Hello, magical folx! This week we’re discussing Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, the second book in the Six of Crows series. Check out our Six of Crows episode for a refresher on what happened in the last book!
Side Note & Content Warning: We know we’ve been gone for a bit, and we appreciate you patience as we get back in the swing of things. We recorded this episode in November, and a lot has changed in the world since then. This could be a difficult episode to listen to if the current pandemic is taking a toll on your mental health. Obviously, we had no idea where the world would be in a few months. We also discuss addiction and child abuse in this episode.
ChildHelp – Child Abuse – Call 1-800-422-4453 for assistance
Transcripts below (or access the pdf version)
- While we all read King of Scars, it seems there may be the possibility of a third Six of Crows book. We’ll keep our fingers crossed!
- While we love Harry Potter as much as the next person, but we do take issue with the problematic author. Let’s not forget about the time she stole Indigenous stories for her ever “expanding” universe.
- Explained “Billionaires” episode
- Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj episode on the opioid epidemic
- Pleasure Activism edited by Adrienne Maree Brown
- Follow @coffeespoonie on twitter
- This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa
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Transcript. Episode 29. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
kelly [00:00:00] Hi, listeners were prefacing this episode with a content warning for sexual violence, addiction and ableism.
transition [00:00:05] [intro music plays]
jessie [00:00:19] Hello and welcome to JK, It’s Magic, a bi-weekly podcast in which two bookish besties discuss mostly YA fantasy through the lens of intersectional feminist criticism. Why? Because critique is our fangirl love language, and because talking about books is pretty magical. I’m Jessie.
kelly [00:00:36] And I’m Kelly.
kelly [00:00:38] …Aaaannd I haven’t written a plot summary, but I will do one on the fly.
jessie [00:00:43] [laughs] You can do it!
kelly [00:00:44] CROOKED KINGDOM! We are finally back in Ketterdam reading the second uh book in the SIX OF CROWS duology by Leigh Bardugo. It was a long time ago that we talked about SIX OF CROWS, right?
jessie [00:01:00] Forever ago, it feels like I don’t know what episode that was, but I will find out. [both laughing]
kelly [00:01:07] Anyway, we are back with Kaz and Inej and Nina and Wylan and Jesper and Mathias, even if we don’t care about him that much. And we are basically back in k-Ketterdam. Inej has been kidnaped by Van Eck. That was the big cliffhanger at the end of SIX OF CROWS and…they are… Oh! Kuwei!
jessie [00:01:31] Yes.
kelly [00:01:32] There’s a lot of machinations and plotting and violence and shenanigans, and I’m excited to dig into it. That was the most excellent summary I think I have ever provided.
jessie [00:01:45] Yes, it was episode 22 when we talked about SIX OF CROWS, which doesn’t seem that long ago episode-number-wise since this is episode twenty nine. But that was all the way back in June [of 2019] and it is now almost the end of November.
transition [00:01:59] [bright, whimsical music plays]
kelly [00:02:04] Before we get to our initial reactions, we just want to…um… I don’t even know how to do this, how does self promotion work? It is so uncomfortable.
jessie [00:02:14] I don’t know. I just basically go on Twitter and say nothing about the podcast but things about everything else. [both laughing]
kelly [00:02:21] If you want to talk to us about all the things you can join our Patreon. If you give anyth— five dollars a month or more [$3 or more as of May 2020] .We have a discord which is basically like slack, but for fun. And it’s political. It’s queer. There’s baking and knitting and lots of other things, memes. So we want to talk to you off the air too.
transition [00:02:43] [bright, whimsical music plays]
jessie [00:02:47] Initial reactions?
jessie [00:02:50] I love, love, love, love this book. I think Bardugo did a great job with such a large cast of characters, which I think would be really hard to balance. A lot of the times I did want to see more from Kaz’s perspective. But I think it’s just because he’s my fave. Yeah, I like this book. I think I like SIX OF CROWS better, but I still really like this book. [jessie laughs]
kelly [00:03:12] Shocked.
jessie [00:03:14] Really?
kelly [00:03:15] I don’t know.
jessie [00:03:16] There’s so much more going on in six of crows.
kelly [00:03:18] I guess…
jessie [00:03:18] it was like super heisty and like, i dunno, I liked it.
jessie [00:03:23] I like the the culmination of it all in this book. But we were in Ketterdam for so long, I was like, when are we leaving? [laughs]
kelly [00:03:30] Oh, wait. Never.
