Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Six of Crows bk 1. Henry Holt, 2015. ISBN 9781627792127
(Age: 14+) Highly recommended. Fantasy. Heists. Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Young Adult Fantasy and Science Fiction (2015), YALSA's Best Books for Young Adults (2016). Kaz Brekker has been offered the chance to pull off the heist of a life time and he gathers around him five dangerous specialists, most from the Dregs, thieves of Kerch's underworld. There is Inej the Wraith, who can silently scale walls, Nina the girl who has betrayed her friend Matthias and is desperate to get him out of gaol, Jesper the gambler who cannot resist wagers and the rich runaway Wylan who hates his father. Led by Kaz, a superb thief and strategist, they are aiming to invade the Ice Palace in a seemingly impossible quest.
For those who enjoyed the Grisha series, Six of crows is the first book in another series set this time in Ketterdam, which is in a fantasy land similar to the Netherlands. Bardugo's world building is immaculate - her vivid descriptions make it easy to smell and see the slums, the canals the docks and the cold lands that the six traverse.
Then there is her outstanding character building. Each of the six main characters, who tell their own stories in separate chapters, have distinct voices and often heart-rending tales about their backgrounds that gradually emerge as the story unfolds. They are all compelling people with separate skills and together they must begin to trust each other and form an effective team to get the job done. There are subtle hints of romance, but this is not what stands out, rather the complexity of the personalities and their pasts is what holds the reader's interest.
Fans of Leigh Bardugo will really enjoy this, but readers new to this author and indeed, the fantasy genre, will find a fascinating world, irresistible action and feisty characters to entertain them.