Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo: The best YA series in recent years // Rave Book Review

“Who’d deny a poor cripple his cane?
“If the cripple is you, then any man with sense.”

My Goodreads:

Criminal mastermind Kaz Brekker is commissioned by the Ketterdam government to execute a rescue mission in exchange for a huge sum of money. He accepts, and this book follows Kaz as he recruits a team of six misfits who have nothing to lose in pursuit of riches, and they learn to work together as they set out on this rescue mission.

***Note: This book is the first in a duology.

***Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

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This series is my Kryptonite – here’s why.

My recent experience with We Hunt The Flame proved disappointing, but it threw into sharp relief that which Six of Crows had accomplished with infinitely more ease, which is balancing depth and enjoyability: it hits you deep in the feels without ramming said feels down your throat, and that is something I crave in any book.

Because when all is said and done, Six of Crows is effing entertaining, no other way to put it. Some validly argue that there is too much time taken to introduce characters, and yet it is time well-invested in my opinion as getting to know these protagonists’ distinct worldviews provided endless fodder to fuel their chemistry down the road, and I found their evolving friendships the most gratifying reward for my patience.

Furthermore, the prose itself is top-notch. The exposition flows elegantly without there being an awkward hitch or tumble in words, which I find very important in a reader’s immersion in a story. Not to mention, the author’s writing nicely straddled that fine line between blunt yet lyrical writing: settings and backstories unfold in almost poetic fashion, and therefore I was rarely bogged down by the intricacy of this world.

Last but not least, nuance is used to build emotion, not melodrama. Too often it is with YA books that shallow beats of tragedy and shock are used to mask the fact that there is a lack of depth to the emotion, yet Leigh Bardugo knew precisely when to loose characters’ inner demons to tastefully complement the plot, and such restraint is what made these typically “maudlin” backstories feel so organic and compelling to me.

Not to mention, I, the hater of everything romance-based in YA, never once felt irked by this element despite the great deal of flirtation and romantic drama in this book. Romance is a huge part of this story, and yet none of it feels obtrusive nor gratuitous, which again speaks to how compellingly the author strings you along in character relationships.

In that, this book is top-notch with engaging exposition, unobtrusive romance, nuanced feels, and great chemistries. The plot itself is not genius by any means, but the author avoids certain pitfalls of YA while doing other things incredibly well, and that’s where she succeeds: there’s a shit-ton to praise, not much to criticize.

“Besides, old women must know something, or they wouldn’t live to gather wrinkles and yell from their front steps.”


Recommended? With all my heart.

Now just to be objective and leave you with some realistic expectations, there are some pacing discrepancies between the first and second halves of the story. The introduction to characters in the first half is done with much care and intricacy, so I personally would’ve packed more events into the latter half to counteract that intricacy and balance things out.

And do mind you, this book does fall into a set of tropes and cliches of its own, so it is not entirely lacking in cheese. However, it is ultimately the execution that saves it, simple as that. Characters may seem like cliches on paper, yet there is care taken to weave nuance into them; add to that a super fun premise, you’ve got a great mix of everything in there.

So yeah, for ages 15 and up! Even if you feel ambivalent about this first book, I would still recommend going into the sequel as it packs way more punch by wasting less time on set-up and truly exploring characters, so I think most peeps would have a great time. 😉


Bottom line? Balance + nuance + fun banter = awesome sauce!

I have always said that tropes do not equate to cliches as long as they are tackled well, and this series proves it. These characters appear to shoulder maudlin backstories, yet the author never allows “victim” to become their sole personality trait, nor does she ever use their traumas as a crutch to further the plot, and I did quite respect that.

So add to that an exciting premise, fluid prose, intricate world-building, sassy banter, thirsty romances, compelling characters…what more could one ever need?

My rating: 5/5 frogs (Yes, I have nitpicks, but I don’t care. Sue me.)

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***Note: I have heard some people went into this book expecting a heist, so I’ll just dispel that myth and say that this book is not the grand “heist” it’s marketed to be. It is more of a self-contained story that focuses on characters trying to survive a dark world, so I’d recommend you lower expectations for the plot, go in blind, and you’ll be good.

