Kaz Brekker, a sly and ruthless gang leader, is offered the job of a lifetime. But it’s going to be dangerous. It involves breaking a scientist out of a near-impenetrable fortress – said scientist aided in the development of a dangerous and extremely addictive drug that enhances the magical abilities of the Grisha, humans who can manipulate matter and have a variety of powers, from healing to summoning fire. For a heist this risky, Kaz will need to put together a band of criminals with a lot of skill and nothing to lose.
Kaz – Leader of the Dregs, one of the more prominent gangs in Ketterdam. Known in the underworld for a willingness to take any job if there’s enough money involved.
Inej – A spy for the Dregs, she’s a quiet and reserved character with acrobatic skills and hidden feelings for Kaz.
Nina – a charming and boisterous Heartrender who originally trained for the Second Army but now works for the Dregs.
Jesper – A witty and well meaning marksman for the Dregs, afflicted with a big mouth and a gambling problem.
Matthias – An angry and bitter witch hunter for the Drüskelle, he harbors a deep grudge against Nina.
Wylan – The youngest of the Dregs, he is a kind hearted boy who specializes in demolitions.
This is a novel that ended up taking some time to win me over. Even though it’s tightly plotted and has a great backbone, for a while I had difficulty caring about the plight of the characters. A surprisingly grim YA heist story, it’s not entirely dissimilar to The Lies of Locke Lamora, however where Scott Lynch barrels out of the gate with his character development, Bardugo leaps headfirst into the plot without giving too much reason to be invested in our merry (and large) band of greedy, greedy criminals. That’s not to say it’s bad; more that I’m a big character gal – if your bag is action heavy/plot driven stories, no doubt you will find it a real treat. For me, however, some of the characters were fairly interchangeable for the first half of the book.
Thankfully, it didn’t stay that way. At around the 45% mark, Bardugo really begins filling in the character backstories and in my opinion this was when the book began to shine. Even greedy selfish butthole Kaz becomes a sympathetic (and quite tragic) character when you realize what he has been through and where that hateful streak came from. This pattern is repeated for most of our main cast, and each of their stories are a bit of a rollercoaster ride that challenge the reader’s perception of them in the present. In that respect, holding off on including those backstories was a clever choice – on the downside, the absence of that context early on will make the first half of the book a bit of a slog for some readers. Your mileage may vary. Again, it just depends on what aspects of a novel you enjoy the most.
The world building to me felt sparse in places and well developed in others – this is likely a result of Six of Crows being my entry point into this series (I picked it up on a whim in an Audible sale), so my feeling is that a lot of the legwork was done in the previous trilogy and of there being some assumption on the part of the author that I’d have read those books. If so, that’s not something I’m going to complain about too much as it made me intrigued to have the information I’ve missed, which I view as a good thing. It was certainly adequate for the story and I didn’t feel like I was reading something generic. That’s especially apparent when it comes to the magic system/Grisha, which seemed like it had quite a bit of depth and made me genuinely curious as to its inner workings.
The dialogue and relationships between the characters were overall pretty good – I think the Dregs would have benefited from a little paring down/combining (I’m thinking Jesper and Wylan here) as some of the characters were stronger than others, but I enjoyed the arc of Matthias and Nina in particular. It’s always good to see characters end up somewhere different than they started out, and their journey from anger to affection was nicely done. It is YA, so those of you who hate angst will find plenty of reasons to bash your heads against the wall – as I personally am approaching middle age, I don’t have a massive amount of time for angst and melodrama, but I was a teenager once. I haven’t forgotten that I ate that shit up back in the day (Buffy and Angel, anyone?) and some readers will absolutely love it. I won’t mark it down for that reason, and I’m happy to say this is some quality YA and I am very likely to pick up other books in this series down the line.
Fantasy Bingo 2017 Squares
- Book of the Month