YA Tropes are becoming more common to anyone familiar with the genre. There’s the grumpy loner, the badass girl hiding her feelings, the pretty girl with a hidden nature, and a misunderstood tough guy with a soft heart. However just because a trope is a trope, there’s nothing wrong with it so long as it’s done in a way that is consistent with meaningful character development and growth. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo pulls off the YA Tropes perfectly while telling a compelling and interesting story.
While Kaz is the main character, it definitely felt like the story had five main characters as the plot progressed. I was genuinely impressed with how frequently the perspectives had changed from one character to another without feeling at all disjointed. The dynamic relationships between each of the characters are well done and the pay off at the end of the book works well because of it. The five main characters grow in a way that feels consistent with the plot and their relationships feel organic. It’s not just Kaz’s relationship with each of the crew but between each member of the crew. I especially loved Jesper (easily my favorite character) and how he views each of the cast in a different way. Inej plays the role of silent badass but at the same time has so much more character depth than I expected. There’s so much going on that I can’t go into it without spoiling the fantastic development.
Each of the characters (save for one) is given a lot of time to develop their own sub plots. While there is a main goal, each character does have their own objective and the way it’s conveyed gave more gravitas to the mission. It becomes so much more than simply getting rich. It’s great to see how these more personal goals are slowly developed over the story rather than just stated. It serves to help make the characters feel more like people who have goals, who are familiar with failure and suffering, and just want to live with meaning again.
Ketterdam has a very Victorian London steampunk city feel to it and I love it for it. The vibe you get from Kaz’s familiarity with the streets, Inej with it’s rooftops and Jesper with the denizens makes it feel so very alive. I envisioned the city as very grey and permanently cloudy and cold, a permanent feeling of foreboding and betrayal in the air. It was also a blast to hear how the rest of the world is through the memories and discussions between each character. Considering this book is a series in a grand world, it makes me excited to pick up the next books to explore the world more.
The heavy undertones of racism towards the Grisha are also pretty well done and interesting to read. Especially from those who consider them unholy. Nina’s story gives a great deal of insight into the culture and the hate towards her kind. But rather than learn to hate the oppressors, there’s a lot more attention given to how the two sides view each other. I thought it lead to a fantastic understanding of the various cultures.
Just as the blurb describes it, the story is centered on the heist of a lifetime. But what’s more important is the progression of each character’s personal quest as the story unfolds. Quest may not be the right word for Kaz, but for the others it becomes surprisingly accurate. One character in particular has a personal mission that had me routing for them once it was revealed. The main story is filled with twists that never feel random and there are many moments where the reader is treated to a very satisfying display of cunning, honor, or brute force. I think Bardugo does a fantastic job of telling the story in a way that feels both natural and well thought out.
Writing the perspective of multiple characters can be difficult and disjointed; however Leigh Bardugo pulls it off very well. The choice of words and good description of settings and characters allows the reader to envision the characters and locations without difficulty. The way each character views events and other characters is also very well done as the differences really make for a colorful story. The way Kaz sees something versus how Matthias sees things is night and day. But even the slight differences between Kaz’s view of the world and that of Inej and Jesper are enjoyable as they all grew up in Ketterdam yet ended up so different.
What Writer’s can learn from this book
Stories that focus on character relationships are my favorite. Juggling multiple unique and interesting characters can be a tenuous challenge and hard to pull off, but Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo executes it wonderfully. Between the six characters there’s only one that feels underdeveloped up until the end. Each of the individual characters is given enough time to show who they are, what they want, what they value and what they hope for. It was also impressive to see that none of them were written in a way that made me want to skim their parts. It’s hard to give enough attention to each character to make them likeable and not just to serve as plot progression. I was surprised to find that I loved reading every single character. There was one character, Nina, who I was expecting to really not enjoy. But I found that her story was very well developed and I really appreciated her as a character.