Series: Six of Crows #2
Published by Henry Holt and Company on September 20th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Narrator: Brandon Rubin, Elizabeth Evans, Fred Berman, Jay Snyder, Kevin T. Collins, Lauren Fortgang, Peter Ganim, Roger Clark
Length: 18 hrs 4 min
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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 liked Six of Crows. I loved Crooked Kingdom. It kept my guess and kept surprising me with each new chapter.
Small spoilers unless you finished Six of Crows.
Kaz and his crew were double crossed. Not getting their money after risking their lives was bad enough, but abducting one of theirs unless they give up the scientist is unacceptable. These street rats from the Barrel have just broken into the impenetrable fortress and escaped with their lives and the scientist that everyone wants to get their hands on. They are a force to be reconed with and they aren’t going to stand for being double crossed.
Van Eck wants a war with the Barrel scum, and he is going to get more than he bargained for.
Kaz is like the Sherlock Holmes of criminals. He thinks out plans, knowing what he needs to do, how someone will react and how that will change the plans. He makes plans upon plans upon plans. Not everything goes as he expects and certain nothing was going as I expected. Everytime I thought all was lost, I completely fell for Kaz’s fake out.
I have a bad habit of trying to figure out the plot before we get there. What I love about a great mystery is when it surprises me. This whole story kept me on my toes. I had no idea what would happen next and several times I was blindsided by what happened next.
First they need to get back their team mate. Then they want their money. They are also keeping the most wanted individual on the planet who can create the most dangerous drug. Everyone wants him, but keeping him alive was probably a mistake and now they had to figure out where he would be safest, if that place even exists.
Where the first book was simply break into the Ice Court, try to surviving and get out again, this book had so many things it needed to accomplish that there was also a plan, a plot, a scheme. Some that worked and some that didn’t. It just kept going from beginning to end. And all these kids will face personal challenges that will change their lives and how they have come to see the world in their 15 to 17 years of life.
I always feel that there is so much more to most Young Adult stories because they have to have a story to them. They can’t just distract you with a hot sex scenes.
I could see this series being just as successful as the Hunger Games or Divergent series if they could get all these plot points in. There isn’t really anything to cut. You need some of the failures as well as the successes to keep you captived.
This story does get into a bit more of what happened to Inej during her time in the Pleasure House. It is still not overly graphic but would bring up questions from younger readers that you might not be ready to answer.
My daughter and I are still discussing plots and characters in detail now that I have finished.
Kaz and Inej are two teenagers trying to understand their feelings for each other, yet already so scarred by life.
“You were children. Was there no one to protect you?”
“Was there anyone to protect you?“
“My father. My mother. They would have done anything to keep me from being stolen.”
“And they would have been mowed down by slavers.”
“Then I guess I was lucky I didn’t have to see that.”
How could she still look at the world that way? “Sold into a brothel at age fourteen and you count yourself lucky?”
“They loved me. They love me. I believe that.” He saw her draw closer into the mirror. Her black hair was an ink splash against the white tile walls. She paused behind him. “You protected me, Kaz.”
“The fact that you’re bleeding through your bandages tells me otherwise.”
She glanced down. A red blossom of blood had spread on the bandage tied around her shoulder. She tugged awkwardly at the strip of towel. “I need Nina to fix this one.”
He didn’t mean to say it. He meant to let her go. “I can help you.”
Her gaze snapped to his in the mirror, wary as if gauging an opponent. I can help you. They were the first words she’d spoken to him, standing in the parlor of the Menagerie, draped in purple silk, eyes lined in Kohl. She had helped him. And she’d nearly destroyed him. Maybe he should let her finish the job.
Kaz could hear the drip of the faucet, water striking the basin in an uneven rhythm. He wasn’t sure what he wanted her to say. Tell her to get out, a voice inside him demanded. Beg her to stay.
But Inej said nothing. Instead, she gathered the bandages and shears from the vanity and placed them beside the basin. Then she flattened her palms on the counter and effortlessly levered herself up so that she was seated on it.
They were eye to eye now. He took a step closer and then just stood there, unable to move. He could not do this. The distance between them felt like nothing. It felt like miles.
She reached for the shears, graceful as always, a girl underwater, and offered them to him handle first. They were cool in his hand; the metal unpliable and reassuring. He stepped in the space framed by her knees.
“Where do we start?” she asked. The steam from the basin had curled the wisps of hair that framed her face.
Was he going to do this?
He nodded to her right forearm, not trusting himself to speak. His gloves lay on the other side of the basin, black against the gold-veined marble. They looked like dead animals.
He focused on the shears, cold metal in his hands, nothing like skin. He could not do this if his hands were shaking.
I can beat this, he told himself. It was no different than drawing a weapon on someone. Violence was easy.
He slid the blade carefully beneath the bandage on her arm. The towel was thicker than gauze would have been, but the shears were sharp. One snip and the bandage fell away, revealing a deep puncture would. He cast the fabric aside.
He picked up a strip of fresh towel and stood there, steeling himself.
