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Leigh Bardugo Writes Characters Like No Other Fantasy Novelist

With the holiday season rolling in, people are reuniting with families over break. So there’s no better time to crack open the Six of Crows duology. The duology consists of two books: Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. In these books, we follow seven characters who all possess different personalities and backgrounds. Readers could easily see a bit of themself in each one. This duology has become one of my all time favorite series, alongside the holy grail of Harry Potter and Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & The Olympians series. Leigh Bardugo delivers multifaceted characters who each have unique relationships and dynamics with each other — all in a beautifully crafted fantasy world.

The duology takes place in the same universe as the Shadow and Bone trilogy and King of Scars duology. Together, these books make up the Grishaverse. Although you do not have to read the other books, I recommend doing so as it gives you more background knowledge on other characters and aspects of the setting.

In this particular duology, the story takes place in the Kerch, specifically in the city of Ketterdam. The Kerch people are run by oligarchies, composed of the most powerful and successful merchants, who worship gods of commerce and wealth. In Ketterdam, greed is as rampant as crime.

There are six main characters and behind every single one of them lies a backstory. No character is seen as a secondary character as each one is given the same amount of time and attention as the next. These backstories are marked by trauma and hardship. However, Bardugo does not allow these characters to be pigeonholed into their past or labeled as one such thing. She shows how they are currently dealing with their trauma and the light at the end of the tunnel. These characters are human. They are flawed. Each of them have motivations, fears, weaknesses and strengths. I often find this rare in young adult fantasy novels as the main characters. In other novels, the women protagonists are commonly portrayed as infallible and all-powerful people who will save the world without any setbacks. There are no unrealistic women who are beautiful and get the guy, all while effortlessly controlling their newfound powers. Bardugo’s characters are simply trying to navigate their place in the world alongside their found family.

What has also captured the hearts of Grishaverse fans, including myself, are the Crows’ dynamics. Everyone has a beautiful relationship with one another and Bardugo highlights each and every one of them. These relationships represent realistic sibling dynamics where they bicker all the time, but will ask each other what they want to eat five minutes after their argument. Additionally, the romantic relationships in the story are healthy and have a lot of depth. Both partners have mutual respect for one another and strive to present valid points that support their disagreements. These relationships make sense, and are not just a pairing of two attractive fan favorites.

Bardugo carefully crafts these dynamics through dialogue, which is one of my favorite aspects of this book. Each character has their individual way of speaking. If I was given a random quote, I could tell you exactly who said it. That is how well Leigh Bardugo writes dialogue! She isn’t an adult who presumes to know how teenagers speak. The characters, despite their young ages, don’t sound stereotypically juvenile but more naturale. 

You could join me, alongside countless Grishaverse fans, by reading this duology. You can find it at Barnes and Nobles or any other bookstore. It’s just that good, I promise.

Katelyn Nguyen

UC Irvine '25

is binging true crime documentaries and matcha lattes. She is always buying another book even though she has several waiting at home for her.
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