jessie [00:03:31] Yeah. Never. What did you think?
kelly [00:03:34] This was my first time rereading Crooked Kingdom. And you know, when you really like a book after the first read, but then you fall head over heels when you read the book again? That definitely happened to me.
transition [00:03:46] [bright, whimsical music plays]
jessie [00:03:50] Time to talk about all things worldbuilding in “through the wardrobe.”
jessie [00:03:56] So I want to start with talking about chosen families, which I think comes up a lot in both six of crows, but more so in Crooked Kingdom as we see more of the backstory with Wylan and Jesper and Kaz and Inej and kind of, I guess, Matthias and Nina as well. Although Nina, I’m guessing, is going to go off and back to her Grisha family in King of Scars, because I’m pretty sure she’s in that book. But I really appreciated the focus on chosen families and how your inherited family or hereditary family can be super terrible and you can just, like, let them be. Out of your life, I really appreciated that personally. I think chosen families are much more important than hereditary families.
kelly [00:04:43] I like that you started off the world building discussion with this topic because it does seem like the chosen family is more important than the geographical space of home,.
jessie [00:04:55] Right. Yes.
kelly [00:04:58] I think it’s also appropriate that we’re talking about this…at… We are both uh just on fall break, not Thanksgiving break, because fuck colonialism, but—
jessie [00:05:09] Correct,.
kelly [00:05:10] —It’s coming into the holiday season where a lot of us have some..mmm…[pauses] I don’t know how to say… Interesting, maybe because it’s my favorite catch all word… Relationships with our um hereditary families. And so this is, I guess just our little reminder at the top to take care of yourself listeners and set those boundaries if you need to.
jessie [00:05:35] Yeah. And like, maybe don’t ask people if they’re like going home or, you know, what they’re gonna be doing with their families because everyone doesn’t have a family like a hereditary family and a place to go. So um I always find that kind of like, oh, what do you tell people when you’re like? Well, actually I don’t have a relationship with my family. So how do you explain that to them, to strangers who are basically like, what’s your relationship with your family and how are you spending your time with them? So also a reminder to like mind your own business. [both laugh]
kelly [00:06:04] And I would imagine that those conversations also then spiral into the other person talking to you, feeling uncomfortable, and then you having to make the other person feel comfortable again, even though all you did was just give them information that’s true.
jessie [00:06:20] Yeah. And I’m sure it depends on the person …for… cuz…because for me, I’m like, oh, I’m not in contact with my family, so I’m gonna stay here and be with my cat. And also, I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, so, you know, I don’t care. But for some people, that’s like really hard to do. And you should respect people’s boundaries.
transition [00:06:35] [spell casting sound]
jessie [00:06:39] We see that money is not enough to make a person happy. We see this with a lot of the characters. Money is like a big deal in this world because it and I think we’ll talk about this more when we get to class, of course, because all things are intersectional, but um like money is a big part of Ketterdam. Like everything is based on like this capitalistic weird society, because there’s like also the Council of Tides and the like the Mercher council or whatever they are. But we also see, like, Wylan has a lot of money; it doesn’t make him happier to have that? And Van Eck is like a trash person. He has all the money and he’s still like a piece of shit. So money’s not everything.
transition [00:07:25] [spell casting sound]
kelly [00:07:28] We are in Ketterdam the whole time. We talked about— we mentioned this briefly at the top. But I do think that we got to see different parts of Ketterdam than we did before because we are, um I think, getting a a closer look, not just at the Barrel and the lid or like the ….we see the university part of the um city, we also see like the silos in the warehouse part of the district, and then that also gives us access to the like the Reapers’ barges and the body men that we didn’t really see as much except for in Kaz’s flashbacks in six of crows. So I thought that that was —oh! and We saw the graveyard, too, on the island. I forget what it’s called,.
jessie [00:08:15] The black veil?
kelly [00:08:17] Yes, yes, that’s the one. um. So I thought that it was we weren’t traveling throughout this novel and that that was OK because the intrigue of the plot kept things interesting.
jessie [00:08:29] And we also got to see all these like a quote unquote, like immigrant communities, because I don’t really know who …. Who are the original people of Ketterdam. But we see, like a little Ravka. And like they have like all these small communities of like people who are immigrants coming from other countries to come and find work there. And I really enjoyed that part of the story to see like, oh, there is a place that Nina could hypothetically go and this is where her people would be. And I thought that was really interesting and kind of how we see things sometimes in really big cities in the United States where there’s like uh what do they call them? Oh, like Chinatown or Little Italy in New York City.
