Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo, is a super fun YA fantasy heist book. It’s about six teenagers and their attempt to infiltrate the most secure prison in the known world: the Ice Court. If they succeed, they’ll be rich for life. If they fail, they die.
Let’s be clear here: I loved this book. There’s lots of great things about it, including the surprisingly fresh characters and the multiple cultures and settings. However, it definitely falls short in some areas, including handling multiple points of view.
There are several points of view (POVs) in Six of Crows.
- Kaz Brekker is the vicious leader of the group, second in command to a prosperous gang, and is always three steps ahead of everyone.
- Inej (pronounced with a soft J) is Kaz’s right hand woman, his gatherer of information. She gained the nickname ‘The Wraith’ due to her spying abilities.
- Jesper is a reckless adrenaline junky and the best gunslinger in the business.
- Nina is an ex-soldier able to flirt favors out of anyone, and is a Grisha Heartrender (someone with the magical ability to control people’s organs), which is great for when the crew gets injured.
- Matthias is also an ex-soldier, but for the opposite side of the war as Nina. He was brought along on the heist due to his intimate knowledge of the Ice Court. Of course, sharing that knowledge makes him a traitor, which he isn’t exactly happy about.
- Plus there’s a random soldier at the beginning and the bad guy at the end.
Break the Prologue Rule (If Needed)
Yeah, I know a lot of people caution against using a prologue because it’s usually unnecessary and tricks the reader by making them connect to a character/situation that’s separate from the main story.
However, if your first chapter is a character/situation that’s separate from the main story, just make it a prologue. I spent half of Six of Crows waiting for the first POV character to reappear. If the first chapter had been a prologue, I would have known he probably wouldn’t show up again.
The ending chapter with the villain’s POV is better, because the character was already relevant to the story and his role is understood. It probably could have been separated from the normal chapter sequence as an epilogue or something, but that’s more forgivable because the reader understands his role either way.
Have Distinctive POVs
It’s a bad sign if I have to flip back to the beginning of the chapter to see whose POV I’m reading. Granted, Six of Crows was written in third person limited (with the POV switching between characters), so this isn’t as big of a deal as if it were first person. However, refusing the characters distinctive narrating voices misses an opportunity to develop them.
Part of this issue was because the characters were often in the same place, privy to the same information as the others. There was no reason why one should be narrating instead of another. Unlike in Salt to the Sea, the characters’ secrets weren’t always relevant enough to color their perception of events (key word there: always- Kaz especially had some great moments). There should be a reason for a character to be narrating, beyond the fact that they haven’t had a turn for a while.
Make Purposeful POV Character Choices
One of the reasons that latter issue arose was because there were too many POV characters. Some of them were obviously just in there to keep the character in focus for the next book, where they actually were needed. But they cluttered up the narrative and came across as the author just playing around. You shouldn’t sacrifice the quality of one book for the next.
I love Matthias- his struggles are interesting and believable, he brings a different culture into the mix, and his loyalties are often in question. However, we can get all that information from Nina (whose POV is actually needed), and he’s never without another POV character. He’s more necessary in the second book, but Wylan (the sixth ‘crow’) wasn’t added until then; Matthias could have waited too.
Consider your reasons behind choosing a POV character. Can their actions be told through someone else’s eyes? Is there another character who understands their struggles and so can bring them across to the audience? If you answer yes to both, they most likely don’t need a POV.
If you’re going to start your book with a different POV than the rest, that should be signaled, like by making it a prologue, so that readers understand the character’s role. Your characters’ POVs should be distinctive, if not by voice than at the very least by circumstance. This will be easier if you’re deliberate in choosing POVs, rather than writing them just because they’re fun.
What are some other examples of great, or not-so-great, points of view in books?
Part 1 of “Multiple Points of View” is about Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. While Six of Crows lacks meaning in its POVs, Salt to the Sea demonstrates a purpose behind its choices.