When you can’t beat the odds, change the game.
Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.
I just finished. And I feel broken. I’ll get to that at the end, but just know that it colors everything I think and feel about this book, and this series.
Everything I loved about the first book is here, and more. The characters are absolutely amazing, they are who they are and they make no apologies for it. Impossibly, I grew to love them even more than I had. Kaz, Inej, Matthias, Nina….and now I added Jesper and Wylan to the mix as we got to know them even better. These six mean so much to me. I celebrated with them, I planned with them, and I suffered with them. And boy did they (and I) suffer.
“Zoya used to say that fear is a phoenix. You can watch it burn a thousand times and still it will return.”
One of the things that I appreciated most is that these characters deal with incredibly hard realities – things that aren’t easily resolved, like gambling addiction, drug withdrawals, and the after-effects of sexual abuse, not to mention Kaz’s trauma that drives him. None of these are things that should be miraculously fixed. Trust me when I say they’re not. My heart broke more than once as I saw these beloved characters struggle, push, work, and fight to find a way to healing. It’s a long road, and the fact that they are even able to start down it is a triumph.
“I am grateful you’re alive,” he said. “I am grateful you’re beside me. I am grateful that you’re eating.”
She rested her head on his shoulder. “You’re better than waffles, Matthias Helvar.”
A small smile curled the Fjerdan’s lips. “Let’s not say things we don’t mean, my love.”
I really felt it. Life isn’t always easy, and I appreciated that their problems were handled in a more realistic manner, with struggle and strife, and showing that determination was needed to make it through. These are hard things to face and triumph over, and they don’t go away with the wave of a magic wand, or by the power of true-love. This is a big part of what makes this book so dark. It’s hard to read this and remember that none of these characters have yet reached the age of twenty.
“You’ve been in the red too long. We all have. This is the night we start paying our debts.”
You know where we left off in Six of Crows, and I’m not going to spoil that even here, the story picks up right there. We’re in the middle of everything, trying to recover that which has been taken. From the first page to nearly the last the pace moves at a breakneck speed. We’re flying from one action to the next, one con to another. And I was thoroughly enjoying myself, loving every moment of intrigue and planning and the possibilities – despite the fact that I never knew if Kaz and Co. were going to be quite quick enough to stay ahead of the trouble, to come out the other side in one piece. The tension was shocking and pulled at my worry-strings more than once. I was on the edge of my seat.
“I would come for you,” he said, and when he saw the wary look she shot him, he said it again. “I would come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way out together…Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”
Leigh Bardugo’s writing is brilliant. The dialogue between characters, the expert painting of scenes and emotions. Not to mention the use of chapter-ending cliff-hangers, which was masterful. I hated leaving each character and was anxious to get back to them to ensure their safety, but I was also engrossed in all the other characters. There wasn’t a single one that I didn’t want to be with, and the drama was so intense that I had to be sure of all their safety – a hope that felt gossamer-thin at times.
“Is that–?” asked Wylan.
“Scheming face?” said Jesper.
Matthias nodded. “Definitely.”
And then….it all came crashing down. Something so shocking and heart-breaking that I’m not sure I’ll ever forgive Leigh Bardugo. I’m quite sure I’ll never trust her again. Because I had trust, I believed. And now I have only a broken heart that bleeds all over all the good and happy feelings I had while reading this book. Despite the tension, despite the worry, and the difficulties, I was having fun watching these six characters struggle and remain determined, and persevere over nearly impossible odds. And suddenly it wasn’t quite so much fun anymore.
“Do you know the Suli have no words to say ‘I’m sorry’? …When someone does wrong, when we make mistakes, we don’t say we’re sorry. We promise to make amends….Mati en sheva yelu. This action will have no echo. It means we won’t repeat the same mistakes, that we won’t continue to do harm.”
You see, I read fiction to escape the real world for a little bit. I know, all too well, the misery and heart-break that permeate every-day life here. It hurts me on a daily basis. I read to get away from that. And even when characters are going through hell I can be there right beside them, struggling and worrying, and hurting with them. Because I believe that they’re going to come out the other side, whole and better.
“No mourners, no funerals? Why not just say good luck or be safe?”
“We like to keep our expectations low.”
Call me naive or optimistic or romantic. I don’t know. I don’t care. But I need that in my escapes. I don’t need to read about how awful things can go. How horrible they can end. I don’t need more of that. I need to know that triumph can happen, that “good” (and I know how ironic it is for me to call any of these characters “good”) can win.
But that sense of accomplishment was taken from me with one – completely unnecessary – moment in the book. That triumphant moment was overshadowed by a moment that felt like it was there simply for the shock it would offer. And it did shock. I didn’t expect it. In fact, after it happened I kept waiting to see how it, too, would be overcome – like so many other shocking and horrible moments in this series. But beyond that shock? It added nothing to the story. It felt anticlimactic. It was such a waste. It took everything and gave nothing back.
I loved every moment of this book up, hard as some of them were, until that one small scene – which broke me. It left me feeling both sad and angry. And maybe that’s fitting in a series such as this, set in this unforgiving world. But it’s not fitting for me.