kelly [00:09:08] are you talking about diaspora?
jessie [00:09:08] Yeah. Yeah. So I thought that was cool.
transition [00:09:12] [spell casting sound]
jessie [00:09:15] We also learned about this really weird thing where Cow? Kaway?
kelly [00:09:22] Kuei
jessie [00:09:23] —is Kuei is able to sell himself into an indenture? Indenturedom? indentured to? I don’t know what the correct word is, but—
kelly [00:09:33] I would say indentured servitude.
jessie [00:09:37] Yeah. OK. [both laugh] And what is the word? But this was just like mindblowing to me because I’m like how?! Like how is this a thing. Like what? I was just like shocked and appalled and like so angry.
kelly [00:09:54] It does strike me as like the epitome of this religious devotion to capitalism and money, um and that’s like the ultimate value of a person. Like selling your own indenture. It’s almost like like it’s protected under law because it’s in their religion. I guess sacred or something? I don’t get it.
jessie [00:10:20] Yeah, yeah. I thought it was really weird and it but it was like such a big part of the novel hinged on this. Like on this plotline, like on this selling of one’s self, that I was also just like, wait, how does this? Because I guess technically they don’t have they’re not supposed to have slaves in the city. People are just indentured, which is just a different way of explaining slavery in my mind, because, like, they can’t afford to get out of it. So it was just a really weird thing that I wish we would have had a little more…um Like I wish we would have gone to a little more in depth because this was just like mind blowing to me. It was just ridiculous.
kelly [00:11:06] It would be curious to see if they’re if Bardugo will come up with any, like, histories, I guess, of these different of the Grishaverse so that we could see how Ketterdam evolved and how this religion essentially took off and then shaped the rest of relationships and how they work in Ketterdam.
jessie [00:11:26] Yeah, hopefully she doesn’t just do like backgrounds of real life people like J.K. Rowling did so like marginalized groups.
kelly [00:11:33] Dumbledore was gay the whole time. Okay?
jessie [00:11:36] Yeah, well, and like the stealing of, like indigenous peoples histories for the United States histories of magical—
kelly [00:11:44] That’s right. That’s right.
jessie [00:11:47] —Systems. So I’m just like, God, don’t be a trash person. [laughs]
transition [00:11:49] [spell casting sound]
jessie [00:11:53] And finally, Nikolai is back. That was exciting. I mean, I knew the whole time that Sturm Hound or whatever his other person’s name is. That’s who that was. But I was like, huh? I miss Nikolai. He’s so cool.
kelly [00:12:09] I thought that was very smart of Bardugo to put him in because it bridges the gap then to … King of Scars.
jessie [00:12:17] Yes.
kelly [00:12:18] —which is… we also haven’t read. It’s coming listeners. It’s coming.
jessie [00:12:24] She says that. But I don’t actually know if it’s on the list for later this season. [kelly laughs] We’ll get around to it eventually—
kelly [00:12:30] I wanna to read it! Nicole— Nikolai’s, my favorite.
jessie [00:12:33] I know he’s my favorite from the Grishaverse for sure, but mostly because all the other options are Alina. And what is it? Mal? And I’m just like, you two are terrible. I don’t like either of you. [kelly laughs].
transition [00:12:43] [bright, whimsical music plays]
both j & k [00:12:48]Wands out!
kelly [00:12:49] Let’s discuss all things magic.
jessie [00:12:53] So Jesper realizes that some of the things he’s been doing, like always being able to make a shot because he’s like a gunslinger, kind of were actually part of his Grisha powers, which I did not see coming for some reason. I feel really silly for not realizing that, but I thought that was really cool to see like, even though Jesper hadn’t, like, he’s not the most strong Grisha. But he’s been using his powers all along. And I thought that was really cool.
kelly [00:13:19] Absolutely. I thought that the flashbacks developed that really well when he was talking about his time on the farm and Novia Zem with his mom and how she ran the farm and was always using her powers in substantive but what people might see is like small, inconsequential ways. But in reality, like, they made her powerful because we know at this point that if Grisha don’t use their powers, then it becomes a problem for them. They become like sickly, etc. or like Jesper….The implication is that that’s the root of like his gambling problem, which we will talk about later, and I’m not quite sure how I feel about that…But um I also like the distinction that we get with Jesper’s, backstory between “Grisha”, which is the Ravkan conception of these like magical abilities versus “Zoa”, which is those Zemeny ver– like iteration, I guess. And I think it’s it’s the same type of power, but used to different ends. And so “zoa” means gifted, I think.
