This book was amazing. I honestly think it’s one of my new favorites. After finishing the Shadow and Bone trilogy, I was definitely curious to see how this spin-off duology would do, especially since I loved the trilogy so much.
Being back in the world of the grishaverse, I loved this book even more than the trilogy. I have no idea how I went this long without reading these books.
Where do I even start? This book started out slow and I wasn’t sure if I was going to get sucked into the story as I wanted to, but I fell for this plotline and the constant twists and turns of each character’s point of view as they deliver on their insane plan was overwhelmingly amazing.
Following six criminals as they plan and deliver an elaborate heist is the briefest description I can find. This book was so much more than that. I went into the book expecting to see a few characters break into a bank or do something that’s already been done before, but this. This was so much more.
Kaz Brekker, a thief and a lockpick is hired to break into the most elaborate court… ever. The Ice Court is impenetrable, and Kaz must pull all of his tricks out of the bag to get it done, including a crew that’s equipped for the impossible.
Kaz’s team; a sharpshooter who gambles any time he gets the chance, a runaway merchling with a privileged past, a Corporalnik Heartrender, living away from her home, a sixteen year old spy, known as the Wraith, and a criminal looking for revenge, all set out with the plan to infiltrate the Ice Court, saving a man who is creating a drug that enhances and murders the Grisha’s abilities.
Kaz’s crew is the only thing that could save the world from the destruction of the drug, but only if they survive the elaborate heist.
“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.”
I’m going to start with Kaz because there’s so much to unpack there. His tough demeanor is totally a facade and I loved how we find out bits and pieces of his story as the book goes on. I fell for Kaz from the beginning. His bad boy attitude is like so many other characters that I’ve loved in previous stories, but he is so much more than just a thief with a talent for picking locks. Kaz’s story is deep and overwhelmingly sad. His parents died and at a young age he was forced to move to Ketterdam with his brother Jordie. The two were short on money and things only got worse when they were scammed. Jordie eventually got sick and was killed by the plague. Kaz Brekker, the hard and tough man that basically rules the Dregs is nothing like I expected after hearing his story. He’s disgusted by physical touch and skin on skin contact because of his past experiences. He’s always aware because he’s been scammed before. But he isn’t a kid anymore and the hard life that he’s had to live has made him into a person who can’t be soft anymore. While his story was incredibly sad, I love that it’s made him into this character. I can’t help but love him, walking stick and all.
Jesper is a character that I’d love to discover more information about. I feel like he’s a real softie behind those pearl-handled guns and I need more from him. I loved his story of working on his fathers farm and coming to Ketterdam for school, only to be reeled in by gambling and basically addiction. I was also super surprised to see that he’s actually a Fabrikator. I love that Jesper doesn’t rely on his use of Grisha abilities and he uses his other skills too. It gives him so much more as a character and I really want to uncover more from him.
Matthias Helvar. Where do I start with him? Matthias was kind of a roller coaster of emotions for me. I started out unsure of him, especially with his reaction to Nina breaking him free, and as the story went on I couldn’t help but kind of hate him for his nature of murdering Grisha. As the story continued I started to fall for the guy. It was clear that Matthias had been raised to hate Grisha, it was never his fault. He understood when they crossed the line and he’d never intentionally hurt someone if he knew they weren’t at fault. He believed in fair trials for the Grisha, killing them quickly if they were crowned criminals. Eventually I realized that Matthias was changing and he wasn’t a murderer, not really, and while he’d been raised to hate the Grisha, he was still going to stick by the crew because he wasn’t a traitor. By the end of the book I had fallen in love with Matthias and who his character is and I love how he’s developed into a character that I love instead of hate.
“Oh, I see. I’m the wicked Grisha seductress. I have beguiled you with my Grisha wiles!”
She poked him in the chest.
“No. I’m beguiling you.”
Wylan Van-Eck. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed his character. I don’t know whether it was the kid-type attitude that got me or maybe his subtle hints that he was so much more than Jesper’s taunting, but Wylan totally had me throughout the book. He’s so much more than I expected. His introduction was quick and fast to the rest of the crew and immediately I knew that there was some information to uncover with him, and as the book went on I was waiting for it to happen. Why did he leave his father? Why is he with the Dregs? I waited and waited and at the last minute I was shocked to find out why and I loved it. I love that he’s someone with faults and he isn’t perfect, because that just makes him more perfect for me! His crazy science stuff with the bombs that he made was just so cool and I knew that there was something that I didn’t know yet, but he totally surprised me and I loved it. I loved the shock of it and I think Wylan is so much more. His father didn’t know him at all because Wylan Van-Eck is a force to be reckoned with.
