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Literature / Six of Crows

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"No mourners. No funerals."

Six of Crows is a 2015 fantasy heist novel by Leigh Bardugo. It is part of The Grishaverse and follows the events of The Grisha Trilogy.

The story follows the adventures of six teenage criminals:

  • Kaz Brekker, a master thief and the lieutenant of the Dregs, a gang that operates out of the city of Ketterdam;
  • Inej Ghafa, a Suli girl who was a trained acrobat before she became a member of the Dregs;
  • Jesper Fahey, an expert gunslinger from Noyvi Zem who fell in with the Dregs after a stint at university;
  • Nina Zenik, a Ravkan Heartrender and a former member of the Second Army;
  • Matthias Helvar, a Fjerdan drüskellenote  who shares a complicated past with Nina;
  • Wylan Van Eck, the son of a wealthy Ketterdam merchant and the team's demolitions expert.

When news of jurda parem, a dangerous new drug that greatly boosts the powers of Grisha, spreads among the crime lords of Ketterdam, Kaz recruits the others for an ambitious job: break into the Ice Court in Fjerda, the most secure prison in the world, and break out the scientist responsible for its creation.

The sequel, Crooked Kingdom, concluded the duology in 2016; it has the protagonists attempting to rescue a captured comrade and stay one step ahead of their enemies.

Leigh Bardugo also wrote The Nikolai Duology which includes characters from this series and from The Grisha Trilogy.

Elements of the duology were adapted into Shadow and Bone, a Netflix series based on The Grisha Trilogy. The show stars Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker, Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa, Kit Young as Jesper Fahey, Jack Wolfe as Wylan Van Eck, Danielle Galligan as Nina Zenik, and Calahan Skogman as Matthias Helvar.

A third book, taking place several years after Crooked Kingdom has been announced with no set release date.

Six of Tropes:

  • The Ace: Each of the crows is this in their own way.
    • Kaz, at the age of 17, is one of the most dangerous crime lords in Ketterdam. A criminal mastermind, he creates highly effective strategies that keep his business running.
    • Inej is a former child acrobat and Stealth Expert with a talent for knives. Due to her incredible stealth skills, she's earned the nickname the Wraith of the Barrel.
    • Matthias survived months of gladiator games in a brutal prison known as Hellgate.
    • Nina is a terrifying heartrender, even more so after consuming jurda parem.
    • Wylan's talents are numerous, but his explosives in particular are more dangerous than anyone bargained for.
    • Jesper is the ultimate crack shot, saving his teammates over and over again with his shooting skills.
  • Action Girl:
    • Inej is a ninja, spy, and assassin who also functions as the group's grease monkey. Known mainly as The Wraith, Inej easily proves herself effective and deadly in a fight.
    • Nina, as the team's main muscle man, also qualifies. Despite not being physically prone to combat, Nina can cause opponents to slip into comas, throw up, or even have heart attacks.
    • Dunyasha, Inej's even more evil counterpart is a Dark Action Girl. She's implied to having far more combat training than Inej, who outright says Dunyasha is better than her. Not that it prevents Inej from ultimately besting and killing her the next time they fight.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Inej mentions how, at the Menagerie, all the girls would gush about Kaz whenever he would stop by to purchase information from Heleen; hoping he would request their services because of how hot and mysterious he was. To boot, several girls over the course of the series are noted or implied to have romantic feelings for him.
  • And I'm the Queen of Sheba: Done by Nina, to express how ridiculous Kaz is being.
    Nina: Did you know Iím next in line for the Fjerdan throne? They call me Princess Ilse of Engelsberg.
    Matthias: There is no princess of Engelsberg. It's a fishing town.
  • Anti-Hero: All our protagonists, but Kaz in particular. It's amazing how much we root for this utterly ruthless gangster, although it helps that he has a Dark and Troubled Past. And, most importantly, his opponents are far worse than he is with no standards as to who they hurt.
  • Appetite Equals Health: Nina Zenik (whose introduction in the book is marked by her wolfing down a slice of cake, and bringing toffees when told to pack essentials) is a noted Big Eater. After she takes the jurda parem, she loses her appetite from withdrawal. In Crooked Kingdom, her regaining her appetite is a sign that she's recovering.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Kaz keeps his leadership role usually through brokering information, but he simply wipes out the competition in Crooked Kingdom to take over the Dregs. This seems to be the accepted way of things among the Barrel gangs.