She lifted her arm. Cautiously, he looped the clean piece of cloth around her forearm. His knuckles brushed against her skin and lightning cracked through him, left him paralized, rooted to the earth.
His heart should not be making that sound. Maybe he would never get to the Slat. Maybe this would kill im. He willed his hands to move, knotted the bandage once, twice. It was done.
Kaz took a breath. He knew he should replace the bandage at her shoulder next, but he wasn’t ready for that, so he nodded to her left arm. The bandage was perfectly clean and secure, but she didn’t question him, just offered her forearm.
This time it was a little easier. He moved slowly, methodically, the shears, the bandage, a meditation. But then the task was complete.
They said nothing, caught in an eddy of silence, not touching, her knees on either side of him. Inej’s eyes were wide and dark, lost planets, black moons.
The bandage on her shoulder had been looped under that arm twice and tied near the joint. He leaned in slightly, but his angle was awkward. He couldn’t simply wedge the scissors beneath the towel. He would have to lift the edge of the fabric.
No. The room was too bright. His chest felt like a clenched fist. Stop this.
He pressed two fingers together. He slid them beneath the bandage.
Everything in him recoiled. The water was cold against his legs. His body had gone numb and yet he could still feel the wet give of his brother’s rotting flesh beneath his hands. It’s shame that eats men whole. He was drowning in it. Drowning in the Ketterdam harbor. His eyes blurred.
“It isn’t easy for me either.” Her voice, low and steady, the voice that had once led him back from hell. “Even now, a boy will smile at me on the street, or Jesper will put his arm around my waist, and I feel like I’m going to vanish.” The room tilted. He clung to the tether of her voice. “I live in fear that I’ll see one of her–one of my–clients on the street. For a long time, I thought I recognized them everywhere. But sometimes I think what they did to me wasn’t the worst of it.”
Kaz’s vision came back into focus. The water receded. He was standing in a hotel bathroom. His fingers were pressed against Inej’s shoulder. He could feel the fine muscles beneath her skin. A pulse beat furiously at her throat, in the soft hollow just beneath her jaw. He realized she had closed her eyes. Her lashes were black against her cheeks. As if in response to his shaking, she had gone even more still. He should say something, but his mouth could not make words.
“Tante Heleen wasn’t always cruel,” Inej continued. “She’d hug you, hold you close, then pinch you so hard, she broke skin. You never knew if a kiss was coming or a slap. One day you were her best girl, and the next day she’d bring you to her office and tell you she was selling you to a group of men she’d met on the street. She’d make you beg her to keep you.” Inej released a soft sound that was almost a laugh. “The first time Nina hugged me, I flinched.” Her eyes opened. She met his gaze. He could hear the drip of the faucet, see the curl of her braid over her shoulder where it had slipped free of its coil. “Go on,” she said quietly, as if she was asking him to continue a story.
He wasn’t sure he could. But if she could speak those words into the echos if this room, he could damn well try.
Carefully, he raised the shears. He lifted the bandage, creating a gap, feeling regret and release as he broke the contact with her skin. He sliced through the bandage. He could feel the warmth of her on his fingers like fever.
The ruined bandage fell away.
He took up another long strip of towel in his right hand. He had to lean in to loop it beneath her. He was so clsoe now. His mind took in the shell of her ear, the hair tucked behind it, that rapid pulse fluttering in her throat. Alive, alive, alive.
It isn’t easy for me either.
He looped the bangeage around again. The barest touches. Unavoidable. Shoulder, clavicle, once her knee. The water rose around him.
He secured the knot. Step back. He did not step back. He stood there, hearing his down breath, hers, the rhythm of them alone in this room.
The sickness was there, the need to run, the need for something else too. Kaz thought he knew the language of pain intimately, but this ache was new. It hurt to stand here like this, so close to the circle of her arms. It isn’t easy for me either. After all she’d endured, he was the weak one. But she would never know what it was like for him to see Nina pull her close, watch Jesper hook his arm through hers, what it was to stand in doorways and against walls and know he could never draw nearer. But I’m here now, he thought wildly. He had carried her, fought beside her, spent whole nights next to her, both of them on their bellies, peering through a long glass, watching some warehouse or merch’s mansion. This was nothing like that. He was sick and frightened, his body slick with sweat, but he was here. He watched that pulse, the evidence of her heart, matching his own beat for anxious beat. He saw the damp curve of her neck, the gleam of her brown skin. He want to…He wanted.
Before he even knew what he intended, he lowered his head. She drew in a sharp breath. His lips hovered just above the warm juncture between her shoulder and the column of her neck. He waited. Tell me to stop. Push me away.
She exhaled. “Go on,” she repeated. Finish the story.
The barest movement and his lips brushed her skin–warm, smooth, beaded with moisture. Desire coursed through him, a thousand images he’d hoarded, barely let himself imagine–the fall of her dark hair freed from its braid, his hand fitted to the lithe curve of her waist, her lips parted, whispering his name.