This much-awaited book from the author of the Grisha Trilogy didn’t disappoint. Lauded for her intricate world building and craftsmanship, this initial installment is all that her fans were asking for. Admittedly, I’m not a true fan of the Grishaverse for a lot of reasons. However, this book was a great appetizer for what’s to come.
THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL
Set in the world of the Grishaverse, this tells the story of a group of misfits and thieves about to carry out the ultimate heist. The Danny Ocean of this pack is Kaz “the dirty hands” Brekker. It is virtually an impossible heist, one that would mean sure death if they failed. But with 30 million kruge on the line, he simply couldn’t resist. Rounding up his posse are Inej, the wraith; Jesper, the sharpshooter; Nina, the heartrender; Matthias the fjerdan, and Wylan, the secret weapon. They are known as The Dregs. Simply put the bottom of the Ketterdam barrel.
THE MISSION is to infiltrate the Ice Court; a kingdom circled by impenetrable walls under constant surveillance by a highly efficient, highly trained Fjerdan army. Within the walls lives a chemist responsible for creating a drug that can amplify a greisha’s power. But the power comes at a high price. Anyone that takes parem easily succumbs to the oblivion it provides, a great high so addictive that only a continuous use can stop the craving. Soon the madness comes. Then the body deteriorates into a state of skin and bones nothingness and then shortly, death. The only way to stop the production of the drug is to kidnap the chemist himself. But the chemist is being held hostage in a very secure fortress inside the Ice Court. With a lot of money on the line, and a chance for The Dregs to live comfortably without thievery for a number of years, Kaz and the gang will do whatever it takes to succeed.
I dare you to read this book and not assimilate it to Ocean’s Eleven. I have loved every single movie of that trilogy. They were a sophisticated brand of criminals who perfected the art of bait and switch. Kaz Brekker, much like Danny Ocean, anticipated everything that could go wrong and was, for the most part, one step ahead of the competition. He was suave, charismatic and sophisticated in his own way. It was hard to forget that he was, above all, a criminal.
Heist stories are typically intricate. An author must have the talent to foresee every course of actions their characters decide to take. Kaz was a master manipulator that preempted trouble the way he saw them. I enjoyed being on the edge of my seat, scared shitless of what will become of the characters.
THESE KIDS ARE A’IGHT
For the most part, Bardugo managed to assemble a great cast of characters. I love seeing their interactions with one another. I love seeing their beginnings and how they came to be part of The Dregs. The only thing I thought was far-reaching was the idea that these kids are just that: kids. For this group of teens, none of them acted and thought like they should. But then again, perhaps it’s because most of them grew up faster than your ordinary teenagers. Each one of them has a disturbing past that shaped them to the person that they’ve become. In spite of all that, these kids are all right in my books.
It’s an impressive world. The Ice Court reminded me of the seemingly impervious security of the casinos in Ocean’s Eleven minus the sophisticated security systems or weaponry, of course. Kaz and his group relied heavily on the talents and knowledge each one offers to the team. Bardugo is an expert storyteller who can perfectly describe every mundane setting and ambiance her characters inhabit. For reasons I now can’t remember, I wonder if I impulsively dismissed the whole Grishaverse. Perhaps one day, I’ll revisit the books and see it from a different state of mind.