  • Badass Crew: The Crows in a nutshell. You have to have some form of unique skill to get in.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Kaz. Bright patterns and colors are popular and the norm in the Barrel. However, Kaz wears well-tailored, dark-colored suits to mock the merchant class.
  • Bald of Evil: Although Matthias convinced Nina to spare Jarl Brum, she did leave him "very bald".
  • Batman Gambit: Kaz's specialty. He takes his enemies' personalities into account and correctly predicts their reactions to use them against them.
  • Bed Trick: Kind of. Wylan had his face tailored so that he and Kuwei can nearly pass for twins. Jesper can usually tell them apart but ends up kissing Kuwei while thinking it's Wylan. During the kiss, he wonders where the "fireworks" are. Then the real Wylan walks in and Jesper is horrified.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Nina. She's the nicest member of the team bar none, but she can kill a man in a thousand different vicious ways.
    • Wylan is a very pleasant person, as well as the team's NaÔve Newcomer. He's also the Crows' Demolitions Expert.
  • Beware the Silly Ones: Jesper likes to joke. In fact, one of the first things he does is tell too many jokes during Kaz's meeting with Geels. But, despite his joking demeanor, he's the team's sharpshooter and is very useful in a fistfight as well.
  • Big Damn Kiss: Crooked Kingdom features quite a few.
    • Special mention goes to Jesper when he sees Wylan after being tailored back to himself. He'd mistakenly kissed Kuwei and wondered why it doesn't feel right, but when he kisses the real Wylan - he gets the fireworks he expected.
    • Matthias has been hoping to save up a proper kiss for Nina at what he deems to be the right time. Nina disagrees and is annoyed that he's waiting for the "right moment". It's still pretty spectacular when it finally happens.
    • Kaz manages a chaste kiss on Inej's neck during an especially private and intimate moment between the two. Coming from Kaz of all people, the small token of affection is a very big deal.
  • Bittersweet Ending: As Crooked Kingdom ends, Matthias is dead, Nina is grief-stricken from the loss, and his teammates don't know who killed him or why. On the other hand, they've gotten their revenge on Rollins and Van Eck; Wylan takes over the family fortune with both Jesper and his beloved mother by his side; and Inej is going to live her dream of owning a ship, rescuing sex slaves, and destroying their captors. She even reunites with her lost parents, thanks to Kaz, who bought her the ship she dreamed of having and found her parents on her behalf.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: The Crows are plenty anti-heroic, unafraid of beating, maiming, or even killing their enemies to achieve their goals. The people they hurt, however? They usually confront slavers, con artists, hitmen, and other nefarious figures that are far worse than they are. So their victims are normally Asshole Victims.
  • Blatant Lies: A ton of lying goes on in Six of Crows but usually it's of the sly variety. Then one of the flashbacks gives us the moment seven-year-old Jesper tried to spy on his parents after bedtime.
    Aditi: Is my little rabbit awake?
    Jesper: No.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Jan Van Eck's litany of everything he tried to teach Wylan to read ranges from the expected, to the creative, to the horrifying.
    Van Eck: I have hired the best tutors from every corner of the world. I've tried specialists, tonics, beatings, hypnotism.
  • Broken Ace: Kaz is this from the start, but seems to find some resolve after Inej is abducted right under his nose.
  • Buried Alive: In Crooked Kingdom, Kaz convinces Pekka Rollins that he's done this to Pekka's son. Kaz is lying, but he gets Pekka to beg for his son's life in front of his Mooks, then sends Pekka on a wild goose chase to find the grave just when Jan Van Eck needs him to undo Kaz's other revenge plot.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Kaz's whole life and the sole reason for him becoming a crime lord has been entirely rooted in exacting revenge. And, at the end of Crooked Kingdom, he finally confronts Pekka Rollins with the horrific claim that he's kidnapped and buried his son alive. However, if Pekka can simply remember the name of Kaz's late brother, he'll offer mercy. A desperate Pekka can't do this because, to him, they were just a couple of random marks years ago. He can somewhat remember them, but not their names or anything significant about them.
  • Call-Forward:
    • Early on in the book, the reaper's barge is mentioned.
    • She didn't know it, but Nina's speech to Jesper about finding Grisha was one.
  • Canis Major: The isenulf, druskelles' wolf partners, are larger than normal wolves.
  • The Caper: The entire plot of the first book is this.
