride. While there can be no doubt that this is a superhero show, at its heart, it is about relationships and I think that is its biggest strength.

We’ve seen Kara go through one hell of an emotional roller-coaster these past few weeks and just when you think that things can’t possibly get any worse for her, they do. She has to deal with the effects of the Black Mercy and losing her family all over again, the death of Astra, whom she still loved and thought capable of redemption and even CatCo, which was her safe-haven, is now a battlefield because of one, Siobhan Smythe. Add to that, in the next episode, she will be exposed to Red Kryptonite and we know that she’s going to wreak havoc while under its influence and the consequences of those actions are going to stay with her for some time.

Alex_DanversThe characters on the show are amazing and it is a delight watching the interplay between them. One of my favourite relationships on the show is the one between Kara and Alex, played beautifully by Melissa Benoist and Chyler Leigh respectively, and I just know that next week is going to be tough on both of them. Also consider that Alex just confessed that she killed Astra and the situation is rife with tension. I love that for all her strength, Kara still looks to Alex for guidance and support and just how protective Alex is when it comes to her. They are fiercely protective and supportive of each other and I love that.
151204-news-supergirl-cat-grantAnother dynamic I love is the one between Kara and Cat, played brilliantly by Calista Flockhart. I love their banter and I can’t stand the way things stand right now. Just for the sake for clarification, I do ship Kara and Cat but I wouldn’t mind if they just went back to the way things were. Besides, and a lot of people have already pointed this out, if you consider Cat’s actions, we’ve seen them before, in books, TV shows and films, where one character feels slighted so to teach the other character a lesson (or just to get them to be honest with each other) will add another character to the dynamic to make the other character jealous. How is that any different from what Cat is doing. Even her treatment of Siobhan, is different depending on whether or not Kara is around. Of course, in episode 15, Cat refers to Siobhan as Tweedledee and ignores Kara completely but there is still hope for them. Notice that when Indigo takes over all the screens at CatCo, Cat looks to Kara for some idea as to what is happening, and also starts calling her Kiera. I’m just hoping that evil Kara doesn’t make things worse with Cat.

Side note – The evil look suits Kara if the promo photos are any indication.

Apart from Kara and Cat, the other romantic relationships don’t really interest me. I like James Olsen on his own, just not with Kara. I liked Adam but that ended way to quickly, besides, we don’t know right now whether he’ll be back in any capacity. Things with Winn were never going to work out so that’s that. Frankly, I would be happiest if there was no romantic element at all in season 1, as in, Kara remains single. Besides, she has so many things on her plate, there’s simply no time for a relationship. I want her to find her footing first, independent of any man/woman she might fall in love with. I don’t understand why a show must establish romantic/love interest in the very first season. Wouldn’t it be better to wait and see that it develops in a more organic way? Give James a plot that doesn’t revolve around Kara all the time (like Winn in episode 15) that will keep things interesting and fresh.

Which brings me to Lucy, the girl left her job and moved to National City to be with James and his treatment of her has been horrible. I thought she and Kara had an interesting relationship and one that could grow into friendship without the spectre of James Olsen hovering over their heads. Besides, she can be a real asset to Team Supergirl. I hope that they don’t get catty with each other over a guy who has, frankly been dishonest with both of them.

Also, the acting on the show just keeps getting better and better. Melissa Benoist as Supergirl is just plain awesome. She brings so much heart to her performance that it’s hard not to relate to her, to root for her. Chyler Leigh as Alex Danvers and Calista Flockhart as Cat Grant are amazing. They bring so much complexity to their roles. Especially where Cat is concerned, it would have been so easy to turn her into a caricature or a stereotype we’ve seen time and again, but Cat Grant is so much more than that. She is nurturing and observant and even kind (though she would deny it if you were to say that to her face) I loved Laura Benanti as Astra. There was always a struggle with that character and her relationship with Kara. They loved each other but both were committed to their causes. But I think that if given time, Astra would have been redeemed. Too bad that she had to leave, though I wish the show would have left it more open, that way, she could always come back.7-things-you-might-have-missed-in-the-supergirl-premiere-682126

What I truly love about this show, is its exuberance, optimism and hope. In the current TV landscape (especially with regard to superhero shows) there is so much cynicism and despair that a show like Supergirl is like a breath of fresh air. It reminds me of Superman, the film directed by Richard Donner. Yet, at the same time, the characters do go through emotional upheaval and have to deal with their respective issues.

Right now though, I am trying to figure out ways to last a whole week without my Supergirl fix, but Agents of Shield is back next Tuesday so that will help. I just hope that the remaining episodes are aired back to back without any more interruptions.