Six of Crows is the latest YA fantasy novel by New York Times bestselling author Leigh Bardugo. Her newest novel continues to explore the world of the Grisha.
This new series which releases on September 29, 2015 begins in Ketterdam which is described as, “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.” Ketterdam was briefly mentioned as a neighboring country to Ravka in the the previous Grisha Trilogy, but Ketterdam and its inhabitants didn’t play a major role.
The main protagonist, Kaz is offered a chance to pull off an impossible heist whose stakes are higher than just monetary ones. Kaz can’t pull it off alone, so he recruits a team whose unique skill set will render his quest successful, if they don’t kill each other first.
A conversation with Leigh Bardugo
Six of Crows is set in The Grisha Trilogy universe, but it’s not a sequel. Can you tell us how this new series fits into the universe, and dovetails with the facts as we know them?
Six of Crows takes place two years after the end of Ruin and Rising (book 3 in The Grisha Trilogy). It is set in the same world as The Grisha Trilogy, but in a new country, and with a whole new cast of characters. It’s a country called Kerch that I referred to a few times in The Grisha Trilogy. It’s a hyper-capitalist, trading superpower. It’s a little island nation that has a tremendous amount of influence. They’ve stayed neutral while everyone else has squandered their money on wars, and they are thriving. They are this jewel of art and commerce. The university where Nikolai (Prince Nikolai/Sturmhond of The Grisha Trilogy) was supposed to be going to school is there. The world’s stock exchange is there, but beneath it all this, is the less pretty underside. It’s not only the hub of all legal trade, but it’s also the hub of all illegal trade. So there is this thriving criminal underworld, and that’s where all of my heroes or antiheroes come from.
It sounds a little bit like the TV series Firefly where the heroes are smugglers trying to survive in a corrupt world that’s dished them a rotten deal.
I love a rag tag band of misfits story. In a way, if you’ve read The Grisha Trilogy, you know that that story becomes a rag tag band of misfits story. But I love Ocean’s 11 and Guardians of the Galaxy, and The Dirty Dozen. The Untouchables is one of my favorite films of all time. It’s definitely a story I like. I like the feeling of found families, people who maybe don’t have much in common, but come together and become stronger together than they are apart.
You said the the events of Six of Crows take place two years after the conclusion of Ruin and Rising. Is it possible for readers who have not read The Grisha Trilogy to jump right in and start with this story not knowing the background of the universe?
Absolutely. I wrote Six of Crows for people who are not familiar with The Grisha Trilogy. If you haven’t read the trilogy, you don’t need to to jump into Six of Crows. If you have read the trilogy, you’ll find little treats waiting for you. I included a lot of references, little Easter eggs and breadcrumbs, in the book for The Grisha Trilogy readers.
Are there any cameo appearances by any of the characters we know and love from The Grisha Trilogy?
There is a very small cameo in the first book, and definitely some cameos in the second, although the second book is still in the first draft so my editor may look at it and be like, “Cut all those chapters!”
As far as Grisha power goes, is there a thriving Grisha community in Kerch?
You’re going to see a completely different side to Grisha power. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say… because you learn very early on… some things are going to change. First of all, Ravka (the main country of The Grisha Trilogy) is a relatively safe place for Grisha if they chose to join the military. In Kerch, it’s in theory a safe place for Grisha, but we learn in reality, it is not. Grisha who live in Kerch are indentured servants, or they run the risk of being snapped up and sold as slaves. It’s a pretty hostile world out there for Grisha outside of the borders of Ravka if anybody knows what you really are.
You’re also going to get a view of Fjerda, the country to the north of Ravka, where they have a decidedly hostile view of Grisha. In fact, two members of the team, two of the crows, one of them is a Grisha Corporalki Heartrender named Nina, and one of them is a guy named Matthias who is a Grisha hunter, who are sort of the military special ops who hunt Grisha down and send them to trial and inevitable death in Fjerda. Sparks fly because they are then forced to work together, and they have quite a bit of personal history.
You’re going to see Grisha power return, but you’re also going to see Grisha Power do things that you’ve never seen before.
Speaking of Grisha power, are there new Grisha powers that are uncovered? For example, Alina was the first Sun Summoner in generations. It was a power thought impossible. Are any more of the impossible found to be possible?
I guess I would say that Grisha power is based on magical molecular chemistry. It’s based on the manipulation of matter at its most fundamental levels. You’ll see new ways that it’s used in Six of Crows, but at no time am I going to throw random powers at you. I never want to violate the rules that I’ve set up, but I have created a situation where I have basically levelled them up. That’s the most I can say without giving away too much.
So we’re in no danger of anyone sprouting five wings, or spontaneously turning invisible?
For instance in Ruin and Rising, when Alina attained invisibility, it was because she was able to bend light which was based on some of the most sound science in the series. In Six of Crows, there’s actually a scientist who has developed a drug that takes Grisha powers to a whole new level. Many things are possible that were not possible before, but of course the drug comes at a terrible price.
You have a love of pop culture and many different fandoms. If your characters were to attend a convention and cosplay, who would they come as?
I feel like The Darkling would cosplay Bellamy from The 100 because I feel like they would understand each other. Nicholai would be complaining that Captain Tightpants (a.k.a. Mal from Firefly) was stealing his style. I feel like Alina would be Orphan Black, literally all my Grisha ladies would each be a clone. Genya would make sure each of them looked absolutely perfect.
What can you tease of the new book?
Well, I’ve already talked about Nina and Matthias. Kaz Brekker, who gets the band together, is nothing like George Clooney. We are teasing the book by saying it’s a bit like Ocean’s 11, but Kaz Brekker isn’t Clooney. He isn’t slick or sophisticated. He is the toughest, smartest, most ruthless kid in the room. He has dragged himself up out of the slums to become this kind of rising star among the warring gangs of the city. There is Inej who is his right hand woman. His Robin to his Batman. She is this incredible spy who is an acrobat who was kidnapped and sold into a brothel, but has now reinvented herself as this very dangerous girl. There’s Jesper who is a sharper shooter who can’t walk away from a fight or a wager. He’s definitely a fan of risk in all its forms. There is Wylan who is a rich kid who is running away from the life of privilege whose reasons for running away aren’t immediately clear, but he has a gift for demolition.
The Grisha Trilogy was optioned for a movie awhile back. Has there been any movement on that front?
There has been a little bit of movement with sort of all the properties in The Grisha Universe, but I’m not allowed to talk about it yet. I hope to have something I can announce soon but Hollywood is slow.
Which studio again has the option?
Dreamworks. David Hayman, who did the Harry Potter films and Gravity, is the one who is attached and he is the one who is working most closely on the projects. I feel like we are in very good hands with him.