  • Caper Crew: The Crows.
    • Kaz is the Mastermind, the Pickpocket, the Conman, and the Legendary Thief.
    • Inej is Partner in Crime, the Hacker (in a world before computers, her spying fulfills a similar purpose), the Grease Monkey, and the Burglar. Kaz also makes her act as Acquisitioner of odd items (several of which become Chekhov's gun).
    • Nina is hired on as a Muscle Man (due to her skills as a heart render), but doubles as the Roper and the Con Woman as the heist goes on.
    • Matthias, despite being the most physically muscled, acts mainly as The Inside Man.
    • Jesper is a second Partner in Crime and Muscle Man.
    • Wylan is the Gadget Guy, the New Kid, and a partial Inside Man (he's been to The Ice Court before and speaks limited Fjerdan). He's mainly brought as a hostage, though.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The 2 chunks of paraffin.
    • Jurda Parem. Nina eventually gets some of it to use, and she becomes exceptionally more powerful than she was before.
    • Wylan knowing the Fjerdan national anthem.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In Crooked Kingdom, a young Drüskelle denounces Matthias as a traitor. He later returns to further express his displeasure by killing Matthias.
  • The Chessmaster: Kaz aspires to be one and he usually is (despite a few blind spots). Van Eck is one too, but he's Out-Gambitted by Kaz.
  • City of Canals: Ketterdam, which is clearly based off of Amsterdam, qualifies.
  • Cliffhanger: We end the first book as Van Eck has taken off with Inej and the money.
  • Colliding Criminal Conspiracies:
    • The Dregs vs. The Dime Lions and Pekka Rollins.
    • Van Eck vs. The Dregs.
  • Color-Coded Wizardry: Carries on from the last series. Nina's red kefta indicates she works with human bodies (i.e. blood).
  • Consummate Liar: Pretty much every Crow is lying about something and expected to be a good liar in their line of work.
    • Van Eck pulls the wool over Kaz's eyes, leaving him without his reward or his second.
    • To quote Kaz himself: "I'm the kind of bastard they only manufacture in the Barrel." He's lying about that too.
  • Constructed World: As with The Grisha Trilogy, the setting combines this with extensive use of Fantasy Counterpart Cultures.
  • Corruption of a Minor: So much. They're all so corrupt. Particular notice goes to how they corrupt Wylan. By the end of Book 1, the rich boy has broken into and out of the most secure prison in the world, drilled through its floors, destroyed its gates, bombed a bridge, witnessed gruesome death, and sassed his father.
  • Crapsack World: Ketterdam is a Wretched Hive ruled by Corrupt Corporate Executives, ravaged by plagues, controlled by violent gangs, and rampant with human trafficking.
  • Crossover: Genya, Zoya and Sturmhond from The Grisha Trilogy appear in Crooked Kingdom.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: It's hard to deny that the book presents a certain allure to Kaz and his criminal lifestyle.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone. You're hard-pressed to find a single character without a moment that qualifies, leading to a World of Snark.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: The Crows are a gang of criminals (sans Wylan for most of the first book) who are willing to shoot, loot, maim, trick, gamble, and even go so far as to actually murder their enemies so long as they achieve their goal. Despite this, the Crows usually go after people much worse than they are. They also normally help keep Ketterdam relatively clean of the worst kinds of criminals, primarily those who harm children and innocent people, because of their actions.
  • Devious Daggers: Inej Ghafa is proficient in wielding several knives, which she uses for her job as a spy and assassin for the Dregs, the criminal gang she's part of. She's known as "The Wraith" for her ability to sneak around undetected.
  • Diabolus ex Machina: Just as it seems that all the Crows are going to make it, Matthias is shot by an angry young Drüskelle who regards him as a traitor. He survives just long enough to find Nina and proclaim his love one last time, then dies in her arms.
  • Dirty Cop: Several members of the Stadwatch are bought out by competing criminal elements.
  • Dirty Old Man: Jarl Brum appears to be this but he was playing Nina.
  • Downer Beginning: Crooked Kingdom is this. New terrors have descended upon Ketterdam, Nina is sickly, the Crows' relationships are fraying, and any hopes of redemption for Kaz are fading as he terrorizes a little girl into silence (albeit to avoid killing her instead) and drowns a man (again albeit an Asshole Victim) in the first chapter.
  • Dramatis Personae: Crooked Kingdom ends with a list of the characters from both books, including a guide to pronouncing their names.