jessie [00:14:26] Yeah.
kelly [00:14:28] And or or blessed. I can’t remember which exactly, but I just thought that her— his— Jesper’s mother, Aditi, her relationship to her magic was just like a more embodied kind of aligned and understanding, compassionate, like beautiful accepting version. Rather than like power hungry or um about performance, for example.
jessie [00:14:59] Tight. When we see that the part of the reason, I guess not part of the reason, though, reason Jesper’s mom died was trying to save someone using her powers because she could heal people who are sick. And she, like, took the sickness on I guess accidentally.
kelly [00:15:16] mhmm.
jessie [00:15:16] So we do see magic being used, I think, in a more kind way through Jesper’s mom than we saw in Grishaverse or even— in like, in in the Grishaverse I think the magic is so much more violent. It’s used to like take over places and control people. And through Jesper’s mom, we see it used …Yeah. In a more kind way. And in a way that… We if– if we had powers, all of us would like to think that’s the way we would use them.
kelly [00:15:46] Absolutely. And I think that it’s important that she uses them in those like smaller ways that are exerting their own power and display actually immense wisdom. I had this thought when Jesper was talking to Kuwei about using the stalks of the Jurda plant and not just the flower. And he was talking about how his mom used them, used the stalks of the plant for like balms and other sorts of remedies. And it just reminded me that, like, the way that the magic is utilized often shapes our understanding of it to begin with. And let me try and explain that. So like like you were saying in the Grishaverse, the magic is essentially all of the grisha are recruited to fight in the second army. Right? First army? I can’t remember.
jessie [00:16:44] Yeah.
kelly [00:16:44] Second army.
jessie [00:16:45] sec– second army. Yeah,.
kelly [00:16:46] Who knows? [laughs] um And so it takes this more bellicose form versus the other, like the zoa, which is like refusing to even engage with the idea of using your magic for like a military aims and instead doing it in all these like particular ways.
transition [00:17:06] [spellcasting sound]
jessie [00:17:09] We have…I’m gonna– I put this under magic instead of world building, but we have proof of an afterlife in this story, which was… I don’t… I don’t know how to feel about it because we get it through Mattias. So I’m like, does that mean Gel is real? And that is the right way. And I don’t know that that’s how Bardugo meant it to be. But we do have that Mattias is dead, which I’m like meh, don’t really care [laughs] um because I don’t really like him that much…. But yeah, he gets his afterlife and he’s running around with the– with the…big wolves? The whatever that the Fjerdans have. So. yeah.
kelly [00:17:52] it’s real for him at least.
jessie [00:17:55] Yes. Which I think is also. Well, yeah, I think that’s something that you sometimes see with people who have like those near-death experiences and people who have studied them. They do see things. But there’s all this neurological things actually going on in their brains that can make them see things that maybe aren’t real. But maybe that doesn’t mean they’re not real to you. Perception.
kelly [00:18:14] that’s what Dumbledore would say.
jessie [00:18:18] [laughs] yes, he would.
kelly [00:18:19] [quoting Dumbledore] “Just because it’s in your head doesn’t mean it’s not real”.
jessie [00:18:22] I mean, sometimes that means it’s not real but…[both laugh]
jessie [00:18:24] But whatever.
kelly [00:18:29] We know to take Dumbledore’s advice with a grain of salt.
jessie [00:18:32] Oh my God. Yeah. He’s a terrible person. He’s basically like, let me raise this kid to die. So…. I don’t know how I feel about Dumbledore. He’s a complicated character. We also see both the faked Councill of Tides and the real Council of Tides. The real council of Tides I am concerned because they kind of were pretty threatening to Kaz at the end. And I’m like, are we gonna get another book with Kaz? Like, I’d be very excited about that, but I’m not sure he’s gonna be able to, like, take on these, like, all powerful Grisha in the way that he thinks he would be able to [laughing].
kelly [00:19:11] I think especially because he operates so much of his power comes from information and knowing things that others don’t know. And he doesn’t have any information on the Council of Tides. So that power differential is pretty stark.
jessie [00:19:24] Yeah, I mean, maybe Inej, the Wraith, would be able to figure something out about them, but I think she even she would have a difficult time with that.
