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Six of Crows : An Exemplar of Character Work


Symposia: 8/10

Goodreads: 4.45/5

There is nothing more unsatisfactory than picking up a book and rolling your eyes every time the protagonist opens their mouth. I’m always hesitant about reading YA simply because, adult authors tend to write teenagers in the most cringeworthy way. They usually have horrible attitudes but are still somehow loved; enough mommy and daddy issues for the whole population, and of course, the angst.

I picked up ‘Six of Crows’ after hearing the worldwide appreciation for it. Being the critic I am, I usually pick up these hyped books and point out every flaw that the rest of the book community romanticises. I had very little to critique with this one though. If anything, I could not stop gushing about the characters. This YA fantasy novel follows the story of six morally grey misfits that are tasked with an almost impossible heist.

I quickly realised that it was not the plot that left readers awestruck, it was the characters. I was apprehensive about reading YA and following characters that I absolutely hated but having read the novel, I would be best friends with these characters if I could. In fact, the multiple perspectives were so immersive, I felt like I was a part of this band of misfits. The various perspectives also displayed how different each individual was. Bardugo did a commendable job with the multiperspectivity by making sure that the characters didn’t start blending in with one another. Not to mention, the banter between these characters was amusing to read and had me laughing out loud at times.

Being in the time and age that we are, a lot of authors get backlash for not including a variety of character representation. I did not run into this problem with ‘Six of Crows’. Not only is there a range of sexuality and race, the tragic backstories of each character (which normally would call for an eye-roll) included mature topics such as grief, loss, dyslexia, trauma, PTSD, abuse and sexual assault. They were all traversed sensitively, accurately and I might even go as far to say that it was hard to read at times due to how emotion inducing the descriptions were.

Leigh Bardugo’s setting and character work definitely stands out in the YA genre, but what made this book even more immersive, was the atmosphere. The setting of Ketterdam was edgy, dark and brooding, which the author beautifully portrayed. Ketterdam being the dingy and dark place that it is, and the trauma that should guarantee a life of therapy, the characters are all just a step shy from being criminals and there’s nothing more that I enjoy reading about more than morally grey characters. There is nothing more loveable than an imperfect character, because the growth is satisfying to see and it would be much less interesting to follow one that has their life together.

I was almost certain that tropes and the romance would finally cause me to facepalm and give up on the genre as a whole, but I was pleasantly surprised. The romance was realistic, given the hardships that the characters have faced, and I found myself rooting for all the couples. The most popular trope in YA is enemies to lovers, and while this book did have one couple with this trope, there was a genuine basis for why they hated each other and when they got together, it made my stone cold heart melt a little.

In short, this book blew me away. I felt solace knowing that I wasn’t alone in being imperfect. This book conveyed that no matter what hardships you have faced, no matter how absolutely soul crushing, it always gets better. This book made me laugh when I needed it, while also not being outright silly; and made me feel and care for characters suspended from words and that is Leigh Bardugo’s gift.

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