  • Dual Wielding: How Jesper prefers to use his pistols.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: Kaz is described as downright pasty and freakish by Matthias.
  • Emotionally Tongue-Tied: Kaz cannot tell Inej how he feels about her, sometimes opting to say ridiculous things. In one situation Kaz recalls in his narrative, Inej was seated in an open window in his office during a sunny day and feeding the crows as he handled paperwork. When he remarked she shouldn't feed the birds, she asked why. When he looked up to respond, he lost his train of thought and randomly said crows have no manners. Why? He got tongue-tied because of how beautiful she looked in the sunlight. But he can't admit this of course!
    Wylan: Why won't he just say he wants her back?
    Jesper: You've met Kaz, right?
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: Kaz's crew includes people of color, women, disabled and gay people, including within his own inner circle. We don't know much about his other underlings, but from a cursory look at the names, he has at least several other women hired. Not once in the novel are any abilities questioned due to the above characteristics (aside from Wylan's dyslexia). There aren't a lot of objectively "good" guys, but the respectable, lawmaking force of Ketterdam seems to be fairly white and male.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Kaz knows this fact, and exploits it to tip battles in his favor by threatening his enemy's loved ones. Even if he doesn't actually mean it, he says the trick is to make them think he'll harm them in order to make them desperate enough from simple fear that they'll do whatever he asks.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Kaz is repulsed at a minor clerk for blackmailing a trafficked prostitute into sex, something which can easily get the girl killed. (On the basis she's "servicing" a man that doesn't earn profit for her boss, which is a known fact in the work of prostitutes.) He drops him from a lighthouse in retaliation.
  • Eye Scream:
    • Kaz rips out Oomen's eyeball with his own fingers after he nearly kills Inej, causing the others to nearly vomit in shock and disgust.
    • In the next book, Nina shoots a Shu soldier point-blank through the eye socket.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Subverted, as this is proof of Big Bollinger's betrayal.
  • Fantastic Drug: The invention of jurda parem kicks off the plot of the books. It dramatically increases a Grisha's abilities but at the cost of painful addiction to it and putting extreme strain on the body. Jurda, the benign form of it, is a mild stimulant made from orange blossoms.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: So many, and most are obvious.
    • Kerch is clearly Dutch, with the capital of Ketterdam a clear stand-in for Amsterdam.
    • Fjerda is Scandinavia.
    • Ravka is Russia.
    • The Wandering Isles are Ireland.
    • Shu Han is China and Mongolia.
    • Novyi Zem is Africa.
    • The Suli are nomadic wanderers of Indian descent.
  • Flashback: Numerous in both books from several characters.
  • Flaw Exploitation: Kaz relies heavily on this. It does seem to be something he has an innate knack for; his very first crime was stealing another child's candy and trousers, relying on the boy's shame to keep him from calling for help before Kaz could get away.
  • Flipping the Bird: Kaz ends an argument with Jesper using "a time-saving gesture that relied heavily on his middle finger".
    • Nina also makes a "single-fingered gesture" at an inanimate object in Crooked Kingdom.
  • Foil:
    • Kaz has FOUR all to himself: Inej, Wylan, Pekka Rollins, and Jan Van Eck. Five, if you count him becoming the big brother to Wylan that Jordie couldn't be to Kaz.
      • Inej and Kaz have both created dangerous alter ego identities—Dirtyhands and the Wraith. They are both largely motivated by revenge against specific people (Tante Heleen and Pekka Rollins), and they both have an aversion to human contact due to exceptionally traumatic experiences that involved physical touching. To top it off, they both have unspoken romantic feelings for the other.
      • Kaz and Wylan are both natively Kerch, disabled, brilliant prodigies. Both were almost killed in the canals around Ketterdam and "reborn" as different people. The difference is that while Jordie wasn't street smart and strong enough to take care of Kaz, Kaz could watch out for Wylan.
      • Kaz and Jan are both ruthless, brutal, corrupt, and ambitious, but the similarities end there. Kaz is aware of his own evil, actually cares for the other Crows, and has several Pet the Dog moments where he won't kill or harm others if he doesn't have to. Jan has a distinct Lack of Empathy and victimizes anyone who gets in his way (even his own family), is a sociopath, but regards himself as a noble, pious businessman; he's oblivious to his own true nature.
