Books

The ‘Six of Crows’ Duology by Leigh Bardugo: A Gripping Fantasy Series

Both of the books in the Six of Crows duology are truly incredible.

The main fantasy element in this series comes in the form of Grisha. Grisha are people who have special abilities; these abilities mean they are indentured (enslaved) in some countries and persecuted in others. There are six different types of Grisha: Heartrenders can manipulate bodies and damage them, Healers are able to heal any wound or injury by just touching it, Squallers can raise or lower air pressure to create a storm, Inferni have the power to create fire, Tidemakers have complete control over water and Fabrikators can control all solid materials and reshape them if necessary. 

Six of Crows (the first book) is about six dangerous outcasts – Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Wylan, Nina and Matthias – coming together to pull off an impossible heist and stop a lethal drug from causing masses of destruction. In the blurb, Leigh Bardugo describes the outcasts (aka the Crows) as:

A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

The Crows, beautifully illustrated by Kevin Wada

Chapter 1 in Six of Crows will have you a little confused as you get used to this very different world, but the fast pace of the second chapter will have you gripped. I love how nearly all of the main characters get their own perspectives. The structure of the novel helps us to understand each character’s motivations while also allowing Bardugo to give each character a detailed backstory. The best quote in this book has got to be “No mourners, no funerals.” They say this before beginning a particularly dangerous job or part of a plan; it’s basically them saying “try not to die”! My only criticisms for Six of Crows are that the final plan is not explained fully making it quite hard to follow, and it is a bit slow at times. The slowness is understandable though as Bardugo has to create a whole new world and introduce us to the six main characters. On the whole, this book is absolutely brilliant and is filled to the brim with well-crafted plot twists; you will soon find yourself falling in love with each of the lovable rogues!

Leigh Bardugo at a book signing. Credit: PBS Books on YouTube

Six of Crows ends on a pretty massive cliffhanger, so you will want to start reading the second book, Crooked Kingdom, as soon as possible. And my word, what a book it is! This book tops its predecessor, which is a tough feat, and it marched to the top of my favourite books list. The stakes are higher, which I didn’t think was possible, and the plot twists are bigger, yet they still make perfect sense. The character development in this book is second to none. Each main character is a better version of themselves at the end of this book. Speaking of the ending, it is a good one that ties up all the loose ends while also leaving the door slightly ajar for a spin-off series. This book will make cry and laugh, and you WILL love it!

The relationships between the Crows are one of the main things that make this series so amazing. This series gave me a new OTP and the other two couples are also written so beautifully. The couples are by no means sailing smoothly (pun intended if you’ve read it) all the way; there are many rough patches for each couple, but that’s exactly what makes you keep reading. The friendships are also written extremely well: the friends are (usually) supportive and they have such great banter. The contrast between the relationships two of the Crows have with their fathers shows that being richer is not always better.

The representation in The Six of Crows Duology is outstanding. It doesn’t feel forced or shoehorned in, it feels so natural.  Leigh Bardugo includes a range of races, sexualities, religions and abilities in her main characters. Two out of the six main characters are people of colour, which is rare even in this day and age. However, Inej and Jesper are not defined by the colour of their skin; they have their own story arcs that are unrelated to their skin colours! It is so great to see Inej, a woman of colour, playing such an important role in this series; she is my favourite character. In Ketterdam, people of colour stand out from the crowd but are not discriminated against just for looking different. Homosexuality and bisexuality are also more accepted in Leigh Bardugo’s fictional world, which is brilliant for the LGBTQ+ community.

Fan art of the main characters. Credit: Redital Group

However, for me, as a wheelchair user, it was so refreshing to see a range of abilities. Kaz broke his leg when he was young, and it didn’t heal properly, so he has to use a cane, but he doesn’t let this stop him from doing anything he wants to. Many authors don’t put people with disabilities in their stories because it adds extra obstacles for them to get around. I love all the ways brilliant Bardugo gets around these obstacles.

Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse continues on from The Shadow and Bone Trilogy. However, that does not mean you need to read The Shadow and Bone Trilogy before reading The Six of Crows Duology. In fact, I read most of Six of Crows not knowing that there was a previous series. Though if you are planning on reading The Shadow and Bone Trilogy, then read it first because there are a few spoilers about the ending in The Six of Crows Duology.

Just in case you haven’t already gathered this from the rest of the article, I absolutely love this series and highly recommend it to everyone!

Buy Six of Crows here

Buy Crooked Kingdom here

Featured image via Holed Up in a Book

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