This article is the first part in a mini-series dissecting the world that Leigh Bardugo created in her duology, Six of Crows. Each part will delve into the mind of a different character and explore how that character’s trauma affected them. This is meant to be read by fans of the series, but spoiler warning for those reading this before enjoying the books. The first part centers around Kaz Brekker.
Six outcasts, one impossible heist.
Six teenagers with nothing to lose are offered a huge amount of money to carry out a suicidal mission: to enter the most protected and guarded fortress and steal a formula that could end the world. If they succeed, all their lives will change, but if not, the only fate that awaits them is death.
Recently there has been an increase in the popularity of several books that have been published in recent years. This content is published in different social networks, having a particular highlight on BookTok, which is a space on TikTok where the community of readers joins to recommend books and talk about them. Thanks to this, Six of Crows once again became one of the most popular books among the Z generation. Reading it is almost a ‘requirement’ if you are part of BookTok.
I must admit that this book changed my life. Throughout it, I have lived moments that have drained me physically and emotionally to the point of committing harmful acts against myself, but reading has been one of the reasons why I managed to regain my strength. Six of Crows has been a key element in my development and although yes, it sounds particularly ridiculous to say this, it changed my life for the better.
It is because of the above (and my desire to procrastinate and not do my homework), that over the course of this series I will be mentioning (along with some analysis) the different features of the book that I found fascinating and the reasons why this duology is my favorite.
“You see, every man is a safe, a vault of secrets and longings. Now, there are those who take the brute’s way, but I prefer a gentler approach – the right pressure applied at the right moment, in the right place. It’s a delicate thing.”
Let’s start with Kaz Brekker. He is a cunning criminal, leader of the Dregs, and a reputed thief in the small country of Ketterdam. He pulls off a few impossibilities at times when everything could have gone wrong and his brains are worth thirty million Kruger.
The trauma he develops is quite particular since, as we know, it is one of the deepest that was written in the book. He loses everything. And we are not only talking about material and physical goods such as his house and money, but after growing up without parents, he is abandoned alone in the world after losing the person he loved the most. Particularly in his case, there are a great diversity of factors that caused him trauma, and although the exact word is not used, he develops a form of PTSD. In this case there will be no mention of the mother’s or father’s death, because even though it had a negative impact on his way of thinking, it was not until Pekka Rollins that his life changed for the worse.
Let’s remember that Kaz grew up on a farm near Lij with his older brother Jordie Rietveld and his father.When he died, Jordie sold the farm and took Kaz to Ketterdam, where he intended for him to go to school. That is where the disaster occurs. Several days after his arrival in the city, Kaz meets a boy who was selling stray dogs and told his brother to take him to see them.
We already know the rest: this boy introduced them to a minor merchant named Jakob Hertzoon, who encouraged them to invest in sugar stocks. Jordie invested in the jurda crop, using all the funds from the sale of their father’s farm. Then they found that Jakob Hertzoon and his “family” had pulled a scam, taking all their money and leaving them penniless. When the Queen’s Lady Plague swept through the city, Jordie developed a fever from the firepox and Kaz followed two days later. Presumed dead, the brothers were ferried onto a sick-boat to the Reaper’s Barge at sea. Though Jordie had died, Kaz survived the firepox. Barely alive and too weak to swim on his own, Kaz used his brother’s body as a float to swim back to Ketterdam’s harbor, vowing to take vengeance on Hertzoon.
Having established this, we move on. He develops haphephobia, which is a paralyzing fear of being touched. His reason for this is quite clear, as we were able to read earlier. Having shared a small, enclosed space with dead people and using his brother’s body to reach the shore generated his panic of touching a human being. The smell. The texture. The appearance. Hundreds of corpses surrounding an equally sick child trying to survive and then having to use the corpse of the person most important to him as a floater.
I consider his trauma to be the second most accepted and validated by the fandom, after Inej’s, as it’s a clear situation where you can perceive the emotional damage he had to go through from the time he realized they got scammed and lost everything, to the present. Despite this, there are still readers who use his backstory in a comical way, as is the case with the creation of social media content mocking Kaz using his brother’s body as a floater.
“He’d broken his leg dropping down from the rooftop. The bone didn’t set right, and he’d limped ever after. So he’d found himself a Fabrikator and had his cane made. It became a declaration. There was no part of him that was not broken, that had not healed wrong, and there was no part of him that was not stronger for having been broken.”
I find it equally fascinating how he uses what would usually be perceived as a weakness as a way of empowering himself. “Brekker’s hands were stained with blood. Brekker’s hands were covered in scars. Brekker had claws and not fingers because he was part demon. Brekker’s touch burned like brimstone – a single brush of his bare skin caused your flesh to wither and die.” and “‘Pick one,’ Kaz said as he vanished into the night, thoughts already turning to thirty million kruge and the crew he’d need to help him get it. ‘They’re all true enough.’ “
Kaz never got to mourn Jordie. He bottles and hides the pain. He leaves it in the burning fire, and little by little the intensity builds until it burns everything inside him. He was forced to grow up fast. He went from worrying about playing to seeking shelter. He went from having a meal on the table to wandering the streets to survive on at least a slice of bread. He went from having someone to rely on and lean on, to being alone in the world. In an unfamiliar place. With no money. No hope. He was forced to grow up in a world that demanded survival, never able to share his pain or open up. He reached the point of total darkness, difficult to heal in order to find the happiness he deserved.
Last brief analysis: He is terrified of all intimacy. The last person he trusted betrayed him and left him traumatized his whole life. He knows that his distrust hurts those he cares about. He is afraid that people will turn against him, he can’t get too attached because they will eventually leave (at least that’s what he thinks). He builds walls but people keep trying to tear them down. He wishes he could trust them and that things would be different. The pain has taken root in him and he has adjusted his whole life around that. He doesn’t know how to live. Everything is a defense mechanism for him.