      • Kaz and Pekka Rollins are both ruthless, violent gangsters and con artists heavily steeped in Ketterdam's criminal underworld taking pigeons for all they are worth, but Kaz hasn't sold anyone to slavery, used indentured trafficked prostitutes or bankrupted any children, He's threatened a lot of them, though.
    • Matthias and Nina are both patriotic soldiers who would originally do anything for their country, but have to come to terms with the questionable things their country has done.
    • Dunyasha for Inej. Inej is a relatively grounded former acrobat-turned spy and assassin who has a good set of morals and fights for justice in any way that she can, eventually becoming a pirate that hunts down slavers to protect families from the traumas she was afflicted with. Dunyasha, on the other hand, is an Ax-Crazy, hammy assassin who claims descent from royalty, choosing to hire herself out as a killer because she gets a twisted thrill from killing.
    • In Crooked Kingdom, Inej mentions the Suli belief that a person who commits enough bad deeds creates a "shadow" that follows them. She believes Dunyasha is hers and Kaz is Pekka Rollins'.
  • For Want Of A Nail: Discussed. Kaz often wonders whether what happened to him and Jordie could have been prevented if he hadn't asked to go watch a magician perform his coin trick. This leads to Kaz and Jordie meeting Pekka Rollins, who cons them out of their life savings. He ultimately decides that it wouldn't have changed much; they simply would have been marks for someone else.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Played With in Crooked Kingdom. The Crows frame Jan Van Eck for things he never did, but this leads to his real crimes being exposed.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare:
    • Kaz Brekker, naive farmboy turned Bastard of the Barrel.
    • Inej Ghafa, from nameless sex slave to pirate, vigilante, and purveyor of justice.
    • Another, more spoileriffic example: The unnamed teenage Drüskelle. He's introduced as a walk-on character, but manages to do something the more powerful villains couldn't: kill one of the Crows.
  • Full-Name Ultimatum: "Jesper Llewellyn Fahey, that is enough!" Doubles as an Embarrassing Middle Name.
    Jesper: Shut up. It's a family name.
  • Functional Addict: Jesper is a gambling addict who still gets his job done most of the time, but his functioning can be put into question. He did drop out of university and is having to resort to more and more desperate smooth-talking to keep himself and his father safe.
  • Gaining the Will to Kill: Kaz killing the clerk at the start of Crooked Kingdom, because he realizes the clerk was the kind of man who took advantage of trafficking victims like Inej once was.
  • Gender Is No Object:
    • The Grisha make no distinctions between gender.
    • The Dregs, and presumable other gangs of Ketterdam, also seem to follow this principle. Most notable are Inej and Nina, handpicked by Kaz to be part of the Dreg's inner circle based on skill alone. A cursory look at names of minor Dregs features some women as well, and later on one of the snipers that ambush the Crows at the docks is a young woman. It is mentioned Nina could have become a mercenary.
  • Genre-Busting: The first book is The Caper in a Low Fantasy world.
  • Good Parents:
    • Colm Fahey. He's made mistakes, but always had Jesper's best interests at heart. He isn't exactly proud of where his son has ended up or the questionable deeds he's committed. Nonetheless, he makes it clear that he still loves and supports Jesper.
    Wylan: You gave him someone to run to. No matter what he did or what went wrong. I think thatís bigger than the big mistakes.
    • Inej's parents, too. Prior to her abduction and being forced into slavery, they were kind and loving parents to her. It's what made her sudden separation from them all the more painful. It's also why she's at least grateful they weren't there when the slavers took her because she knows they would have died trying to save her.
  • Hates Being Touched: Kaz absolutely abhors being touched by others, namely due to a traumatic event in his youth where he had been mistaken for a street corpse during an epidemic and was thrown into the ocean to be disposed of along with a massive pile-up of dead bodies, including his own brother. His physical weakness prevented him from crying out for help and further forced him to use his brother's rotting corpse to swim back to shore. The trauma from this was so bad that he ends up having a panic attack and fainting late in the first book when he's in a crowded prison carriage during a mission, triggering his memory of being buried under dead bodies. Inej has to talk him out of his panic attack and he all but begs her to keep talking so he can keep his focus off of his phobia.
  • Healing Hands: Nina, although partially subverted in that Grisha with her set of skills are meant to use them for violent and more fatal purposes. She admits to wishing to use them for good, though, and tries teaching herself to heal others.
