After reading Leigh Bardugo’s Crooked Kingdom on my phone this week, I decided to go out and buy the books. Or at least the first one of the series (duology? trilogy? I don’t know what’s coming up in Ketterdam), since Crooked Kingdom was sold out at Barnes and Noble, and I haven’t been downtown to either of the indie bookshops for a while.
I remember seeing Six of Crows in a big display when it first came out. The cover design and all the details intrigued me, but for some reason, when I read the synopsis, it didn’t appeal to me at the time. Later on, after seeing several positive reviews, I decided to check out the eBook from the library, and ended up reading the whole thing over a couple of days.
After deciding that Kaz, Inej and the others were characters I wanted in my library, I too my remaining 20% coupon to Barnes and Noble and picked up Six of Crows. The book’s design is as fantastic as I remember it being.
The color scheme fits the story pretty much perfectly. The watery city of Ketterdam is certainly filled with color, but the story is set largely at night and in the evenings, when the color leeches out of the world. The characters also live in shades of gray, at least as far as their consciences go- they want to be good and live up to the expectations of their families or superiors, but they’re outcasts and criminals, so they can’t be a brightly happy sort bunch of people. The spots of red suit Kaz Brekker, the leader of the little gang, as he is driven by a need for vengeance.
Another fantastic part of the cover? How the crow’s wing becomes the background of the city, whose spires and mists are as much of a character as Kaz and the others.
The typography is great, too. Text is important to the story, and especially to one of the characters. Now, elaborate typefaces are common to fantasy and YA (and YA fantasy) covers, but sometimes the swirls don’t mix with the story or its environment. In this case, though, as flourishes on particular letters in handwritten contracts are common in early modern letters and documents, the typeface fits. The san serif typeface in red suits Kaz’s character as well- straightforward, blunt, and more complicated than it seems.
Also, the little internal details? The tiny little crow in certain paragraph breaks? I love them.
The illustrations of the chapter headings are fantastic! Totally unnecessary. They don’t add to the story, really, but they’re wonderful details I don’t recall seeing in the eBook version I read.
The flourishes around the page numbers? Also unnecessary, also fantastic.
The black along the edges of the pages are a great touch, too. It’s visually striking, and has a great, probably unintended effect- when you open the book to read, the black spreads out, turning to more shades of gray. Just like the characters.
The endsheets (is that the right term?), aren’t overlooked, either. The paper is a beautiful, thick crimson paper that provides another flash of color to the mostly black, gray, and white design.
And when you take the dust jacket off, there is an imprint of a flying crow on the front cover:
It’s black on black, so it’s hard to get enough contrast to photograph, but it’s yet another brilliant little detail that might be overlooked unless the designer has a love of books and all the details that go into beautiful design. It’s what makes it worth it to buy a physical book instead of just downloading Kindle or Nook (or whatever eReader you have) books. Obviously the story is the same- the words haven’t changed, obviously- but the little things like quality paper and flourishes around page numbers improve the experience of reading an actual, physical book.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy reading digital books. The convenience of being able to look at my library’s eBook collection at one o’ clock in the morning, download it right away, and start reading is great. Being able to take four books on a trip and have them fit on my phone in my back pocket is fantastic. But I will never get rid of my physical library. There’s just too much beauty in it.