by Leigh Bardugo
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Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.
It became a declaration. There was no part of him that was not broken, that had not healed wrong, and there was no part of him that was not stronger for having been broken. The cane became a part of the myth he built. No one knew who he was. No one knew where he came from. He’d become Kaz Brekker, cripple and confidence man, bastard of the Barrel.
Sometimes enjoying life is as simple as loving something so hard that it makes everything in the world disappear: Your worries, your troubles, your horrible workday (yeah, that was today)…it all just vanishes from the moment you start doing what you love. For me?? That’s reading. Nothing clears my mind more than picking up a book. It’s best when it captures my soul-my very being-and doesn’t let it go until I choose to put it down. Nothing makes me happier, nicer, or more compliant than an excellent story. Days like today show me just how much reading is a crutch for me-even writing reviews. I had a horrid end of the day today….and here I am now, writing this review (and hanging out with my husband and two pups-my other crutch), and it’s like all is right in the world.
He grinned at her, his smile sudden and jarring as a thunderclap, his eyes the near-black of bitter coffee. “We’ll be kings and queens, Inej. Kings and queens.”
“Hmm,” she said noncommittally, pretending to examine one of her knives, determined to ignore that grin. Kaz was not a giddy boy smiling and making future plans with her. He was a dangerous player who was always working an angle. Always, she reminded herself firmly.
But it’s not as simple as that-not really. Sure, we can pick up a book and like it and say, ‘Yeah, that was a good one. What’s next?’ But that’s just going through the motions. In that scenario I’m happy, complacent. I’m glad I spent my time reading but…once I put that book down it was simply over. Poof. Gone. Finite. Onto the next guy, story, victim, whatever. And just like that, that world ceases to exist-it vanishes the moment I shut down my iPad. Those books are great to pass time-they really are-but what’s the point of reading if you aren’t consumed, body and soul, by it?
“…You’re a blackmailer-“
“I broker information.”
“A con artist-“
“I create opportunity.”
“A bawd and a murderer-“
“I don’t run whores, and I kill for a cause.”
“And what cause is that?”
“Same as yours, merch. Profit.”
And I never even knew I was going through the motions with books. I loved them all and they all loved me. But then I found books like these-Rare gems that if you are so lucky as to find them, they are woven into every fiber of your being. You can’t eat, sleep, breathe, think if you aren’t near them. If you aren’t reading them, you are thinking about them and when you will get to immerse yourself in that world again, because you can’t stand knowing they exist in another realm while you are stuck in your own. These characters are your friends, they are the people you care about most-above all real things, for the time being-and you are just an utter and complete mess until you can find out what happens to them next.
Kaz leaned back. “What’s the easiest way to steal a man’s wallet?”
“Knife to the throat?” asked Inej.
“Gun to the back?” said Jesper.
“Poison in his cup?” suggested Nina.
“You’re all horrible,” said Matthias.
If you hadn’t already guessed, this is that book, and I am here to tell you that it is worth Every. Bit. Of the hype. If you have read Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, then you are no stranger to her writing and ability to create worlds that blow your mind. However…I think she more than outdid herself here. This world, these hard-edged characters that have the ability to melt the ice around your heart…they are unlike anything I’ve read by her before. And if you haven’t read anything by her, you’re none the wiser. But this is a terrible, terrible thing-You NEED to read her wonderful stories…but this book is my favorite of hers, by far.
“We enter from the north as planned,” Kaz said.
Jesper knocked his head against the hull and cast his eyes heavenward. “Fine. But if Pekka Rollins kills us all, I’m going to get Wylan’s ghost to teach my ghost how to play the flute just so that I can annoy the hell out of your ghost.”
Brekker’s lips quirked. “I’ll just hire Matthias’ ghost to kick your ghost’s ass.”
“My ghost won’t associate with your ghost,” Matthias said primly, and then wondered if the sea air was rotting his brain.
Why, you ask?? Well, anyone that knows anything about the hype that surrounds this author’s work knows that she pulled some of the same parallels between her two series-I couldn’t explain the inner workings of the Grisha world back then when I read her first series, and I can’t even begin to now, but what we have here is so much more my speed (Even though, if you take the time to look, that series was a favorite, as well)…which comes as a complete shock to me.
“Do you know the secret to gambling, Helvar?” Kaz brought his good foot down on the butt of the fallen soldier’s rifle. The gun flipped up. Kaz had it in his hands and pointed at Matthias in the space of a breath. He’d never been in any danger at all. “Cheat.”
Some people said this was slower-They wondered why it was so popular. And I can’t necessarily say why it worked for so many people-I can only say what worked for me, and it’s probably the simplest thing you could ever imagine: It’s not about blitz or glam or being more than it needed to be….it simply was. The writing was out of this world amazing. Indescribable. The characters were complex, fleshed out, and flawed. And the plot….it’s appeal was in its simplicity: 6 misfits trying to break into the most heavily secured prison in the world. Simple, right?? But it was done so wonderfully, so beautifully, so vividly…that it became so much more than that.
He’d even dubbed her the Wraith.
I don’t like it, she’d said. It makes me sound like a corpse.
A phantom, he corrected.
Didn’t you say I was to be your spider? Why not stick with that?
Because there are plenty of spiders in the Barrel. Besides, you want your enemies to be afraid. Not think they can squash you with the toe of one boot.