  • High-Altitude Interrogation: Kaz takes this approach when questioning a suspect. He is about to pull his suspect back up after he's provided with information until the suspect begins to panic and reveals that he's been blackmailing a girl who works at the Menagerie into servicing him. At this point, Kaz drops the man to his death.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: The things Kaz uses as leverage at the beginning of the book are what end up being used against him and lead to his albeit brief downfall.
  • Humiliation Conga: The climax of Crooked Kingdom provides one for Jan Van Eck. His mishandling of funds is revealed in front of the Merchant Council, as is his treatment of Wylan. He loses his peers' respect, his fortune, and his freedom, and sees the son he scorned taking over.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: Jesper. While Matthias is also a good shot in keeping with his military background, Jesper just doesn't miss a target he has any sight on. Justified, as Jesper is a Fabrikator who uses his powers to guide his bullets; a hint of Fridge Brilliance as well since all Grisha need to see their targets to use their powers, and the one limit Jesper mentions is he must have some visual to work with.
  • Insult of Endearment: Matthias refers to Kaz as demjin—which means "demon". By Crooked Kingdom, there's no sting in it, just a nickname.
  • Intro-Only Point of View:
    • The first chapter of the first novel focus on a Stadwatch guard named Joost who witnesses his Grisha friend Anya being experimented on.
    • The first chapter of the second novel focus on a Grisha named Retvenko who ends up abducted by a flying Shu man.
  • It's Personal:
    • Kaz's rise to power in the Dregs is to get revenge on Pekka Rollins for conning him and Jordie out of their money, which resulted in Jordie's death and a chain of events that destroyed a young Kaz.
    • Notably, most of Kaz's more violent and impulsive episodes are due to harm befalling Inej.
    • Jan Van Eck comes to resent Kaz, the lowly street thug who always bests him.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique:
    • While fired up on Inej nearly dying (in his arms on top of it), Kaz rips out Oomen's eye with his fingers to learn who lead the ambush on them and then drowns him.
    • Kaz threatens a minor clerk at the start of Crooked Kingdom. He initially planned to let the man live, but kills him after he discovers that he has been blackmailing a prostitute into servicing him.
    • In Crooked Kingdom, Jan Van Eck has this technique used on Wylan. He's not doing the actual "interrogation", but seems to enjoy directing it. It was part of Kaz's plot, but Anika and Keeg don't hold back.
  • Karma Houdini: The young Drüskelle who appears just long enough to kill Matthias, then is never mentioned again.
  • Kick The Son Of A Bitch: Kaz cuts out Oomen's eye and then drowns him in the ocean.
  • Lonely at the Top: The only person Kaz has any kind of real contact with is Inej, but even then they keep it work-related. (Or at least try to anyway.) Kaz keeping people at a distance for the sake of his criminal business gets lampshaded by several characters and he himself deals with a longing for friendship and emotional bonding.
  • Loveable Rogue: Jesper is certainly going for this, particularly to Wylan.
  • Love Epiphany: Several, all of which are in dramatic and/or awkward places.
    • Inej has one for Kaz as she's climbing the incinerator shaft.
    • Kaz has one for Inej as he's drowning in an underground river.
    • Matthias has one for Nina that comes to light as she's imprisoned by Jarl Brum.
    • Played more low-key, but Jesper has one for Wylan as they face off against Van Eyck.
  • The Man Behind the Man: Per Haskell may be the face of The Dregs, but it's no question that the Dreg's successes are almost entirely due to the machinations of Kaz Brekker.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Subverted in-universe for Kaz. He took his surname off of a piece of machinery. It does sound like "breaker", though. Fittingly "Kaz" has similar connotations in the Slavic languages.
    • Ironically, one of the most common uses of the name "Kaz" is as a nickname for the Japanese "Kazuya", which means harmony and peace.
  • Merchant City Ketterdam is a diverse city that runs on trade and illegal activities.
  • Missing Child: Inej was abducted from her family camp by slavers when she was only fourteen, and sold into sexual slavery. Her parents would go on to spend several years with no idea what happened to her or whether she was even still alive. And, Inej herself is reluctant at the idea of reuniting again because she feels she's been horrifically changed by her traumatic experiences.
  • The Mole:
    • Big Bolliger. He pays the price.
    • Unwittingly, Jesper when he carelessly brags that he's going to be scoring some extra profit to the wrong person.
