When I recently visited my hometown, my sister and I went into our local thrift bookstore. While I was browsing the discounted books, I found a copy of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Remembering how much I loved the book when I first read it, I bought the copy. During my reread, I realized I had forgotten how compelling the story was and how impactful the novel was to me.
Since the age of eleven, I’ve been an avid writer. Before I even knew the staples of narrative arcs and how to create a complex world, I was typing away on my family’s computer trying desperately to write a masterful story. By the time I was seventeen, I had redefined my previous tactics, but was still working on a newer draft of the same novel and found myself in a rut. In an attempt to remedy my writer’s block, I referred to the worst “solution”; I took a break from writing. But through this option, I started reading a lot more.
I had previously heard nothing but amazing things about Bardugo’s duology, so I conceded and picked up Six of Crows. That reading changed my perspective on storytelling.
Worldbuilding in Six of Crows
Six of Crows showcases a brilliant display of worldbuilding. From different regions with distinct religions, governments, languages, and foods, every aspect of the Grishaverse feels so real and thought-out. And the world isn’t just there for show. We can see how characters from different cultures have specific ideologies and how their environment affects them when they meet people of other upbringings.
This leads me to the highly-needed praise for the characters of Six of Crows. The novel shows how powerful a brilliant cast of characters can carry a story, even though the worldbuilding is phenomenal enough on its own. The story follows six diverse, young outcasts – each with a different skillset – as they embark on a heist. The story at a surface level showcases their abilities and strategies as they attempt a near-impossible feat: freeing a scientist who created the powerful and dangerous drug jurda parem from the nation’s strongest prison.
But beneath that, these characters have unique and rich dreams, goals, and backgrounds. One of Bardugo’s strongest writing qualities is how she portrays characters interacting. The bonds these characters create through emotionally taxing times are beautifully crafted.
While some of these heartfelt dynamics are platonic, there are still plenty of romantic relationships to go around. Do you like forbidden lovers? Six of Crows has it. Matthias and Nina are from rival countries but are forced into proximity and learn to be vulnerable to each other. Do you like a slow burn? Jesper and Wylan go from annoying aquantancies to fostering a kind, supportive love. Want a heart-wrenching romance that spawns from cover to cover? I won’t spoil too much, but Kaz and Inej’s romantic arc has you covered.
What makes these relationships to perfect is that fact that any of these characters are complex enough to stand independently and be likeable on their own. They don’t need their other half to be interesting, it’s just an add-on.
Even within one of the opening scenes of the novel, Inej spies on Kaz. This not only showcases his character from an outside perspective, but Bardugo imbues agency within Inej as she observes silently (a conventionally considered passive action). Inej is a skilled, silent assasian. She gains strength through her ability to listen. Bardugo does a phenomenal job of showing how strength can come from unconventional places or qualities not usually deemed admirable through all of the six characters.
To do this, Six of Crows utilizes eloquent, evocative prose with incredible dialogue. There are plenty of stories that utilize fanciful imagery, but Bardugo’s is purposeful and convincing and accompanies description with quotable conversations with distinct voices that perfectly encompass their characters.
‘Greed is your god, Kaz.’
He almost laughed at that. ‘No, Inej. Greed bows to me. It is my servant and my lever.’
‘And what god do you serve, then?’
‘Whichever will grant me good fortune.’
‘I don’t think gods work that way.’
‘I don’t think I care.’Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows
I couldn’t put the book down, and I finished the story wanting more and wanting to create something just as masterful and compelling as Bardugo’s novel. I recommend the Six of Crows duology to anyone and everyone. Want to learn about a fantastical, steam-punky world? Read Six of Crows. Craving a heist story and a rag-tag team of misfits? Read Six of Crows. Desperate for a speculative story that provides commentary on social inequality and class disparity? Read Six of Crows. After an embarrassingly long period of not reading, Leigh Bardugo’s novel inspired me to shove my nose back into books.
Interested in reading more about Leigh Bardugo’s duology? Click here!