Reed Books: Six of Crows

Jess Reed, Editor

With the Shadow and Bone series just coming out on Netflix, I figure a good idea to review Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, the book that (half) the show is based on.

I read it for the first time four years ago, in eighth grade, but reread it recently in preparation for the show (which, ironically, I still haven’t gotten around to watching). I was pleasantly surprised; I remember liking it in middle school, but I had written it off in my memory as a typical “dark” YA novel with just enough substance to be interesting while still forgettable.

I was so happy to be proven wrong.

In its summary it sounds painfully cliche; a group of six teenagers/young adults band together to pull off a heist for various magical reasons. The morally gray bad boy falls in love with an athletic cool girl, etc., etc.

The reason I tend to steer away from obvious tropes in the media I consume actually isn’t because I find them overdone. A trope is common for a reason. But most of the time, tropes lead to problematic implications that leave a bad taste in my mouth. The bad boy/good girl dynamic becomes weirdly manipulative or abusive very quickly. “Morally gray” male protagonists tend to trick their 12 year old mainly female audience into expecting “badness” in their real-life male romantic counterparts; to see violence, abuse, and manipulation as attractive, acceptable, and expected; and what’s worse, to think they can “fix him,” by subjecting themselves to his abuse.

Thank God Leigh Bardugo is smart enough to avoid that.

Kaz (the protagonist)’s love interest Inej may not be as obviously unethical as he, but she’s not a saint either. They equal each other in aptitude and willingness. 

Bardugo also takes a huge step by allowing Kaz to be human, not a vaguely mysterious teenage boy with dark hair. He has recognizable symptoms of PTSD from his trauma. He has a chronic illness that makes walking painful, so he uses a cane. He’s a mentally and physically disabled protagonist who is as powerful and interesting as any other.

I’d highly recommend Six of Crows not only to the target audience of middle schoolers, but anyone who craves the adventure and romance of YA novels without the societal problems attached.