  • More Deadly Than the Male: Both Inej and Nina are deadly forces to be reckoned with. While both are friendly girls, they can be exceptionally violent and bring down full grown men if need be. They were even brought in specifically to be the Muscle of the gang. This is in contrast to the more physically powerful Matthias, who's the inside man, and Jesper who's a metal bending Grisha.
  • Mr. Fanservice: During a private briefing in his quarters, Kaz casually undresses and washes himself in front of Inej, leaving her annoyed and flustered. This was possibly intentional on Kaz's part to get a reaction out of her.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Inej and Nina infiltrate the Ice Court by knocking out a group of girls of the Menagerie with Nina's powers and taking the place of two of them, stealing their clothes in the process. The real girls are left Bound and Gagged hidden inside a cupboard.
  • My Sensors Indicate You Want to Tap That: Under the influence of the Jurda Parem, Nina reveals that she can hear Kaz's breathing change every time he looks at Inej.
  • NaÔve Newcomer: The crows consider Wylan to be this. If he is or not is debatable- he's good at demo, he's the only one who knows and has spent time around Magnificent Bastard Van Eck, and he knows how to create an immensely powerful acid.
  • The Nicknamer: Jesper. He'll toss out a 'beautiful' or 'gorgeous' at anyone but he really has fun with Wylan.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Matthias turns his back on the Drüskelle when he realizes the Grisha aren't inherently evil. He pays for it when he's killed by a teenaged Drüskelle who's as brainwashed as Matthias once was at that age.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown:
    • Kaz outright slaughters most of the Black Tips at the end of the first act in order to save Inej.
    • In Crooked Kingdom, Kaz delivers one of these to about ten men at one time, going in with nothing but his cane and a decent suit. Even after losing the cane, he continues doling out crippling (if not killing) injuries, assuming leadership of the Dregs when he's done.
  • Nominal Importance: Defied with the unnamed teenage Drüskelle who kills Matthias.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: A specialty of Kaz's.
    • Kaz only needs the idea of the plague returning to plunge Ketterdam into utter chaos.
    • He tricks Pekka Rollins into thinking he had his son buried alive, knowing that even after finding him safe, thoughts of what might have happened will continue to plague him. As Kaz says, he could "only kill Pekka's son once", but Pekka will "imagine his death a thousand times".
  • Odd Friendship: Friendship is a stretch, but Kaz has an unexpected amount of respect and compassion towards Wylan, even arguing that his father would still care for him under the cover of a bet. He's actually a little put out when it turns out he was wrong.
  • Official Couple: Nina and Matthias by the second book until his death, Jesper and Wylan, Kaz and Inej are implied to basically becoming this at the end.
  • Offing the Offspring: Jan Van Eck tried. Twice.
  • Outlaw Couple: Every couple in this book qualifies (Kaz and Inej, Matthias and Nina, Jesper and Wylan), but special attention goes towards Kaz and Inej.
  • Precision F-Strike: There's a surprising lack of swearing in the book, likely due in part to the genre restrictions of fantasy YA. This makes it all the more serious and emotionally poignant when, in a flashback, Kaz meets Pekka Rollins and says the following:
    Kaz: Jakob fucking Hertzoon. I need to see him.
  • Pregnant Hostage: Alys, briefly, in Crooked Kingdom. In this case, it's not the wife who matters as Jan makes it clear that he only (yet desperately) wants an heir. Alys is simply a means to achieve that.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
    Nina: Letís see if youíre metal all the way through.
    • Kaz gets a few good ones, too.
    Kaz: My Wraith would counsel mercy. But thanks to you, she's not here to plead your case.
  • Proud Merchant Race: One of the most distinguishing aspects of Kerch culture and society (which seems to largely be a melting pot) is how much it hinges on trade and money.
  • Proud Warrior Race: War and honor are a huge part of Fjerdan culture, although looked upon fairly negatively. Ravkan culture too has some aspects of this, as far as Grisha are concerned.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: Kaz tosses a man off a lighthouse at the start of Crooked Kingdom (he had originally planned to let him live) after he offers the services of a prostitute he's blackmailed into sleeping with him. A type of blackmail that can very easily get the girl killed in her line of work. A disgusted Kaz kills him.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: After spending weeks punishing Jesper, Kaz finally snaps and delivers a brutal one, laying out his failures, how they hurt the people he loves, and finally telling him he's a loser at everything.
    Kaz: You think youíre a gambler, but youíre just a born loser. Fights. Cards. Boys. Girls. Youíll keep playing until you lose, so for once in your life, just walk away.