***Also, a word of unsolicited advice. I recommend reading this before the Grisha trilogy. Yes, that trilogy was published first, but I appreciated Six of Crows infinitely more without having read the Grisha trilogy as it would’ve distracted otherwise me from the things I liked about this author. Experience the good stuff first, then explore others. 🙂

***Finally, my rant for ACOMAF is coming pretty soon. Hold on to your knickers.

32 Comments

  1. Your review captures every feeling I’ve ever had about Six of Crows! This duology is truly one of the best YAs I’ve ever read, not to mention one of the most entertaining! The nuanced feelings, complex characters, and beautiful writing tie together so well to create an amazing story. I also really love what you said about how Bardugo doesn’t use the trauma and experiences characters have had in the past to be a convenient starting point for many plot points. Awesome review! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww thanks Kelly! ❤ I’m so glad you feel the same way about that last point – I really hate it when authors exploit character trauma to define their entire personality, so I loved that Leigh didn’t do that. It’s a huge part of what makes this series so freaking awesome! 😊

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  2. The five frogs have spoken. I must read Six of Crows as soon as I can! Every time someone mentions it, I want to read it a bit more. But honestly, I’ve never seen anything that promoted this book as a “heist” book? I usually only see the fans describe it that way. I will practically go into this book blind, so I think I’m good to go!

    I’m holding tight in suspense of your ACOMAF review. That should be fun! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yay, go in blind for sure! I’ve seen actual complaints about how people came out disappointed because this book wasn’t super heist-y, so I just wanted to make sure no one went in with false expectations. And I do agree the “heist” concept is propagated by fans…it might be because the vibe has a bit of an Ocean’s Eleven slash Pirates of the Caribbean feel to it, so maybe that’s why. 🤔

      Hehe trust me, it will NOT be fun! Unpopular opinions are on their way, and I’m already quaking. 😂

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  3. What a wonderful review! You touched on everything that I love about this book 😀 Leigh Bardugo truly is a master of fantasy. And this – “the author never allows “victim” to become their sole personality trait nor does she ever use characters’ traumas as a crutch in order to further their actions or plot” – this is SO important, especially in a book with such dark backstories and traumatized characters. It never feels like gratuitous tragedy, and Leigh Bardugo balances the darkness so well with fun character dynamics and banter. I’m so glad you loved this book! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Margaret! I honestly appreciate it so much when authors understand that characters’ pains aren’t to be gratuitously exploited as a way to further the plot or romance. So many YA books nowadays do that, and it irks the HECK out of me. 😂 Leigh truly takes time to understand her characters, and not to mention, the plot of this series is just so fun on top of that! 😀

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  4. I love your review!! Leigh does an amazing job with the execution and character development. Ahhh and the dialogue is to die for! I’m having this urge to reread the series thanks to you :P! So excited to see the Netflix adaptation, I really hope they do it well 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, it makes me happy to hear I am tempting to you re-read them! Oh and yes, the dialogue makes me smile so much too; it’s so fun yet organic! (How do you do it, Leigh HOW?!)
      Gosh, I am both excited for and terrified of the Netflix adaptation. Netflix rarely lets us down, but you just never know…ahhh, my expectations are killing me because I’m trying to suppress them so hard! 😂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Just a heads up btw, I think your Becoming The Dark Prince post has disabled the comments. Could totally be just me (my PC acts up sometimes), but thought I should mention it. 😅

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  5. Great review! I was actually just starting to read the Grisha trilogy because I had heard to read it first for the world building, now I’m second guessing myself. I already own both both books in the Duology, I may begin there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! Ooh, and I’d highly recommend starting with Six of Crows! I didn’t love the Grisha trilogy myself, so I feel like my “meh” feelings would’ve carried over into SoC if I had read the Grisha trilogy first. 😉

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  6. Yeah this series is my kryptonite too!! It definitely hit me deep in the feels and I love how you describe the writing- that is such an apt way to put it! The execution of this book is *perfect* as well. And I loved how romance was woven into the story. Amazing review!

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  7. Well I’m a bit too late on the “don’t read Grisha before you read this duology” thing but hey… I’ll probably be okay XD I’m a bit disappointed this is not about a big heist, though! Or at least that it doesn’t focus too much on it. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to read this (the other one being that it’s Bardugo, I mean, hello) but now I seem to have even MORE reasons to read it so win-win, I guess? 😀
    Anyway, brilliant review as always! I’m glad that, despite being a bit too cliche and YA, those weren’t actually bad, and Bardugo’s writing and mastery were able to make it a super special read. Can’t wait to read it myself!

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  8. This is such a great review! And I agree with everything you said.
    Especially the romance, and here it was so well executed that it didn’t hinder the story or overtake it! The characters didn’t become lovesick mop-sticks and ahhh it was just so well done overall!
    Leigh Bardugo is a writing wizard, but King of Scars did disappoint me big time… maybe a part of it had to do with my HIGH expectations going in, but I was actually shocked by how underwhelming and convenient it all was. I can’t wait for you to read it and share your thoughts!

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  9. I much enjoyed this duology as well but I refused to read CK for a LOOOOOONG time because I found out about something that happens in the end and I wasn’t ready to read about it 😀 so, I sat on the book for a solid 6 months or something before I said, OK, I can do this now 😀

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