The fantasy novel Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo (author of the Grisha series), follows the story of Kaz Brekker and his crew of dangerous outcasts as they attempt to commit the one heist that could get them out of the streets and make them millionaires. The catch? The very likely chance of death for all those involved before the quest can even begin.
Six of Crows is one of my favourite books of all time. Its original, well-mapped setting (there is literally a map at the beginning of the book), unique cast of bold, dynamic characters, and intricate, steady plot all work together to create a story that plays out effortlessly in one’s imagination.
This book takes place in the Grishaverse, a world in which there are two types of human beings: normal humans and Grisha. The Grisha have the appearance of regular humans but are able to manipulate matter at a fundamental level. In other words, Grisha are able to perform what appears to be magic, while humans are just, well, humans. As a result of this gap in pure ability, there exists a rift, created by suspicion and exclusion, between the two groups. While both may resent the other, it is often the Grisha who are more openly oppressed and discriminated against by the normal humans for their alleged “witchery,” even if they have not committed any crimes. By setting the story in this world, Leigh Bardugo creates an extreme demonstration of our world and the discrimination that exists for very little reason here. It also allows for a very open fantastical element to the story, as there are often events that only happen due to Grisha power, and therefore could never occur in our world.
The protagonists in Six of Crows are all, in some aspect, antiheroes; not surprising, as they are all either outcasts or outlaws in some way or another, each with their own designs for their future. This in itself already creates a fascinating dynamic between the main characters, as it presents reason for conflict to arise within the group, for each member has their own agenda and principles even as they strive for a common goal. However, despite this engrossing cross of intentions, the interaction between characters is, surprisingly, not the most engaging point. What I find truly incredible about this book is that each and every protagonist is utterly charming and charismatic in their own way. A large part of this is due to the witty, quick-fire dialogue that is exchanged between them, which does just as much to show a character’s personality as any well-written character description.
The plot itself is a strong, steady heartbeat, guiding the characters along at an appropriate pace. The storyline is never too fast nor too slow, and mostly has just the perfect amount, or lack thereof, of description. In terms of format, the book is written from different characters’ perspectives, switching from person to person as the story goes on. I tend to dislike this form of writing, for I feel it adds nothing but confusion to the book. However, the way in which Leigh Bardugo handles this format is quite skillful, and each perspective offers the reader a different viewpoint of the situation without sounding awkward.
Even though much of the book flows smoothly, specific places, names, and concepts original to the book—such as the concept of Grisha, for example—can be confusing. For this reason, even though I read Six of Crows before reading the Grisha series, I recommend reading the latter first in order to get a basic understanding of the Grisha world first.
Overall, Six of Crows is an exceptional book that offers a most intricate and captivating reading experience. I had anticipated the release of its sequel, Crooked Kingdom, quite eagerly, and I would say that both books were well worth my time and should be worth yours too.