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Book Review: “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo

 

**This review may contain spoilers**

So, I’ve only just recently gotten back into the habit of reading. In 2020, I read four books and one play (shoutout to GoodReads for helping me keep track of what I read and when). In the first few months of 2021, I’ve already read 5 books, currently on my sixth, and I can honestly say I have never been happier. Getting into the habit of reading has reintroduced me to books I read as a kid, while also bringing new books into my life that were originally just collecting dust on my shelves. One of the newer books that I recently picked up was Leigh Bardugo’s “Six of Crows.”

Now, I have always adored Bardugo’s writing. Her original “Shadow and Bone” trilogy had me hooked, and the “Six of Crows” duology takes place in the same universe, but with vastly different characters. The duology follows 6 individuals, ranging in age from 16 to 18, who are set into dangerous heists due to their range of skill and craving for chaos. Coming from a gang called “The Dregs,” they set out to try and get back a highly sought after scientist after being commissioned by a well-known merchant (Jan Van Eck) to do so. This scientist is being held as an inmate in one of the most closely guarded prisons in this universe called the Ice Court. The small crew assembled to get this scientist can be referred to as “The Crows.”

It’s so incredibly hard not to love every character in this book. At the beginning, there are points where a character or two may feel unneeded, or that they don’t fit in, but by the end of the story, they all fall right into place. Kaz Brekker, the leader of The Dregs and definition of “antihero,” fits perfectly into place from the beginning. He’s brutal, quick-witted, and willing to do anything that will get him a good sum of cash. Due to trauma from his childhood, he has adverse reactions towards skin-to-skin contact and walks with a crow-headed cane after getting into a heist-related incident previous to “Six of Crows”. Despite him being malicious and ruthless, there are scenes of quick banter and moments of seeing into his mind that help the reader understand Kaz’s motivations and actions. 

The second character I’ll bring in is Inej Ghafa. A quick, lithe spy of The Dregs, Inej is one of the most highly valued “investments” on the team (quote courtesy of the one and only Kaz Brekker). Nicknamed “The Wraith,” Inej utilizes the shadows, getting in and retrieving necessary information before slipping out with zero trace. She relies on her Saints and her knives, which she has incredible accuracy with when carrying them on her. Inej is incredibly strong and admirable, having faith at any given moment, even when all faith feels like it should be lost. 

Jesper Fahey is up next, and he is one of my favorite characters by far. A sharpshooter with a minor gambling problem, Jesper is by far one of the most charming characters in this book. He’s a huge flirt with Wylan (someone I’ll bring up soon) and is pretty much constantly joking. Despite being the most light-hearted of the group, during his chapters, we get to see a lot of his insecurities and worries come to the surface. He has two pistols that he holds dear to his heartthat are his typical weapons of choice when the crew gets into some trouble. Although not as well-rounded as Kaz or Inej, Jesper is dorky, charismatic, and just overall a fun character to be involved with The Crows. 

Nina Zenik is one of the most useful characters to this story, in my opinion. She is considered a Heartrender in this universe, which essentially means she has the power to harm an individual on sight. With her powers, she has the ability to cut off air from getting to a person’s lungs, prevent blood flow, and even break the necks of enemies. She’s quick on her feet and is willing to do anything for her team, and she understands the importance of her being with The Crows in the first place. She’s able to put guards to sleep so the team can slip by without anyone noticing and is confident about her ability to work. She cares most for The Crows as she does anything to ensure their safety and well-being.

Wylan Van Eck and Matthis Helvar are two characters I’ll put together, mostly for the fact that they are the least “notable” characters in “Six of Crows.” Both were helpful in their own ways, but they didn’t have as much care put into them as the prior 4 did. Wylan is the demolition expert for The Crows and the youngest on the team. He’s easy to fluster and incredibly new to The Dregs, meaning he has little experience with the brutality Kaz will dish out. He’s sweet, but we really don’t get any information of substance on him until the end of the novel when we find out he was kicked out by his father (who happens to be the merchant paying The Crows for the job) for being dyslexic. Although he’s sweet (and my favorite character), we really don’t get a feel for who Wylan Van Eck really is. Matthias Helvar was the only individual on this team not from The Dregs and is the oldest of The Crows. Originally a prisoner, Matthias is cold and calculated through a good majority of “Six of Crows.” He proves himself useful to the heist but generally isn’t well-developed enough to form a firm opinion on him. 

Every character plays a vital role in pulling the heist off, and although it starts off smoothly, it quickly becomes chaotic and above anything else, entertaining to the reader. The dynamics between each of the characters are well developed and fun, helping keep the reader hooked, even during the smaller “less memorable” portions of the book. It’s engaging, fun, and keeps the audience on their toes. 

On top of the story itself being fun, the actual characters are incredibly diverse. Jesper and Inej are people of color, Jesper and Wylan are within the LGBTQ+ community, Nina is consistently referenced as plus-sized, and Wylan and Kaz are disabled. On top of this, there are heavy implications that Jesper has ADHD/ADD and most of the characters (Jesper excluded) have some form of trauma, with it manifesting into PTSD-like symptoms for Kaz and Inej. The amount of inclusivity in this novel makes me super happy; reading about characters and being able to partially see myself in them is really nice. 

Overall, this book is an incredible read for someone who wants a misfit cast of characters, a fun heist, and a bit of fantasy and flirting thrown in the mix. The dialogue is witty and fun and got me to genuinely laugh out loud a couple of times. The characters, although flawed, are lovable and respectable in their own ways. The storyline itself is fairly smooth and easy to follow, although a bit drawn out. I could not recommend this book enough, and I cannot wait to see what the next book in this series will bring to the table.

Tessa is a sophomore journalism and theater double major at SUNY Oswego. They love reading, hanging out with friends, and crocheting in their free time. They also adore theatre, and are hoping to get more engaged with the art as they go through college.
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