Last year I showed up late to the buffet and absolutely devoured The Lies of Locke Lamora and The Name of the Wind. This year I finally found Six of Crows on audio book, and I may have tried to drive the long way around to work to get through it faster.

In Six of Crows, Kaz Brekker, thief extraordinaire of Ketterdam, leads us through a serpentine heist plot set in a gritty criminal underworld ruled by greed and profit (truly, they have a literal God of Commerce.) Is Kaz a thief with a heart of gold? (Spoilers!)

In a word? No.

He’s horribly broken, his emotional makeup riddled with scars from his first experiences as a helpless podge on the dirty streets of Ketterdam. Within a short time of entering the city, Kaz and his older brother are bilked of their entire inheritance and left utterly bereft and homeless. Kaz sees his brother crumble under the crushing realization that they have lost everything. At the same time, a terrifying plague lays the city low, stacking the dead like firewood in the streets. Sickened by the spreading plague, Kaz finds himself piled onto a barge of bodies, pinned next to the lifeless body of his brother.

This, my friends, is what it means to turn the dial up to eleven.

Kaz returns to Ketterdam, his fractured psyche patched together with equal parts rage and a burning desire for revenge. It’s his devastating origin that makes Kaz such a great character for me.

He surrounds himself with a clutch of thieves, each one broken in his or her own way and together they form a family of sorts. You want Kaz to heal, to truly enjoy the camaraderie and love of his new family, but he’s had to mortgage so much of his own humanity just to get here. Every so often, Kaz shows the barest glint of his previous humanity, just enough to keep you hoping, before smoothing a thick layer of scar tissue over it and hiding it again from the world.

“Suffering is like anything else – live with it long enough,
you learn to like the taste.”
– Kaz Brekker

I’m nearly done with this duology, but tantalizing hints have been dropped about the previous stories, and I look forward to digging into the rest of Bardugo’s Grishaverse.

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