Nina Zenik was a character I thoroughly enjoyed. Her Grisha power of being a Heartrender was so cool. In Shadow and Bone I felt as if I didn’t get to discover the other Grisha abilities as much because everything was from the point of view of Alina Starkov, the Sun Summoner, however, seeing Nina’s point of view was amazing. Nina is so powerful. She was such a great addition to Kaz’s crew and I can’t even imagine how crazy it must be for her power to be coursing through her veins. She could literally squeeze her fist and kill someone. She’s so powerful and amazing and I love the whole assassin goddess look that she had going for her.
Okay I saved my favorite for last. Inej Ghafa is a whole other species of human. Her story was heartbreaking. Being taken from her home and sold to a pleasure house at an awfully young age, then being taken out of that horrible place and brought into a gang. That’s not a life that any child should have to live, but Inej is so strong and beautiful and amazing. She does everything justice. Inej works hard to prove to herself that she can. Her crazy stealth and climbing abilities were so creepy but so cool, and the fact that she can pretty much slip anywhere unnoticed is amazing. At age sixteen she’s doing insane stunts, working for a gang, working for Kaz Brekker. I can’t even express how much I love her character, it’s amazing and she’s incredible.
“Besides, she was the Wraith – the only law that applied to her was gravity, and some days she defied that, too.”
The crew had a dynamic that I couldn’t get enough of. At times they wanted to kill each other, at times they’d stop at nothing to protect each other, it was perfect. Their sarcasm made me laugh, their sob stories made me cry, and their banter was the best part of their relationships with each other. I could also see mini relationships forming between individual characters which I loved.
Nina and Inej formed a friendship that I want to see more of in the next book. It was adorable and I love how they protected each other. They’re also both from Ravka which was the perfect addition to their friendship.
Nina and Matthias. Their relationship was incredible. It’s like enemies-to-lovers on overload. It was perfect and beautiful and I couldn’t stop loving them. They’d hate each other and then save each other when they were in trouble and repeat the cycle over and over again. I loved it, I couldn’t get enough of it.
“I have been made to protect you. Only in death will I be kept from this oath.”
Wylan and Jesper’s banter was probably my favorite part of their relationship. I definitely got subtle hints that they might get together and I REALLY WANT THAT. They’d be so perfect together!
Inej and Kaz were insane together. Their relationship as spy and commander was a force to be reckoned with but as the book went on they both realized their feelings for each other and I couldn’t get enough of it.
“She’d laughed, and if he could have bottled the sound and gotten drunk on it every night, he would have. It terrified him.”
A bustling hub of international trade, Ketterdam is the perfect setting for this book. I couldn’t get enough of it. I love how the dynamic of the setting and characters just fit so well. Ketterdam is the capital of Kerch, the city is home to a lot of criminal gangs and misfits. Pleasure houses, casinos and gambling rings, all of it is in Ketterdam.
The other setting of the book was the Ice Court which was definitely impenetrable… or so I thought. The Ice Court was elaborate and crazy, perfect for this crazy crew of criminals and thieves. I really loved this setting and while I’d never want to actually visit it (too cold), it was insane for these character to go in and expect to get out alive.
Like I mentioned before, the book started off a bit slow, but the writing definitely picked up as I continued along. It was so easy to get behind each of these characters points of view and I found myself really understanding everyone.
I also loved the little mentions of characters from the Shadow and Bone trilogy. Zoya was mentioned multiple times and Genya was also mentioned a few times. Sankta Alina was brought up in some characters prayers. These small additions to the story made me smile everytime and I loved seeing them with these new characters that I loved meeting.
“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.”
I loved this book. I didn’t expect to enjoy this story so much but a heist gone wrong? That’s definitely my cup of tea. Bardugo’s writing was so exciting and I was on the edge of my seat throughout pretty much the entirety of the book. I loved meeting these new characters and I’m so excited but frightened at the same time to see what will happen next.