kelly [00:19:34] Plus, she’s got better things to do on her abolitionist mission.
jessie [00:19:38] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, we’ll probably talk about that later, I guess, but I really love her and her like what she wants to do and the ending of the book. It was also perfect. I just loved it.
both j & k [00:19:50] Wands away! [bright, whimsical music plays]
jessie [00:19:55] Now we’re going to talk about conflict, villains and good versus evil in our segment “Get me Kylo Ren” so on page 62 Inej says about Van Eck, “no, you’re just the man who sits idly by congratulating yourself on your decency while the monster eats his fill. At least a monster has teeth and a spine.” And I really appreciated this take because I do think sometimes… One, I think Vannak is worse than even Inej realized at the time, like he’s got his hands in all these different industries and things that she doesn’t know about yet. But I do think sometimes a villain doesn’t necessarily need to be violent, like physically violent or be making these huge moves. Sometimes just allowing things to happen makes you a villain. And that’s what we kind of see with both Van Eck and I think the Mercher counsel or whatever they’re called. They’re kind of just allowing all these things to happen in Ketterdam, like the slave trade. That’s like the under lying slave trade. And obviously what happened with Kaz and they’re not taking any responsibility. So I really appreciated this look, this view that a person can be a villain, even though they’re not the one, like moving the action forward.
kelly [00:21:17] I definitely agree with you. And part of that, I think it’s kind of serendipitous that we are recording this episode right after the House um hearings about the impeach– the impeachment inquiry just wrapped up. And I was kind of making this connection. Maybe it’s just because it’s salient for me. The second time reading– around reading of Van Eck as a Trump-ian figure where he’s like. Being rich, like having a rich family is literally the only, I guess qualification in enormous scare quotes that this person has.
jessie [00:21:57] Right.
kelly [00:21:57] And it’s actually not even really that wealthy. There’s not a lot of that capital is liquid. It’s just like the appearance of wealth that’s most important. And then, like, everything becomes…All of the other side quests, shall we say, of this main villain character, serve the purpose of gaining more power and more, which in this case is wealth is growing, growing more wealth. What do you think about the comparison?
jessie [00:22:27] I think it’s definitely there, especially when you think about the fact that Van Eck doesn’t believe that kaz can outsmart him. And I don’t think intelligence is everything like book intelligence, you know, but Kaz has like this like I think– I think we would say like street smarts, you know. um And. And I think we see that with, you know, Trump, where he doesn’t think anyone could be smarter than him. He’s the smartest person ever to have been born. Even though that’s obviously not true in any sense of the word smart. um. So I think we also see this in the way that people will underestimate someone, especially young people, because Kaz is a young person. um And, you know, young people have a lot of power. We know a lot of things that like old people, you know, boomers think they can barely work a computer like [kelly laughs] who makes phone calls and is like, let me put this on a on the phone. Like, who who’s listening to your phone calls? You have no idea. Like, it’s some of it is just like, oh my God, I’m just like, whatever. Don’t don’t you can’t scheme in front of people like your staff is going to you know, the whole thing is just just ridiculous.
kelly [00:23:43] It is. Are you talking about the impeachment inquiry? That’s what you’re talking about?
jessie [00:23:46] Yeah. Yes. Yeah yeah yeah. The entire thing.
kelly [00:23:48] It’s like, oh, it is ridiculous. But I love your generational comparison because I think that’s super appropriate for this novel or this series in general and the essential like the two, like forces that are battling it out. Right? You have the young, uh rebellious youth. Young youth. Yes, of course, the youth are young. My bad. That was asinine. [both laugh] You have this like. Yeah. There’s these, like, youthful rebel scum, basically. And the establishment, super wealthy, like basically boomer class.
jessie [00:24:27] Yep. Yep. Yep.
kelly [00:24:28] White, rich people.
jessie [00:24:31] Yeah. It’s like so appropriate to now!
kelly [00:24:34] Yeah. It really is.
jessie [00:24:37] 2020 cannot be over fast enough. I’m like can we just get this over with? I am so inundated with too much right now. It’s just information overload. [laughs].
kelly [00:24:46] I think that we could just if we could just move the needle, that’d be great.
jessie [00:24:50] Yeah. I want a shorter election season like other countries do, like where the campaigning can’t happen for two years because, like, I’m already over it and I’m like, I haven’t even made a decision about who is my candidate because it’s just it’s too much. I just need a shorter window of time. [laughs].