Each character had something that made them twisted, something that made them the misfits that they were. Inej, the wraith. Nina, the Grisha. Matthias the former soldier, now a covict. Jesper, the Gambler. Wylan, the runaway….but they would be absolutely nobody without their cunning leader, and my personal favorite character-Kaz, the thief.
“You love trickery.”
“I love puzzles. Trickery is just my native tongue.”
And this, ladies and Gents, is where I lose my shit. Kaz, the cunning, the cruel, the wounded, the ruthless street lord dubbed ‘Dirtyhands.’ With a pronounced limp, an affliction for wearing gloves, and a phobia of being touched…Kaz is what we can call a flawed character. He isn’t nice. He isn’t forgiving. And he sure as shit doesn’t get one upped by anyone. The rumors run rampant about him, people know he isn’t to be trifled with…until someone takes it upon themselves to nab him off the street and strike a deal-Break into the most heavily guarded prison, bring the mark….and make it out alive. Death is almost a certainty-no one makes it out alive. But when 30 million kruge is put on the line….Dirtyhands can’t help but to accept.
Geels looked at Kaz as if he was finally seeing him for the first time. The boy he’d been talking to had been cocky, reckless, easily amused, but not frightening-not really. Now the monster was here, dead-eyed and unafraid. Kaz Brekker was gone, and Dirtyhands had come to see the rough work done.
It’s dangerous, success unheard of, and, like I just said, death is imminent. But with Kaz’s gang, he knows they have a chance. These thieves, liars, gamblers, cheats, etc are in deep, one way or another, and a cut like what they are offered is enough to set them free. But at what price is the cost too high?
Maybe Matthias was wrong about the White Island. Maybe the shears would snap in Wylan’s hands. Maybe Inej would fail. Or Nina. Or Kaz.
Or me [Jesper]. Maybe I’ll fail.
Six people, but a thousand ways this insane plan could go wrong.
I just…I adored Kaz. I mean, from the moment I opened the book I felt an instant connection-That much I can’t lie about…but when I first met Kaz??? My heart stuttered. My breath faltered. My eyes widened and became glued to the page. I knew, in that moment, that I was not going to have a want in the world. Dirty bastards are so far and few between, but even farther and fewer between is a dirty, conniving bastard that I can fall in love with. He is ruthless, hell bent on vengeance, unbeatable-No one gets over on him-and he is cruel when he needs to be. He had a rough past, something we get to see with multiple flashbacks (YOUNG KAZ EEEEEEEEPS!!!!), and it begins to form and shape the broken seventeen year old we see today. But throughout the story we begin to see his façade falter, his iron clad will crack, and his weaknesses emerge. But by far his largest weakness…is a young spy girl, Inej, he doesn’t even realize he has began to lean on.
“I don’t want your prayers,” he said.
“What do you want, then?”
The old answers came easily to mind. Money. Vengeance. Jordie’s voice in my head silenced forever. But a different reply roared to life inside him, loud, insistent, and unwelcome. You, Inej. You.
The romances (YES, ROMANCES) in this story are heart-stopping, all consuming, and without a doubt some of the best fantasy romances I’ve come by in a long time (I have found quite a few this year, but just saying!). Do you know why??? The simplicity. The baser emotions. The guttural and raw and new-found (and some not so new) feelings that began to control many of their icy exteriors, slowly melting them from the inside out (Okay, okay, I really just mean Kaz, LOLZ)…well…as much as Kaz can melt.
Kaz had heard them, too. Brekker’s hands were stained with blood. Brekker’s hands were covered in scars. Brekker had claws and not fingers because he was part demon. Brekker’s touch burned like brimstone-a single brush of his bare skin caused your flesh to wither and die.
“Pick one,” Kaz said as he vanished into the night, thoughts already turning to thirty million kruge and the crew he’d need to help him get it. “They’re all true enough.”
I don’t know. It was just…it was all so perfect. From the beginning to the end. From the first fucked up showdown to the final, resolute resolve of the next big job to come…these characters and their struggles, their lack of perfection chiseled their way into my heart. This author’s words struck a chord deep within me, making me a slave until the very last page….and for the last two days after I’ve finished this book. It still lingers in my head when I have a free moment, clouding my vision as I sit and stare at my work computer, wishing I could read just another page, find another hidden chapter…if only to escape for a little longer in a world where the beautiful, broken, limping, cane-reliant Kaz exists. I’d do just about anything to be in his head again…ahhh the torture. My poor, poor, broken boy. AGH. SO. MUCH. LOVE. I can’t even. Whoops.
“Not just yet, Inej.”
I’m sorry. So very very sorry…
because I ABSOLUTELY FUCKING LOVED THIS BOOK, so now you all will have to suffer through another Chelsea fangirl pre-review, and then eventually review….because there is just SO. MUCH. FUCKING. WIN.
KAZ KAZ KAZ I fucking ADORE YOU and I obviously have a canal rat mouth because I CANNOT STOP cursing because I JUST LOVED YOU AND YOUR ASSHOLE-ISH AND CUNNING AND RUTHLESS WAYS-AND YOUR HIDDEN LOVE FOR INEJ-just TOO DAMN MUCH. And Inej-YOU LITTLE BADASS! I ADORE YOU, TOO!!!! I just…I can’t…..ah fuck it-
I. CAN’T. EVEN.
Seriously, I want to stop saying that, but what’s a girl to do when she just can’t even think of any words to describe her obsession.
There are none. Sorry…But not really.