  • Red Light District: The Barrel is of the hostile variety, filled with unscrupulous figures and tons of violence and crimes. Many of the people that live here are criminals, and the ones that do enter here on a whim have to get in line or get the hell out if they want to survive.
  • Sex as Rite-of-Passage: He's actually talking about prison, but Kaz alludes to this when talking to Van Eck regarding his criminal record and his prison time as a kid. (However, Kaz is a virgin due to his aversion to skin-on-skin contact and how young he was when his phobia came about.)
    Kaz: Everyone remembers their first time.
  • Sex Slave: Inej was kidnapped by slave traders at 14 and sold as one to the Menagerie to Tante Heleen. Kaz paid off her indenture so she could work for him as a spy and assassin. A major part of her character is her desire for revenge against Tante Heleen and to ensure she can never hurt any more children. Furthermore, she decides that once she has earned enough money, she will purchase her own ship to become a pirate to stop human traffickers and do all she can to end the slave trade.
  • Shed the Family Name:
    • Kaz's real last name was Rietveld, which he shed when he became the infamous Kaz Brekker.
    • Wylan used his mother's maiden name, Hendriks. Kaz was not fooled.
  • Shooting Lessons From Your Parents: A heartwarming version with Jesper, whose mother taught him all manner of practical skills for rural life, especially handling guns. She was a Fabrikator, too, and may have been teaching him to use his powers to control bullets without him realizing it.
  • Slut-Shaming: Averted, as Inej is never made to feel lesser for her past as a sex trafficking victim and Nina has no problem keeping her heartrending therapy office inside a brothel to do what good she can there.
  • Strictly Professional Relationship: Kaz and Inej claim this, though they both slowly get their heads out of their arses during the first book. That's not to say it's enough for an actual Relationship Upgrade, though.
  • Suspiciously Specific Tense: On Vellgeluk, after seeing who Van Eck really is, Jesper tells him that Wylan "deserves a better father than you". Van Eck's reply? "Deserved."
  • Sweet Tooth: Nina is very fond of sweets, from her very first scene where she enjoys a piece of cake, to the time she joked about breaking up with someone who didn't like ice cream. She pulls out a bag of toffees on the Ferolind.
    Nina: Kaz said to pack what we needed for the journey. A girl has to eat.
  • Tattooed Crook: The Dregs have a signature tattoo, as do the rest of Ketterdam's gangs and pleasure houses.
  • Translation Convention: A variety of languages, accents, and dialects are referred to, but they're all rendered as English.
  • Two Girls to a Team: Inej and Nina are outnumbered by the boys 2:1. Neither are chickified, though, and both have substantial backstories and places in the plot.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Features heavily in both books, as a good portion of the action is watching the crows' plans unfold in real-time.
  • Wham Episode:
    • Nina being imprisoned by Jarl Brum, and seemingly betrayed by Matthias.
    • The entire last chapter qualifies. They were set up by Van Eck, there is no money, and Inej has been kidnapped.
    • The second-to-last chapter of Crooked Kingdom. Matthias gets shot by a young Drüskelle and dies in Nina's arms shortly thereafter. Nina pleads with him to wake up and briefly raises him from the dead.
  • Wild Card: Wylan Van Eck. Kaz takes him as a hostage, but he ends up taking a proactive position in his own "kidnapping". He proves himself with his quick thinking and skills in engineering and demolitions, and Jesper, one of his "captors" ends up infatuated. What's more, he winds up being useless as a hostage since his father doesn't care whether he lives or not.
  • Would Hurt a Child:
    • Not hurt per se, but Pekka Rollins was very willing to con a young Kaz and Jordie (and others in a similar situation) out of all their money and leave them for dead.
    • Jan van Eck doesn't do the deed himself but he's perfectly willing to send Wylan away on pretense of a music position, only to have his escort try to strangle him and make way for van Eck's new child.
  • Wrong-Name Outburst: During a heated confrontation in Crooked Kingdom, Kaz accidentally calls Jesper by the name of Jordie, the name of Kaz's dead older brother. It also serves as a Wham Line given this exact reason and Kaz is shocked that he made such a slip-up.
  • You Wouldn't Shoot Me: Kaz's final play in the confrontation with Geels is staring down an armed man, telling him to go ahead and shoot, relying on his ability to get inside his head. It works.

Alternative Title(s): The Six Of Crows Duology, Six Of Crows Duology