Six of Crows, Book 1

Book review by
Carrie R. Wheadon, Common Sense Media
Six of Crows, Book 1 Book Poster Image
Riveting, violent fantasy of flawed teens on a mission.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 9 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

Kaz the thief provides an education in street smarts. For starters, don't pat your wallet walking down the street. This resourceful gang of thieves relies on careful planning for their nearly impossible missions, and each member of the team is relied upon for his or her particular talents.

Positive Messages

So much here on overcoming loss and suffering and fighting for survival. Greed, power, and revenge drive much of what happens on the surface, but a longing for connection is the underlying motivator that keeps the six main characters together.

Positive Role Models & Representations

On the surface, most of the main characters, especially Kaz, are despicable. He'll steal from anyone and can be incredibly cruel and violent to get what he wants. But backstories slowly emerge showing what each character lost and how he or she adapted to survive in a very harsh world. There's revenge and greed but also loyalty, ingenuity, bravery, and longing for connection. Matthias must overcome a deep-seated prejudice to see Nina as a person he really cares about. Kaz must show a little weakness to Inej to be closer to her.

Violence

Some jarring in-the-moment violence, the worst being when Kaz cuts a man's face and plucks out his eye while he screams. Arena fighting in a prison includes a scene of a giant lizard mauling a man and a bloody man-against-wolves fight where the wolves are killed. A teen is shot in a gang fight; a main character is badly injured with a knife and then knifes her attacker in the groin; a man is found still alive, smoldering and moaning after he's burned at the stake. Other bodies are seen on spikes, decomposing. Gunfire and explosions kill many. Others are forced to take highly addictive drugs in experiments that often kill them. Backstories of characters also are jarring. Kidnapping; characters being beaten and forced to work in brothels, being imprisoned and crowded on a ship near starvation, and watching a brother die of fever and then covered by corpses on a barge when left for dead.

Sex

Kissing. A scene of nakedness where wet clothes of teen boy and girl are removed to avoid hypothermia. The girl jokes about his erection when they wake up huddled together in the morning. Repeated talk of the two female lead characters forced to work in brothels with no details. A mention of conjugal visits in prison. Some flirting between male characters.

Language

One "f--king" and a few uses of "ass," "damn," "hell," "sons of bitches," "bastard," and "s--t."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

The team is trying to stop a highly addictive and lethal drug from being produced. Some addicted characters waste away because of it. They're all teens with hard lives from the underbelly of society, so there are plenty of mentions of bars and drinking until drunkenness, especially during gambling. Champagne flows at a party.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows is related to her Grisha trilogy, but you can read this first book of the related series without reading the trilogy first. As in the fantasy series, the content is consistently mature and a better fit for mature teen readers. Characters are complex, flawed, and sometimes responsible for despicable acts, such as plucking out a man's eye in one gruesome scene. More bloodshed includes arena fighting in prison where a man is mauled to death and wolves are killed, a gang shooting where a boy is left for dead, a knife wound that nearly kills a main character, and more. Backstories of the main characters can be jarring, such as a recalled childhood scene of a character being buried in corpses on a barge, imprisonment and near-starvation, and characters being beaten and forced to work in brothels. No details are given about life in the brothels, but there's some kissing and nakedness in other scenes. Strong language is pretty infrequent, with only one use of "f--king." Readers will learn the backstories of these characters as the novel progresses, each bringing up themes of survival and overcoming loss. Though greed and revenge seem to motivate characters on the surface, there's also an underlying desire for connection.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byahuttoLMS December 5, 2016

A Wild Ride!

I have heard it said that this book is a mix between Ocean's 11 and Game of Thrones!! That is a pretty accurate description. The gang leader, Kaz, takes... Continue reading
Adult Written byStudiousStudent March 24, 2018

Great!

This novel is truly great. But I would not recommend this to young teens. It is a very dark and violent story. There's frequent language all throughout thi... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written by[email protected] January 28, 2016

Anti Heroes, and important messages

I would say that this is by far one of the best fantasy books that I have ever read, and I have read quite a few to put it lightly. The character are very well... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byTV123 July 2, 2016

Incredibly Well-crafted Book

Introducing and developing six protagonists may seem like an impossible task, but Bardugo manages to do this without making the book feel clunky and awkward. Si... Continue reading

What's the story?

Kaz is the brilliant and ruthless face of the Dregs gang in Ketterdam, a city whose slums team with brothels, gambling, thievery, and plenty of shady deals. Rarely does real opportunity for something better come knocking. But it does one night when Kaz is knocked unconscious on the docks and woken up by a powerful local merchant named Van Eck. Van Eck has a job for him. A new drug called jurda parem causes the already magical Grisha people of Ravka to amplify their powers. It's dangerous for the Grisha -- the addictive properties of the drug can kill -- and it's dangerous for society: The Grishas' powers could topple whole governments. The only known maker of jurda parem is rotting in a prison in the frigid and militarily powerful country of Fjerda in a virtually impenetrable stronghold called the Ice Court. Van Eck's impossible job for Kaz, if he wishes to accept it, is to break the drug maker out and bring him back to Ketterdam. In response to the proposal, Kaz does what he does best: ask for an insane amount of money while stealing Van Eck's wallet and jewels at the same time. Then he assembles a team. Inej and Jesper from his gang are easy choices, and so is the Grisha, Nina, who has powers that can stop a person's heart. And he smartly chooses Van Eck's son, Wylan, as collateral. That leaves one more: the Fjerdan, Matthias. But if they want Matthias' help breaking into the Ice Court, they'll have to break him out of a Ketterdam prison first.

Is it any good?

This spin-off series to the Grisha trilogy is equal parts nail-biting Mission: Impossible-style excitement and intimate, compelling portraits of flawed and complex characters. It's hard to know what to rave about first. Even readers who think they've seen it all when it comes to twists and turns will still be wowed by every crazy plan Kaz comes up with to get out of the last one that went horribly wrong. And Kaz never shows his whole hand, so until that plan goes wrong you're still guessing.

Then, in-between breaking into and out of prisons and fighting gangs of rogue Grisha, the backstories of each of the six fascinating characters emerge. Their harsh situations and determination to survive only increase the nail-biting when it seems like they can't possibly make it out of the next scrape alive. Add to that two star-crossed love stories and the pages turn even faster. What a phenomenal start to a new series.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the main characters. What do you like about them? Did learning each one's story change your opinion of them? Who are you rooting for the most? The least?

  • Did you read the Grisha trilogy? If so, how does Six of Crows compare? If not, do you want to read it now?

  • Kaz is clearly a genuis, tactical and otherwise, but he's stuck in his position as gang leader. What do you think he could have become had he been a merchant's son?

Book details

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

For kids who love page-turners

Our editors recommend

Top advice and articles

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality and learning potential.

Learn how we rate