Six of Crows: Review
A consistent trend in Young Adult fiction is the theme of teenage survival: kids mastering the technique of living independently and the occasional fight for their lives. It has been prevalent in many popular YA books over the past few years– The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Legend by Marie Lu, The Maze Runner by James Dashner– and this theme is continued in Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, except this time there is a magical realism twist.
The story is told by alternating perspectives, primarily by the main six characters of the book. Set in the fictional city of Ketterdam, Kerch, the story delves into the lives of a ragtag crew of teenagers who have all ended up in the Dregs– a gang that performs high-risk, deadly heists or missions for monetary gain, and evidently labeling them all as criminals. To thicken the plot, there are humans born with extraordinary capabilities called Grisha. They are widely known, but are hunted down by drüskelle, soldiers from the country of Fjerda who believe they are less than human.
The story begins when six teenagers set out to perform a mission for the Dregs’ leader, Kaz Brekker, which involves breaking into a seemingly unbreakable prison, capturing one of their inmates, and making it out alive. (Much easier said than done.)
Within the first few chapters of the story, Bardugo has laid out so many characters, important terminology, and backstories that the reader must either have a superb memory or a piece of paper and a pen in their other hand while reading. Despite this, the uniqueness of the story and the fascination for the characters is enough to keep the reader going.
It is not often that a book makes you wonder how the author could have come up with such a complex and thorough universe that is so different from your own, but this is the feeling that arises when reading Six of Crows. Published with drawn maps in the first few pages, the story is based in a world where every country and language is different from our own. Yet, Bardugo did not miss a single detail in crafting this universe.
Creating meaningful characters seems to be Bardugo’s forte. The aforementioned Kaz Brekker is one of the antagonists, and his character goes deep beyond his cruel demeanor and his iconic, ever-present black gloves. It takes nearly the entire book to uncover the fullness of his character, bits and pieces of his past and the reasoning for his interesting quirks being revealed on the way. The others have just as well-developed characters, with unique parts that make them individual and recognizable even without the name being stated. It takes a skilled author to be able to create realistic characters that are also different from anyone else imaginable, and yet, Bardugo succeeded spectacularly.
The story is your classic YA action: dark backstories and dire situations endanger the characters throughout the entire book. In between these events, however, Bardugo sprinkles in humor and hidden crushes, deepening the characters and making them more than just surface actors in a tragedy. Each teenager has their own motivation, their own longing or need, even if it is unbeknownst to them. The tension this creates is only intensified by the adventures they partake in.
But despite all of the dangerous risks and near-death experiences, one concept always rises to the surface: there is family in friendship, and trust can sometimes be the only thing that keeps you alive.
Click here to listen to my Six of Crows Spotify playlist as you read!
Six of Crows is the first of a duology. Crooked Kingdom is the next (and last) book in this series.