Welcome to the last day of the Fierce Reads 2015 blog tour! Today, I’m reviewing Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, marking a return to the Grisha world, and Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales, a markedly honest contemporary YA novel. And two lucky readers might just find themselves winning a signed copy each of one of these books, so read on!
Tell Me More: A few months ago, I fell into a Leverage-sized hole. Since then, I’ve been looking for the same kind of story and character ensemble in YA fiction, and Leigh Bardugo unwittingly answered the call with Six of Crows.
Kaz Brekker is an indomitable character, with a presence that lends weight to any scene he’s in. It’s his story to draw into any direction he chooses, but he chooses to involve this particular group of people and they shift the story in their own ways. Inej takes control of the narrative within the first chapter, and it’s through her eyes that we get to know Kaz and the way he thinks. They fit together in ways that are crucial to the story’s development, but Bardugo doesn’t rush that connection. It’s a good choice, allowing Kaz and Inej’s relationship (for lack of a better word) to contrast the quick tension of Matthias and Nina, who light their respective pages on fire every time they interact. Where Inej and Kaz may never come to a point where they have to acknowledge what they are to each other, Matthias and Nina are very much defined by who they are to each other, and it’s an uneasy state to be in for characters who have always had a singular purpose.
Rounding up the team are Wylan and Jesper, who sometimes serve as comedic relief, but otherwise help ground the group’s more instinctual moves and decisions. Bardugo balances her six characters’ subplots and secrets with a nimble hand that even Kaz would envy–there is an undeniable confidence in her prose that has been clearly honed by her previous series, short stories, and novellas. As a reader, I’m left in awe; as a writer, I’ve been given a story worth picking apart and exploring. It’s a pretty great trade-off for the weeks Leigh Bardugo has left me reeling over Six of Crows.
Tell Me More: Leila Sales’ protagonists have been some of the most realistic characters I’ve had the pleasure of encountering in YA fiction, and Arden is no exception, though her story might be more polarizing than Sales’ previous books. Tonight the Streets Are Ours won’t be a book for every reader, teen or adult, but I do think that it’s one that should be on bookshelves for what it tries to do: give a teen character a chance to make mistakes and own those mistakes.
Thinking of Arden immediately brings the word “timid” to mind: she isn’t exactly shy, but she doesn’t rock the proverbial boat, and she tries to keep everyone around her afloat. Saving her best friend from possible expulsion backfires on Arden, however, and it’s a situation that leads to her re-evaluating her life. Her discovery of the Tonight the Streets Are Ours blog is a well-timed distraction, and a dare that she takes on, both to her credit and detriment. Arden is a complicated person, and her roadtrip is a complicated choice, and the people she meets are complicated individuals, and Sales stays true to that complexity, even when it’s not pleasant to read about.
Sales uses a third-person perspective in Streets, providing some distance for the reader from Arden’s narrative, which also makes it very easy to fall into judging Arden. It’s tempting to say that her choices aren’t ones we would make, but if there’s one thing Streets does, it reminds us that we have all been teenagers, and we have all made choices that might not make a whole lot of sense now.
Touring authors Emma Mills (First & Then), Josephine Angelini (Firewalker) and Leigh Bardugo were also gracious enough to answer a question for the blog tour:
What have you learned from writing this book that you might want to incorporate into your future work?
Emma Mills: Going through the revision process for the first time was really valuable for me; I think it helped me learn to be more flexible in my writing! In drafting FIRST & THEN initially, I went over certain paragraphs again and again, tweaking this or that. And then in revising, any one of those paragraphs could be cut! So I think I learned that what’s ultimately most efficient for me is to spend more time on broad strokes when drafting, and to then really hone in little details during the revision process.
Josephine Angelini: Writing both Lily and Lillian has opened the door for me to do more of an ensemble work next time around. I think the next series I write will have multiple characters’ points of view and it won’t have a clear-cut leading woman or man. I feel like I’m ready to branch out and tell multiple storylines at once.
Leigh Bardugo: I hope I’m a little braver about what I attempt. I don’t know. Each book presents a new set of challenges. I never could have written Six of Crows as my first book—the heist, the flashbacks, the multiple points of view. I just don’t think I had the chops. But I’m not sure I realize what I’ve learned from writing a book until I’m knee deep in the next one.
Want to win a signed copy of Six of Crows or Tonight the Streets Are Ours?
Click here to enter before midnight, October 23! Two winners will be chosen, and will be asked to choose between the two books. (US/Canada only, sorry international friends!)
Thanks to the authors for their time, and to Raincoast Books for arranging this tour! And if you’re in the Greater Toronto Area on October 17, stop by Indigo Yonge/Eglinton for the Fierce Reads book tour!