A review by bklassen
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

adventurous dark funny lighthearted mysterious fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated


I love a good heist story – it’s my kryptonite. Ocean’s Eleven, Lies of Locke Lamora, Artemis Fowl, Logan Lucky, Baby Driver, Inception… you get the drift. 

So naturally, when I heard that this book was a heist story, I was on board, despite the following factors: it’s YA, and not only that, but part of a larger YA universe of which I’ve heard less than stellar things (at least from non YA fans). That universe is the Grishaverse which is where the Shadow and Bone series is set, now also a Netflix show that I haven’t seen! 

Consider this a review from a former but not current popular YA reader, which you may or may not identify with. Certainly just keep that in mind as to whether or not you’ll agree with this review or if it’ll be helpful for you. 

The good news is that I did enjoy reading Six of Crows. It was fun, if a little formulaic, and I read it quickly. I also am planning on reading The Crooked Kingdom next (just got it from the library!). 

My more in depth thoughts are below, but WARNING: this section has spoilers referring to general plot or character points, but nothing too specific. Read at your own risk. 

For starters, this book isn’t the most suspenseful – it felt like they made it through most of the book with ease, and even when things went off script, they were able to quite quickly recover and pivot. Not once did the plan go totally off the rails. I also was able to quite accurately predict most of the book’s “twists”, which doesn’t ruin the book by any means, but it did reduce that tension and suspense. 

Everyone shacks up very neatly – officially Matthias and Nina, definite longing between Inej and Kaz, and flirty hints between Jesper and Wylan. Whether or not this was a bad thing, that’s up to you. 

Speaking of romance, I also felt a bit wanting when it came to most of it. Matthias and Nina were good at first with plenty of tension – they were at bitter odds, what with her being a Grisha (basically a witch, a magic user) and Mathias being part of a religious witch hunting cult. I really enjoyed their love-hate relationship, what with Nina trying to make up for her previous actions and Mathias struggling between his brainwashed training that had him against her from the start, as well as the push and pull between his attraction toward Nina and his hatred of her after what she did to him. Great stuff. However, it feels like they reconcile a bit too easily, before even halfway through the book, and it loses that great tension of “will they, won’t they”. I also enjoyed that their past together was eked out over the course of the book and that past events are referenced but the full flashback isn’t revealed until later. 

As for Inej and Kaz, they had more of longing and an unspoken yearning for a romantic relationship that benefits from Kaz’s cold and callous demeanor warring with his yearning for Inej, and Inej inner longing for him but rational acceptance that they wouldn’t be a good it for various reasons. Also, they both have plenty of trauma, so it presents plenty of hurdles for them to get together. 

As for Jesper and Wylan, theirs was certainly the weakest. There was some flirting, but they both felt rather flat and didn’t seem to have much chemistry beyond Jesper being a flirt. Moments between them didn’t quite reach the same level as the other two pairs. Also disappointing given that theirs is the only non-straight relationship in the book. I suppose I should also keep in mind that they just met in the book, whereas the other two pairs had history, but still. Also, Wylan feels the most underdeveloped and the least useful of everyone, almost like he was thrown in there for something very specific (collateral) and not given too much of a personality. 

I loved how Inej and Nina were written – kickass heroines who had their own set of talents and were feminine but more than held their own alongside the male characters. Kaz was the classic antihero ringleader – crazy smart, mysterious past, and holds himself at arm’s length. Matthias was fun because of his struggle with his religious and military upbringing as he becomes closer with this group of misfits. 

The main MCs are all 16-18, which makes sense given the audience, but it did stretch my suspension of disbelief too far. Mentally, I aged them up to at least early to mid 20s, but that’s more of a me thing. I should mention here that I am 30 and not exactly the ideal audience for this book. 

There are several main POVs in this book: Kaz (occasionally), Inej, Nina, Mathias, and Jesper. Personally, I felt like Jesper’s sections were the weakest. I am still unsure if his character felt that way because he was truly underdeveloped or if I just didn’t vibe with him. Mathias was also okay, but I personally enjoyed Nina and Inej’s the best, and Kaz’s were okay once in a while to either explain the plot or his backstory a bit. And his backstory is horrifically traumatic and nicely explains why he is the way he is now. 

There are some really cool moments when something a bit more violent and gorey happens, during which times my jaw would drop and I would whisper “oh hell yeah.” 

The world building feels very much “Earth, but not”. Like Ketterdam is Amsterdam, Fjerda is Scandinavia, Kaelish is Irish/Scottish, and Shu is China. Oh, and Ravka is Russia (but there are other reviews that slam Shadow and Bone for its shallow and inaccurate portrayal of a magical Russia). There are illusions to other races, ethnicities, cultures, and countries that feel like they have 1 to 1 counterparts with modern day Earth groups and countries. Much like the lack of tension, this isn’t certainly a dealbreaker or book ruiner, but it did just stand out to me and sometimes pulled me out of the book slightly. This wouldn’t be the book to read for someone who wants unique and in depth world building, unlike perhaps Lies of Locke Lamora, which was clearly based on Venice, yet it had lots of alien and magical components to it that made it feel fresh and original. Once again, this may be due to the fact that this is aimed at a younger audience and I’m being rather nit picky. 

Like I said, it was a fun and fast read with a heist and cool moments. I’m glad this is a duology because I certainly plan on reading the second book, but if it were stretched out in a full series, I’m afraid I’d have to bail sooner than that.