It seems like a long time since I read a YA fantasy, and even longer since I actually liked one. Going into this book, I basically knew only two things about it: first, it is about a heist and, second, it’s set in the same universe as Bardugo’s other series Shadow and Bone, which I tried to read and couldn’t really get into. As you can guess from that, I knew very little about this book, but I went into it assuming it would be more action and fast-paced scenes.
But, I will say, I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It wasn’t perfect, but I have every intention of reading the sequel.
Synopsis: A dangerous criminal. A convict looking for revenge. A sharpshooter with a gambling problem. A brilliant spy. A magical Grisha surviving in the slums. A runaway from a wealthy family. This crew comes together to complete the impossible heist and gain immense wealth. But the plan grows more difficult as powers seek to control the world and only they stand in its way.
It’s been so long since I did both a non-spoiler and a spoiler section for a book review, but with this book it seems impossible to talk about much without spoiling anything, so I’m including some spoilers.
Where do I start when reviewing this book? There is a lot to like about it. It’s surprisingly character-driven, and I appreciate how the books spends a lot of time developing the six main characters, even if it is in slightly jolting flashbacks. I was expecting a faster-paced book, and if you prefer that type of book, you may find this one a bit slow-moving. However, I was impressed how Bardugo weaves in a lot of world information and action into a story filled with characters and their motivations. I will say, it’s not a perfect book, as it jumps between too many perspectives and some of the more romantic elements could not be taken seriously. Besides that, though, I will say this book is my favorite YA fantasy I have read in years.
There are multiple main perspectives, shifting from all the main characters (though I don’t recall Wylan having any chapters in his perspective, though I may be wrong). Although the chapters are all clearly marked as which perspective it’s in, I did find five perspectives to be a bit too much. I would have preferred less than four. Also, within certain chapters you would have both a scene that took place in modern day, and have a flashback to something that happened in the character’s past. Sometimes I didn’t mind it, but there were a couple scenes I was confused about which was taking place when.
The characters are perhaps the best part of this book. The only thing I didn’t like about it is the oldest is eighteen years old, and yet they all have such advanced understanding. I understand that some that age are mature, but to not have a lot of immaturities too…it just drew from the brilliance of their characters, in my opinion. Kaz is the leader of the group, not only a brilliant thief but a man feared for his strategy. He’s introduced as being…cool might be the word, but I liked how they expanded his character to give him a more complex side. Every one of the main characters are similarly developed. You have Nina, a Grisha woman with powers to heal and change appearance. You have Matthias, an ex-soldier who became a convict. You have Wylan, the son of the man who hired them to do the job. Every one of the characters, in themselves, was interesting.
However, I also can’t ignore the glaring ridiculousness of all the random romance inserted into the story. It was like all six of the main characters had to be just randomly matched off with each other. I was fine with the dramatic romance between Nina and Matthias. But Kaz and Inej’s just felt weird, as did Jesper and Wylan’s. Most of the romance just felt inserted for plot convenience, not because it actually fit with their characters. I would have liked the book much better, I think, if there had been less romance.
Also, the ending bothered me. Without getting into spoilers, let’s just say it ended on a cliff hanger, and I felt like it had only been inserted to force the reader to read the second book. I honestly didn’t feel like it added anything to the story, and I dislike when authors employ this tactic to sell books.
Now I feel like I can’t go any further without spoiling a lot of things, so let’s move to the spoiler section.
So, the heist is really comprised of the six breaking into an Ice Palace to rescue a scientist, who created this advanced drug to amplify the powers of the Grisha, of which Nina is one. It pretty much turns them into superpowerful beings, though at the price of a crippling and lethal addiction. I loved this concept, as we find out more about the drug and the powers who want to use it as the plot continues.
There are also quite a few amazing scenes, though I feel like some of them are told from the perspectives who know the least of what’s going on. For example, near the end Wylan is made to look like the scientist’s son, who they are turning over to the man who hired them for the job. The only person in the group who doesn’t know about this plan is Jesper, and it is from his perspective that the chapter is told, to keep the reader in the dark for the big reveal. I just felt like, at times, this was a cheap tactic to add to the twists of the book.
I won’t get into too many spoilers, because I did like this book enough to recommend it, but I won’t say it’s perfect…maybe I’m just too critical.
I really enjoyed this book. It is the perfect combination of character-driven scenes and intense action sequences. It has really good pacing, especially for being almost 500 pages long.
Have you read this book? Does it look interesting to you? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musing and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,