Review: Six of Crows

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Six of Crows follows a ragtag band of emotionally unstable criminals who are sent on heist and in the process accidentally end up saving the world. (Spoiler-free review).

Author: Leigh Bardugo

Synopsis: Six of Crows takes place in the fictional port city of Ketterdam, where Kaz Brekker leads his gang, the Dregs. He’s just finished a job when he gets kidnapped, brought to the merchant Jan Van Eck’s house and enlisted for a new mission. For this unfathomably dangerous task, Kaz must enlist the help of his friends, the Crows; Inej Ghafa, the Wraith of Ketterdam; Nina Zenik, a young Heartrender using her powers to survive the city; Matthias Helvar, a Fjerdan convict struggling to understand his beliefs; Jesper Fahey, the charismatic sharpshooter; and Wylan, a runaway searching for a new life. Together they must break into the Ice Court, the most strictly guarded fortress in Fjerda, and bring the scientist, Bo Yul-Bayur and his dangerous new discovery back to Ketterdam.

Note: Bardugo begins her journey through the Grishaverse in her first trilogy, Shadow and Bone. In the fictional Grishaverse, Grisha are gifted individuals with abilities to manipulate the elements, such as, air, fire, water, metals/chemicals, and even the human body. Six of Crows takes place after Shadow and Bone, but it will still make sense if you read Six of Crows first (but you’ll get the full experience if you read Shadow and Bone first).

Review: Leigh Bardugo is a painter of words and an artist of literature. One of my favorite things about her duology is the cultural color Bardugo’s characters bring. Each one of them comes from a different background with different backgrounds and beliefs. I absolutely adore Bardugo’s use of Matthias and the corrupt society of Fjerda blended with Inej’s Suli (Indian-based) beliefs as a way to illustrate how religion in and of itself is not bad, but it can be used to harm others. The different ideas presented in Six of Crows gives everyone a character to relate to. However, it’s not just the religions that add culture to the book, it’s the traditions and the people too. Bardugo invented her own universe (dubbed the “Grishaverse”) with multiple countries and unique cultures. For example, Fjerda is a very misogynistic society with restrictive traditions, such as women only wearing wool and knitted skirts. However, the people of Ketterdam put on plays, wear “scandalous” clothing, go to gambling dens and the whole city is practically buzzing with life.

As with the cultural diversity, Six of Crows presents representation for people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and several mental/physical ailments. For example, Jesper Fahey is a Black bisexual with ADHD. There are also Indian-based characters, Asian-based representation, and a plus-sized girl with enough confidence to bring the world to its knees. Wylan is gay, Nina is confirmed bisexual or pan-sexual. Six of Crows presents issues of PTSD, both a severe and a minor touch aversion, plus a dyslexic character. I love a book with good representation for all types of people. It makes me feel like everyone has a place in this world and no one should be left out, no matter who or what they are.

Another thing I love to see in books are the relationships forged between characters. Whether it be romantic or platonic, I love to see relatable, fun characters growing together. The friendships forged throughout the Six of Crows duology brought a happy light to the book even when things got dark. All of the Crows are realistically flawed, yet still amazing people when you get down to it. They all learn to be better than their past selves and they all grow as people as the book goes on. There are also romantic relationships sprinkled throughout the book. I hate when authors rush through relationships- to me, anything other than a slow burn romance tends to feel rushed and unrealistic. However, Bardugo writes each romantic subplot perfectly. Once we get to know the characters and who they are, we start to see small and incredibly thoughtful things the characters do for each other, which in my opinion is a million times better than making out after a single conversation. I enjoy it so much more when the character’s actually get together if we legitimately get to know them before hand. I want to know who a character is, not how well they can kiss.

I can always rely on these characters to make me happy and allow me to have a good time while escaping the real world for a little while. This book will keep you on your toes- you’ll never know if a plot twist is actually a plot twist of if it’s another part of Kaz’s intricately thought-out plans. The Grishaverse world lit up my bad days and made the good ones even better. It never failed to make me smile and even managed to teach me a few lessons along the way. This book taught me to always get back up when I fall. It taught me that sometimes you’re not alright, and that’s okay, but you have to be willing to help yourself before you can let others help you (which you should let them do, because that’s what friends are for). Lastly, it taught me that it was okay to be me, whoever that may be (sappy, I know).

All in all, I would give Six of Crows 5 out of 5 stars (more if I could), and I would recommend it to any one who loves fantasy, rich cultures and world building, vast representation, some badass female characters, and just a grand time with some lovable characters and a page turner plot (even if you don’t like those, this book is amazing. Go read it). And if books aren’t really your thing, the Crows make an appearance in the Netflix series, Shadow and Bone.