Genre: young adult, fantasy, magic, fiction
Content warnings: violent fights, deaths mentioned, sex workers, indentured workers
Please note that there are a few book series set in this universe, called the Grisha-verse. This book is part of a duology, there is no third book so far. This book was my first from this author and I did not feel like I missed anything important, so you should be fine to start with this as well. As far as I know there are references to the other books but those are only fun easter eggs for readers who are already familiar with the Grisha-verse.
This book was a huge surprise for me. It is rare when I cannot pinpoint it what exact moment makes me fall in love with a series, but that is the case with this book. The first few chapters did not convince me, however once the action starts there is just no stopping. I don’t know how the writer managed it, but the constantly changing POV and the twists made the book so dynamic, that it was a joy to read.
The setting is a world where people with minor magical powers exist – the Grisha. The story starts in Ketterdam, where most Grisha are not powerful enough to have the upper hand and they are practically kept as slaves by rich merchants. In the first chapter we learn a bit about them, then we are introduced to one of the city’s crime band, the Dregs. The story follows a smaller team who are attempting the heist of a life time – go beyond enemy lines, infiltrate a military base and get out with the prize. The crew members come from different backgrounds, the only thing they share is that they currently reside in Ketterdam and have nothing to loose.
I loved that this was a character focused book, every chapter you learned more about them and about their feelings regarding the other members. Now, most of them are not good people, they work in a line where killing people is part of the job. However, each of them has a different view on this, and everyone’s backstory is explained very well. It was great to see how they overcame their fears and their pasts. We have soldiers who were brainwashed from a young age, kids who were kidnapped and sold as slaves, kids who left their family for totally unrelated reasons. At first it was very ludicrous to me, but also to the people in the books, that we are talking about literal 17 year olds threatening adults in a lot of scenes. But damn man, after learning what these kids have been through they get to be as extra as they want. I appreciated that there were romantic undertones but it never took over the story. At times we were also kept in the dark about the details of the heist, or quite simply the plans had to be changed and improvised on the spot, which just made everything more exciting. I loved the female friendship in this book, it was one of the most stable relationships in both of their lives based on respect and trust. The book ends on a surprisingly hopeful note and I am excited to see how things turn out in book two.
One thing that made me a bit sad was when a character who is clearly touch averse due to trauma was rejected, partly due to this. Now this was not discussed in detail and I hope this gets a bit more cleared up in book two but this is not a good look so far especially since the other party knows abuse and sexual abuse well enough. (Note: yes, this does get resolved in a satisfactory way in the next book.)
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