“No mourners. No funerals.”
As a reader that has moved away from YA fantasy because it seems like the same couple of tropes are repeated over and over again, reading Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom has been a treat.
It seems that in YA fantasy books a popular theme is acceptance of people that are different than you and the evils of prejudice. While these are definitely things that need to be talked about, this series has gone deeper. It ventures to the other side of the prejudice to the point of view of someone that is doing the discrimination. Matthias spent his whole life believing in the deepest parts of himself that Grisha are sub-human and evil. Having spent time around Nina, and now Jesper, he is faced with evidence that Grisha are not these things; they’re just people. This story has gone into his emotional struggle with admitting that the things that he has done and the things that the people he has spent his whole life looking up to are the evil ones. Coming face to face with the realization that the things that you once held as absolute truth is at best false and at worse terrible lies is not an easy thing to deal with.
Bardugo also delves into not only the myriad ways that emotional damage can be inflicted but how hard it is to overcome. The terrible things that Kaz endured when he was younger has left him broken and rather than working to overcome his brokenness, he has accepted it and not trying to work at it which prevents him from being with Inej. After waking up among bloated bodies in the sea, he didn’t try any sort of therapy to get past the horror. Instead he put on gloves to pretend that it wasn’t there. And this has held him together for the most part but it never fixed the problem. It only hid it. And now after several years of hiding from it, he has an incredibly difficult time confronting that he even is still broken. Like a bone that was broken and never set, it can never heal properly if it not dealt with.
His story serves as a cautionary tale to readers that have been through emotionally traumatizing events not to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that it never happens because it will stay with you even if you ignore it.
With all of these emotionally trying themes of course there is some teenage angst riddled throughout the book but the characters are drawn so realistically and with so much depth that the angst fits. It also is handled well and is not allowed to become overbearing on the rest of the story.
Of YA fantasy that I recall reading, this is probably my favorite. It was deliciously dark (although it was held back in some places) and delved into themes that I can’t recall being explored in a masterful way. I can’t recall another series that has talked about issues like these and woven them so well into her story that it never once feels like preaching.
This was an okay book for me. Good story, good characters and it had some good underlying messages. Like I said in the podcast, I can’t pinpoint what one thing made uninterested. I am interested in reading more of this authors work but this is one series I won’t be running back for.