Ca­per-lovers will en­joy this fresh fan­tasy book

Cecil Whig - - ACCENT - By J ill Cluf f

I just love a good heist plot. When each of the Ocean’s Tril­ogy movies came out, I was ec­static. I love the thrill of an­tic­i­pa­tion watch­ing the plan­ning phase, the un­bear­able sus­pense as the crew is fi­nally pulling off the job, and the no­tice­able feel­ing of relief and sat­is­fac­tion when they es­cape not only with their lives, but also a good haul.

Those feel­ings are harder to repli­cate in print form. Writ­ten ten­sion is much more dif­fi­cult to cre­ate than vis­ual, which is why I was so im­pressed with “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bar­dugo. Not only did she recre­ate the pac­ing and elec­tric at­mos­phere of a great heist movie, she also wove in bril­liant char­ac­ter stud­ies along the way. Set in the same world as her fan­tasy- ad­ven­ture Gr­isha tril­ogy – which started with the fan­tas­tic “Shadow and Bone” – it is com­pletely sep­a­rate both in tone and char­ac­ters, so the read­ing of the other tril­ogy is not a re­quire­ment.

Set in a fan­tas­ti­cal ver­sion of the Rus­sian tun­dra, “Six of Crows” in­tro­duces our six main char­ac­ters one by one, giv­ing us a chap­ter writ­ten from each of their per­spec­tives. There’s Kaz Brekker, the ruth­less gang leader whose nick­name “Dirty Hands” fits his life of thiev­ery and de­cep­tion. He runs an es­tab­lish­ment called the Crow Club and car­ries a cane with a men­ac­ingly de­tailed crow’s head. He is given an im­pos­si­ble job – to steal a hu­man rather than a stash of gold from the most im­pen­e­tra­ble place on earth, the Ice Court.

The level of dif­fi­culty is matched only by the re­ward – the prom­ise of 20 mil­lion, split six ways. He first thinks to bring two mem­bers of his al­ready es­tab­lished gang: Jes­per, the sharp­shooter with a gam­bling prob­lem, and Inej, the ex­otic se­cret stealer and ac­ro­bat. Then he drops in on Nina, a Gr­isha, or per­son with the abil­ity to con­trol ei­ther the el­e­ments or hu­man bod­ies. Mina can slow peo­ple’s hearts, heal their wounds, and ren­der a man un­con­scious just by rais­ing her hands. She is in­valu­able – but she will only come if Kaz first breaks out the man she loves, Matthias Hel­var. So they have to plan a heist be­fore they even start the real job. And Kaz is much too smart not to take along a lit­tle in­surance, so he grabs the son of the very man who put him up to the job un­der the thin guise that he needs “a de­mo­li­tion ex­pert.” They are a band of mis­fits up against im­pos­si­ble odds, ready to pull off the great­est job in his­tor y – if they don’t kill each other first.

Whether it’s amaz­ing world­build­ing you love, a great heist plot or just fan­tas­tic char­ac­ters with lay­ers of in­tri­cacy, this book is for you. I ac­tu­ally lis­tened to it in my car, which en­hanced the writ­ing be­cause it gave each char­ac­ter a voice in my head, and the nar­ra­tors they chose were phe­nom­e­nal. I was en­gaged from minute one and al­ways try­ing to fig­ure out the con – just how in the world were they go­ing to pull this off? And see­ing the back­sto­ries of each un­fold as the chap­ters went on only made you love and cheer for them more. It’s an un­ex­pected gem that I can’t rec­om­mend highly enough.

Jill Cluff is a some­times li­brar­ian who is mar­ried to one giant and mom to two boys. She loves all things book- and food- re­lated – of­ten at the same time.

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