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Spoiler-Free Reasons to Read Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows is a character-driven heist caper reminiscent of Ocean's 11 or The Lies of Locke Lamora.

Cover of 'Six of Crows' and 'Crooked Kingdom' by Leigh Bardugo

Grishaverse fans, rejoice! After a two-year wait, the Season 2 of Shadow and Bone has dropped on Netflix. For those unfamiliar with the television series or its source material, the Grishaverse is a series of novels written by Leigh Bardugo. The Netflix series takes its name from the first novel of the first trilogy, which follows Alina Starkov, a soldier who discovers that she has powers beyond imagining. Despite the series name, however, Shadow and Bone combines two series from the Grishaverse novels: the original trilogy about Alina and the follow-up Six of Crows duology about a gang of outcasts planning an impossible heist.

As you can guess, merging two separate series into one cohesive whole makes the Netflix show a different entity from the books. Some things will remain the same, but some things will be very different, and some things will be left out entirely. That’s what makes it fun. But it also gives folks who discovered the Grishaverse via the Netflix show a great reason to check out the original novels if they haven’t already.

Of course, there are the usual reasons for doing so. While television adaptations can deliver amazing visuals and breathe life into your favorite characters, they’re rarely able to feature every single detail included in the original book. Sometimes your favorite character might have minimal screentime or maybe they don’t even show up until the second season. Prose allows readers to spend pages, even chapters, in a character’s head. Television series? Not so much.

But for Six of Crows, there are other reasons to pick up the books after—or before—watching Netflix’s Shadow and Bone.

4 Reasons Why You Should Try Six of Crows

1. You Don’t Need to Read the Original Grisha Trilogy First

The original Grisha trilogy, starting with Shadow and Bone, launched the Grishaverse. Six of Crows and its sequel Crooked Kingdom were published next. Both series take place in the same universe, but you don’t need to read the Grisha trilogy first. No, seriously, you don’t. You might have heard similar arguments with regards to other connected series, and you might be skeptical as a result because those arguments turned out to be inaccurate. With Six of Crows, however, it’s completely true.

The original trilogy focuses on Alina and her journey as Sun Summoner. When it concludes, her story is over. In many ways, Six of Crows could take place on a completely different world. To be clear, it doesn’t. But it could.

Instead, the novel shifts settings from the country of Ravka to the island nation of Kerch. It revolves around six extraordinary teenagers who join forces to carry out the job of a lifetime. 

2. Speaking of the Plot, Six of Crows Is a Heist Caper

Not only do you not need to read the original Grisha trilogy first, Six of Crows falls into an entirely different subgenre. There’s no denying that Alina’s story is a chosen one narrative. Maybe that’s not your cup of tea. That’s fair. Chosen one stories have their place in the fantasy genre, but the ubiquitousness can be tiresome.

Don’t let that dislike turn you away from Six of Crows, though. Do you love films like the Ocean’s series or books like The Lies of Locke Lamora? Then you have an idea of what you’re going to get with this book. In a nutshell, a criminal prodigy assembles a crew featuring some of the most talented people in the world for a high-risk job. 

Do they have specialized skills? Of course. Is there clever, witty banter? You bet. Do they all get along? Don’t be ridiculous. They’re criminals.

Six of Crows is a heist caper to the core, complete with the twists and turns you expect from the genre.

3. Six of Crows Expands the World in Big, Diverse Ways

The original Grisha trilogy introduces us to the Russian-inspired Ravka, a country split by the Shadow Fold, a patch of darkness filled with monsters. Six of Crows takes us to Kerch, an international center of commerce. Set in the bustling capital city of Ketterdam, there are fancy hotels, a university, illicit establishments, and, of course, the slums. You couldn’t get further from the war-torn country of Ravka if you tried.

Due to its nature as a trade center and port city, Ketterdam also brings together many cultures and customs. Because of this, Six of Crows showcases diversity at its fullest potential. It features characters from different races and ethnicities. There are characters with different sized bodies. Queer characters. Disabled characters. Neuroatypical characters. Even religious characters versus those who are not.

The diversity isn’t relegated to background characters, either. In Six of Crows, the main characters embody diversity in all its shapes and forms.

4. The Main Cast Jumps Off the Page

Despite its heist-caper structure, Six of Crows is a character-driven book and not a plot-driven one. This doesn’t mean there’s no plot, though. The heist needs to be pulled off, after all.

What it does mean is that Six of Crows boasts unforgettable characters with distinct personalities and fleshed-out motivations. A thief who clawed his way up through the slums to become the lieutenant of a gang? A demolitions expert running away from his privileged past? An escaped convict with intimate knowledge of the location the crew needs to break into? Six of Crows features them and more.

Well-rounded characters are more than buzzwords and shiny traits, though. Bardugo delves into her main cast’s backstories and reveals what brought them to this point, brick by brick. 

But it’s not just the characters that draw you in. It’s their relationships with each other. Who can forget the moment, brief though it was, when Kaz and Inej met? Then there’s the shared history between Nina and Matthias—one filled with distrust, reluctant alliances, attraction, and betrayal. Fans of the Netflix show will be familiar with this one, since that shared history was a major plotline in the first season of Shadow and Bone.

While the Netflix series draws upon both the original Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows duology, it is called Shadow and Bone—meaning that Alina will likely remain the focal point of the show. But if you want to see more of the Crows, Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are waiting for you.