A Dark YA Fantasy with Loads of Banter | A Spoiler Free Book Review of The Six of Crows Duology by Leigh Bardugo

This is a Spoiler Free Review for the Six of Crows Duology* by Leigh Bardugo.

My Rating: ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♢ (8.5/10)

Goodreads Synopsis for Book One (Six of Crows)

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone. . . .

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

Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first. ” –Goodreads

Series Content Warnings

If you have a question about something specific, please feel free to ask in the comments or comment on our Goodreads review.

  • Physical Violence, Torture, Gore, PTSD (from being a sex worker/slave), Sex Slave Trade, Anxiety, Death, Betrayal, Gang Activity, Casinos, Gambling Addiction, Disability, Homelessness, Dead Bodies in detail, Sailing, Drugs, Drug Addiction, Genocide, Internalized Racism/Colorism (based on fantasy races), Religious Groups, Religious Persecution/prejudice, mentions of past war (civil war), Characters trapped in small spaces, Prison, Ex lovers, Jealousy, Grudges, Parental Disapproval, Mental Hospital, Mental Illness, Insanity, False Information, Young Brides (and pregnant), 
    • There is a scene where a character remembers being kidnapped (she is young), undressed and sold bare on the deck of a ship where she becomes an indentured sex worker in a brothel against her will and has PTSD from it.

The Breakdown:

Characters (10)

The characters in this series either have a mutual liking/tolerance for one another that is rough around the edges or they dislike one another and communicate primarily through banter or sarcastic jabs. On the other hand, behind the banter, is a group of characters who have found family and love in one another, even if they have a funny way of showing it.

The character’s are definitely the center point of this story, with the world and plot next in line. Not only are the characters funny, but their individual growth in this multi-POV story is highly appealing to most readers. Each character has a battle of their own, along with the collective battle of the group, and the reader gets to watch them struggle and ultimately overcome said battle. 

Now, it is important to be aware of the kind of story this is. The angsty, dramatic relationships between characters is generally aimed towards a teenage audience, so if you are an adult, go into it with a mindset ready for fast, dramatic fun.

My favorite character is Inej. She is such a boss lady, and I adore her sheer awesomeness.

Now, let’s talk diversity. This series has several characters of color with commentary on racism (that parallel our world), although it may not be immediately obvious to every reader. There is also a same sex relatinship that develops, but that is really it as far as obvious LGBTQIA+ representation is concerned. There is a bit of disability and chronic pain representation in this series, because one character requires a cane for an injured leg that has bothered him for many years, but that representation is really a matter of who the reader is. There is also a ton of mental illness, PTSD, and addiction discussed in this duology, which is a breath of fresh air for the genre, but may not cater to every reader. Lastly, there are some discussions on conflicting cultures and religion that are relevant to our world today, so that would be religious diversity as well. In conclusion, this story may feel diverse to some, but not to others, and that’s an individual experience that cannot be defined universally. Each reader will need to decide for themself how they feel about the diversity of this series.

I personally loved the discussions of religion, PTSD, and drug addiction in this series, because YA tends to avoid these topics, even though they are important aspects of life for teenagers to read about and feel represented in. The realistic rawness of the characters is what really sold this series for me.

Atmosphere (8)

Leigh Bardugo has created the Grishaverse to be a vast, realistically dirty world full of lore and politics. The politics, magic system, and numerous cultures create an immersive experience for the reader that leaves them yearning for more. This is probably why Bardugo has created several spinoff series and companion novels within the Grishaverse collection. This world, its lore, history, and diverse peoples are addicting. The dark atmosphere and angsty relationships in this duology will not be for everyone, but when the right angsty mood settles in, this duology satisfies said mood like no other.

Now, with that said, this duology may not live up to a high fantasy lover’s expectations, especially those who read adult high fantasy. Keep in mind this is a character driven YA (young adult) heist novel. The characters and their relationships are the center of this story, not the world building. There is a decent amount of world building and lore in all of Leigh Bardugo’s books in the Grishaverse, but it is only impressive for a YA novel, not high fantasy. Through the perspective of a high fantasy lover, this series would leave a lot to be desired of the magic system and world building, but that is not the purpose of this book. This is about the characters and gang politics, which are highly satisfying, if the reader knows what to expect. 

I love that the angst and banter within these books make me feel like a teenager again, but only the good parts of being a teen!

Writing (9.5)

Not only are the world and characters addicting, but Bardugo’s writing is well developed and highly immersive. These books seem to fly by while reading them, and the atmosphere immerses the reader the entire time as if the reader was there in the story. The writing is gritty like the world, and the banter realistic enough to feel like a real life conversation.

At no point is the reader pulled out of the story because the pacing slowed/quickened. Lastly, the characters feel like real people that you’d befriend when you’re young and watching them grow is touching. 

Plot (6)

Six of Crows has a stronger plot, in the sense that there is a solid beginning, middle, and end with high stakes to keep the reader intrigued. Crooked Kingdom is less focused on plot, and more so on politics and characters; additionally, the plot that is there is quite jumpy and constantly changing with a messier middle and end. 

I personally ate up the plot of Six of Crows but was not a fan of the plot in Crooked Kingdom. I felt like the physical things that happened were cheap and not interesting. I also felt like all of the heist-style planning from the first book was easy enough to follow, while it was chaotic and constantly changing in Crooked Kingdom, to the point that I found it hard to keep track of what the plan was at any given point.

Intrigue (9)

Hand in hand with Atmosphere, this world that Bardugo has created is highly addicting for many reasons. The plot is quick, the characters funny, and the world/magic system well done. There are countless twists and thrilling heist moments throughout this duology that keep the readers on the edges of their seats. Even if the reader knows where the story is going or who will end up with who, the journey there is still intriguing enough to keep them going with curiosity of how things will get to said end points. 

Logic (7)

Here’s the deal, this is a YA heist novel with very young characters who have some pretty remarkable skills. This duology requires some suspension of disbelief, but not so much as to leave the reader questioning the plausibility of the plot and characters. Some fantastical occurrences and convenient plot points may have a few people scratching their heads, but so long as the reader goes in with an open mind and is there to have a good time, this story will not disappoint. 

Just don’t think too hard about the logistics behind a genius gang leader of teenagers who outsmart an entire political system (and even trick some countries) and pull off impossible heists. Although, their efforts are not without significant struggle; the characters go through a lot of failure and hardships to get where they need to be. Again, remember that this is a story about characters, not a mind blowing plot.As mentioned in Atmosphere, this story is meant for teenagers craving an angsty, action-packed, gritty fantasy. So long as that is in mind going into this series, anyone can sit back and enjoy the ride.

Enjoyment (9)

When I read Six of Crows at age 18, I was in love with the story and characters. I gave that book a 5 out of 5 rating and would tell you it’s a perfect book. I’ve read a lot of books since then, so I am a bit more critical now. But, I have to say, I really enjoyed Crooked Kingdom. I genuinely had a wonderful time with this fun, action-packed political drama. There are so many dark and raw moments throughout this book, and I found myself in a good mood after each reading session. I even chuckled at certain parts, which I did not expect.

I will say that I liked Six of Crows a lot more, but I did love getting to see more of the characters and world in this installment. The story wouldn’t be complete without this sequel, which makes this duology the perfect length for me. I do not feel like the second book was unnecessary, and I would even say it is necessary to read both books in the series, if you want the full story with all of the little pieces of foreshadowing that are revisited from the first book in the second.

Thank you for reading! I hope your next read surprises you in the best of ways!

-Knight of Cups ❤

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