I picked up this book because Cherelle cannot write a post without talking about it, so I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. All in all, I really enjoyed it, as the plot was well constructed and the relationships between the characters excellent. I would have liked a little more depth thematically, but that is my personal preference, and the book function completely fine without it. I’ll definitely be reading the second part of this duology.
At its core, this novel is a heist story involving a team of six anti-heroes. At least I think that is the correct term. It is set in an industrial age city, which is supplemented by typical fantasy elements. However, the real appeal is not originality necessarily, but how tight Leigh Bardugo’s writing is, which makes it stand apart in a genre overflowing with talent.
While the characters might be very archetypal (the fleet-footed rogue, the deadly sharpshooter, the banished warrior etc), they are by no means cardboard cutouts. Every single main character has been given interesting motivations and backstory that allow them to shed their constraints and become real. Each also gets a series of flashbacks where necessary to deepen our understanding (and sympathy).
However, it doesn’t stop at having six complex, morally-grey characters. The various relationships between them are all individual and nuanced. No two friendship or rivalry feels the same. This means that there are 15 well-thought out, yet completely organic feeling relationships. Quite a feat. Not to mention any relationships with secondary characters, many of which are also strong.
The plot felt like a slick execution of a relatively typical heist thriller. There were plans made. They went awry. New plans were improvised. Information was withheld. Buffs were called. Betrayal and sacrifice. Essentially, all the ingredients were masterfully combined to create one sweet cake. It looks pretty, but there is substance too.
I could talk about the fantasy elements, which were certainly interesting, but I’m not going to. I don’t think they were significantly noteworthy when compared to the characterization.
Overall, I think I’m going to give the book 6 out of 7, although I could absolutely see the case for it to be higher. The way Bardugo cultivated the relationships was incredible, and so the book is worthwhile just for that. However, I would have liked another selling point from it. Everything else was certainly well done, but not extraordinary. I also feel that with such rich characters, there was a missed opportunity for some substantial comments on society/human nature/emotional openness. That being said, it is abundantly obvious that it holds up well without it, and I’d recommend to any fantasy lover. It also seems like quite a good starting place if you are looking to break into the genre.