kelly [00:25:10] There’s a lot of time left, lots of information.
jessie [00:25:14] I know a whole year. One more year. [laughs].
transition [00:25:16] [spellcasting sound]
kelly [00:25:20] I think my takeaway from the book about evil and villainy in general is that this series really like rotat– around, rotates around like greed as the axis of evil to use like George Bush’s terrible phrase. But that does seem to be like the motivation behind what generates the most conflict in the book.
jessie [00:25:43] Yeah. And I think we see that the dregs are obviously trying to gain wealth, but more as a way to access freedom and resources that were not– are not available to them if they don’t have money. So I think some I think people could look at this and say, well, the dregs are also greedy because they’re trying to get like 30 million krutch or whatever the amount is.
kelly [00:26:08] Kruger!
jessie [00:26:09] Oh, hah that is NOT how I read it once. [both laugh]
jessie [00:26:17] But I think that part of the problem is without wealth in this story but also, we see this in real life, you don’t have access to the same resources and opportunities and that’s all that the dregs want is the opportunity at, for some of them, freedom and for some of them to be able to go home or, you know, to fix mistakes that they’ve made with Jesper. um. So, yeah, I like that. Greed as a villain. Definitely.
transition [00:26:44] [bright, whimsical music plays]
kelly [00:26:48] Onward, magical listeners. Just as one does not simply walk into Mordor, one does not simply read fantasy without talking about representations of race, class, gender, ability, bodyminds, etc, etc.. This is our segment about power and bodies and how they relate. Wanna start with race?
jessie [00:27:07] Let’s do it. Actually, you have the first take on race.
kelly [00:27:10] I do! [jessie laughs] Wylan’ss experience of race um stuck out to me the second time reading the book because he looks like Kuwei at this point in the story and when they’re back in Ketterdam, he’s experiencing what, like a person of color, like Kuwei or Jesper would be experiencing in Kerch. And this is like a really big learning curve for him and especially given his privileged upbringing. And he’s like white as fuck. So, like a specific example is when Jesper’s dad shouts at Wylan because he looks Shu. And so he like shouts at them and asks if he speaks Kertch. So he assumes, like, ignorance or lack of intelligence because of how a person looks.
jessie [00:28:00] And that like if you yell at them, that will make them understand if they didn’t know [laughs]
kelly [00:28:06] Major eye roll because no, that’s not how that works.
jessie [00:28:09] No, it’s not. That’s not how language works at all. Yeah, it is really interesting. I didn’t pick up on this so I’m glad that you brought it up because that must have been kind of a mindfuck for Wylan a little bit because you see it even sometimes he says he catches himself in a mirror and he’s like, wait, like, that’s not me. um But his interactions with people are so different because of how he looks, which is something he’s never experienced before.
kelly [00:28:38] Right. And I think it is something to keep in mind that like how we ident–, like, read ourselves versus how the rest of the world reads us really does influence your experience in the world.
jessie [00:28:49] Another thing race related is that Nina doesn’t realize Inej would have an issue with Ravka for similar reasons as to why Nina dislikes Fjerda. Inej is racialized, obviously, as Sulis and Nina forgets that I think because of their proximity to each other, because they’re always together. And I think it’s a kind of a good reminder for, you know, I want to say like GWPs. But I’m also like, does that even exist? But like people who—
kelly [00:29:20] Can you explain the acronym?
jessie [00:29:22] Oh, yeah. For like good white people, you know, I would have voded for Obama three times if I could have white people [both laugh], you know, like peep white people who are not racist… Or are not outwardly racist [laughs]. um But it’s a good reminder for, you know, for white people, like just because you’re in proximity to a person of color for– um doesn’t mean that necessarily you should like it means that you should remember that that person is racialized, even though you might be able to forget that person never forgets their race, racialization or their marginalization.
kelly [00:30:01] mhmm.
jessie [00:30:01] And I think that goes not just for um race, but for gender identity and sexuality as well. Like, just because you can forget about it doesn’t mean the person who holds those marginalizations ever does–
kelly [00:30:12] yeah.
jessie [00:30:13] –because they don’t.
kelly [00:30:14] Ability, colonially lots of different—
jessie [00:30:16] Yeah.
kelly [00:30:18] —Immigration status I. So the the problem or the criticism that Inej has of Ravka is that it doesn’t treat the Suli well at all. Correct?
jessie [00:30:29] Right. Yeah. Yeah. And they’re like similar to like the Romani people. Which we talked about last episode and the racialization of Nina. I mean, Inej.
