The Power of Fiction: Melissa Jennings on Six of Crows

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At long last, we are back with The Power of Fiction! I want to apology for my sudden hiatus from blogging. If you would like to know more about where I've been, I invite you to look at this post. I don't want to discuss too much about here as I don't want to detract from Melissa's beautiful, and beautifully thoughtful, guest post. The most I will say here is that due to my hiatus and due to some technical difficulties, the release of Fictitious will be slightly delayed. More info on that will be after Melissa's piece, so if you would like to know more on the new release date, please stick around to the end!

We've explored a lot of different worlds in this series, from Neverland to Hogwarts to post-apocalyptic Georgia, and today we'll be delving into the fantastical sphere of Leigh Bardugo's Six of Crows as independent poet Melissa Jennings explores their special and powerful connection with the character Nina Zenik.

On Nina Zenik
by Melissa Jennings

I only recently finished Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology and having read quite a few books, the duology is the first series to present a character that represents me, Nina Zenik. Over the years of reading numerous genres and watching tv series and films, I hadn’t found a character worth rooting for as much as I have done for Nina. But the thing is, I’m 22 years old, and it’s taken me a long time to find such a character; personally, I find this to be a major issue as not everyone is represented in books, on TV/film. Thankfully, the book industry is changing gradually through some publishers pushing for diverse books, such as Angie Thomas’ The Hate You Give, which is another favourite of mine. I only wish Six of Crows and other books were present during my childhood. I wish I had met Nina Zenik sooner.

Bardugo’s book was recommended to me by the book community. It is classified as a young adult fantasy novel; fantasy is not normally my preferred genre. However, I delved into the ‘Grishaverse’ created by Bardugo and goodness, was I captivated. Without spoiling the duology, the reader meets Nina Zenik promptly in Six of Crows (the first novel in the duology), as a charming, mysterious, magic-wielding woman in a suspect establishment. As Six of Crows trudges on, Nina’s past is revealed to the reader and again without spoiling the novel, I never felt more understood by a fictional character. From a young age, Nina had been trained in The Second Army to use her Grisha abilities, specifically as a Heartrender (a type of Grisha who can control bodies/life), to overcome any potential threat to Ravka, in particular, the Fjerdan Drüskelle who deem Grishas to be “unnatural”. In the same way, I was integrated into a Catholic background from a young age and was indoctrined into Catholic sacraments. Throughout the duology, Nina is proud of her heritage and country, but through her growing relationship with a Drüskelle, Matthias Helvar, Nina changes her opinion on the Fjerdans. Around the same age as Nina, at 17, I denounced my Catholic faith as I no longer agreed with the Catholic Church’s teachings, and become agnostic and much more open to the world. Nonetheless, I still feel guilty to this day, but I am better for it. After reading this, I felt Nina’s guilt as my own. We both have this faith in the universe, however, that things will change, but we will always be reborn in some way or other.

Moving on to something more encouraging, for me, Nina Zenik represents body-positivity. In the novel, Nina is described as “voluptuous” and if I had to describe myself, that would be me. As a teenager, I was bullied for my weight; I was normally chosen last for anything as apparently being “fat” meant that I wasn’t capable of anything. Moreover, I never found myself attractive because of my weight, as in that I would feel uncomfortable if I wore a dress, a short shirt, or a low-cut top. Nina Zenik throws all of that out of the window and tells me that being fat is beautiful. For me, Nina’s character arc informed me that I can take up space, that “I am large, I contain multitudes” as Walter Whitman once said.

In Crooked Kingdom, Nina also struggles with addiction. Yet again, I’ve struggled with addiction in my past. In the second part of the Six of Crows duology, Nina contends with a powerful addiction as she wishes to be much more important to the Dregs. In a similar way, I have fought with an alcohol addiction as I’ve relied on alcohol to surpass my anxiety and depression to become much more sociable. Having experienced addiction, I know how difficult it is to let it go. However, reading Nina’s arc in Crooked Kingdom was not an easy read for me. Although I understood Nina’s addiction, I wish that I hadn’t. Connecting to a character in a book, TV series, or film can be good but also bad. It can trigger memories and awful emotions and feelings. Readers should be wary of recommending representations, for example, anxiety representation. No experience is a monolith. However, for me, Nina Zenik is a hero; with her fictional presence, I feel less alone.

Melissa Jennings in an independent poet based in Scotland. Their self-published works include the full-length poetry collection Afterlife and a poetry chapbook, Dear Judas. Their second chapbook, The Body Remembers, is available for pre-order on Kindle and is set for release on April 30, 2018. You can find Melissa on Twitter at @thebookishpoet and Instagram at @thebookishpoet, or visit Melissa's website at I truly cannot thank Melissa enough for sharing their story and being a part of this series.

The Power of Fiction is a guest blog series running alongside promotions for Fictitious, Lexi Vranick's fourth self-published title and second collection of poetry. Views of guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect Lexi Vranick's views. 

Each post will conclude with new information about Fictitious. This week, I would like to announce the delay of the release. Due to technical difficulties, Fictitious will now be available on Amazon on May 15, 2018. I apologize for the delay! However, this change will allow me ensure that the finished book will be the absolute best that it can be.

Please feel free to add Fictitious to your to-read shelf on Goodreads. If you are interested in becoming an early reviewer for Fictitious, please fill out this application. Please note that the Advanced Reviewer Application currently reflects the original release date.