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jessie [00:30:45] So I want to talk about Mattias for a second who is like the whitest of white in this story, so it seems weird to talk about him in race. But—.
kelly [00:30:53] whiteness is race like, we gotta talk about it.
jessie [00:30:58] Yes, but I want to talk about how Mattias is kind of like a reformed white supremacist, and I’m not gonna to lie, I wasn’t all that upset when he dies, because sometimes this narrative where we like focus the story, which is like– in this story, isn’t super hyperfocused because there are six people that we’re getting perspectives of, but sometimes I get frustrated with these stories where we have to, like, center this narrative of like, “oh, this is a white person who used to hate, like POCs and now they’ve made a change, like, let’s give them, um like, props for doing that.” And I’m like, for what? For like meeting the bare minimum of not hating marginalized groups? Like to me, this is super frustrating. And one of the reasons I don’t like Mattias and I’m not saying that people can’t forgive these kind of people, but I’m just like, oh my God, I don’t care about Mattias like, who cares? He’s a terrible person. He has not, like, made up for that in any real way through this story to me.
kelly [00:32:00] I also wasn’t that sad when he died. I think your take of him as a reformed white supremacist is exactly on point. That is pretty much like exactly how the novel is– …I think it’s a very appropriate analogy. I was mainly sad for Nina, I guess, when he died, because I like Nina and she likes him for some reason. And I guess—.
jessie [00:32:23] Because she’s also white! [laughs]
kelly [00:32:24] Yes. There you go. But I would I guess we could say it’s. It’s like an inter… not species relationship, [jessie laughs] but like, you know, like race doesn’t really function in the same way for Grisha and non-Grisha. Since it’s like become about skin color, I guess, in our empirical world. um But it is like across i dunno some sort of identity line, that relationship is, right?
jessie [00:32:56] For sure.
kelly [00:32:56] Nina obviously thought that there was some redeeming part of it. And it seems like that is like the last thing that Mattias asks her when he is dying is that like, “go save other people who were like me”.
jessie [00:33:12] Right.
kelly [00:33:12] Which like. I– is kind of like putting that burden on the…it is putting that burden of education and redemption and forgiveness on the person who is experiencing, who is like the marginalized one.
jessie [00:33:30] For sure.
kelly [00:33:30] Which is bullshit.
jessie [00:33:30] like “please do this free emotional labor” [laughs].
kelly [00:33:33] And do it for me. Do it in remembrance of me. Okay, great. Yeah, I would say that he’s definitely not the most sympathetic or likable character necessarily, but he did serve an important… Like he has a purpose in the narrative. Like he provides this a venue for examining radicalization of young men and the toll that takes and then also the aftermath, like the struggle of unlearning prejudice and learning new ways of making sense of the world. And I am not really that like invested in this ship or or anything like that. But I do think that, like making him one of the however many different points of view was like a… It was a nice little window without him like taking over the entire narrative.
jessie [00:34:22] And he obviously loves Nina. And I understand. And it’s hard because. I guess one of the problems sometimes was like cancel culture is that that we don’t give people room to grow and change from their mistakes that they’ve made. And so I kind of struggle with that where I’m like, I don’t care about Mattias. Like he did a bad thing. And but, you know, everyone doesn’t have to be like me. Like, I might not be that forgiving. But other people can be. [laughing] if they want. So I understand that there should be room for, like, letting, like, people make those mistakes and we should let them grow from them. I definitely agree with that. And I struggle with that myself, like letting people do that. But sometimes in a book world, I’m like, I don’t care about that. Like, it’s not real life.
kelly [00:35:04] But I also think that it’s– there’s okay for there to be consequences for one’s actions, slash previous view and it’s okay to be— like that discomfort is generative because there’s this like parallel struggle of unlearning prejudice and then learning new ways of making sense in the world. And just because like that’s the Germany, the journey of like a reformed white supremacist or whatever, just because, like, they’re they put “reformed” before “white supremacist” doesn’t necessarily mean they’re entitled to like other people’s forgiveness or it doesn’t mean that, like, doesn’t require forgiveness from marginalized people.
jessie [00:35:43] Right. And the burden is on the marginalized groups to provide that forgiveness, which I think is frustrating to me because, um, because it’s just something that we do. Unless you’re me, because I’m like, no, I’m not doing it. [laughs].
kelly [00:35:55] mhmm.
jessie [00:35:55] But I think of, like, the judge who hugged the murderer. And I think we talked about that—
kelly [00:36:02] Yeah, we did.
jessie [00:36:02] —Last time?
kelly [00:36:04] The– Botham Jean’s murderer.
jessie [00:36:07] —it’s just mind blowing to me. Yeah. And the brother and people, you know, going back and forth about whether that was okay. And really it’s up to the person who has been wronged, but it’s just like all the emotional labor is on the marginalized groups to provide forgiveness. And that is just so frustrating to me. And I’m just like, no.
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kelly [00:36:30] Shall we segue into class?
jessie [00:36:33] So I feel like we talked about this a little bit last time when we talked about six of crows were Gehzen, who is a god, is tied to commerce, capitalism and deals made in the Church of Barter. It’s still pretty disgusting, the whole thing in Ketterdam, where, you know, basically capitalism is held up as like the pinnacle, like as a god, basically. So I just want to mention it again, because capitalism is trash and I hate it.
kelly [00:37:03] I mean, it’s not that different from what we have going on in our empirical reality either.
jessie [00:37:10] [laughs] No, not not at all.
kelly [00:37:12] There is so much to say about class. Oh, my gosh, OK. I can’t remember how much of this we actually discussed at the Six of Crows episode. [laughs] So there might be some repetition. But um one of the things I thought that this novel does really well and this like gays in God of Commerce and Kertch being all founded around that, is that it shows how like this worship of the market. And like a market as being free, and then we see all the machinations that operate behind the scenes, like the merchant council willing to like do all these inside deals and like insider traini– trading for Van Eck and all of the like, they’re all well connected and they’re meeting with investors. And… Just ugh it’s just like all of the machinations behind the scenes, I really think show that like a “free market” isn’t free, it’s the rich doing whatever the fuck they want to get richer while everyone else, like, lives in squalor.
jessie [00:38:10] Yeah, and I think we talked about it last time because I remember at least once linking to the prosperity gospel thing that John Oliver did. um But we see this again and Ketterdam, where there they feel like, oh, if I’m making money, if I’m rich than I’m doing right by Gehzen. So, like, that’s the only way you become… Like if you’re doing good things, then Gehzen uh will provide you with more money. So which like, you know, feeds off of itself. So yeah, very like, ew.
kelly [00:38:44] Mattias at one point reflects on money and it like ask these sorts of questions like is it freedom? Is it security? Is it obsession? And I think it is like all of those things, depending on your positionality.
jessie [00:38:58] Right. Because we see like Inej wants money so that she can get out of her contract with um Tanta Helene…
kelly [00:39:06] No um Pare Haskell.
jessie [00:39:10] Oh, no, just for just for Inej because she’s She’s like at the menagerie and that person has like her—
kelly [00:39:16] Oh yeah, yeah. But then like. But then her contract gets bought by the dregs.
jessie [00:39:22] Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Oh, right, okay. Yeah, I forgot. um But we see this is like a way of them securing freedom and Inej wants to take that money to, like, help, you know, break the wheel, get rid of the slave trade um and like, murder all those dudes, which I’m like, do that. That’s that’s a great way to spend your money. [laughs].
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kelly [00:39:47] Kaz at one point says that Ketterdam was my education. And this, I thought was a good reminder that there are plenty of different kinds of learning and study that aren’t sanctioned by the state or hegemonic society. Like you don’t– Kaz didn’t go to school after he was nine…? Right?
jessie [00:40:04] Right.
kelly [00:40:05] And I think most of the or a lot of the other characters that we see, too… Inej, jesper, I think, is the one who’s the most no, maybe like Nina and Mathias, are also like educated in the traditional sense. But that doesn’t– having that education versus not doesn’t really affect their ability to, like, be effective in the world.
jessie [00:40:30] Right. Right. Or we see it, which I know we’ll talk about later with Wylan, who has had an enormous amount of schooling, but he can’t read. So we’ll talk about that later. And that’s obviously not to say that um Wylan is not a useful part of the group. He is very smart, very intelligent, and he makes bombs, which is pretty cool. He’s like a chemist.
kelly [00:40:55] He is.
jessie [00:40:56] But obviously we see, like, the differentiation and like their skill sets are different. Even though Wylan had a lot of schooling and Kaz didn’t like Kaz is very, like, he he’s like making all these plans and stuff. He’s like scheming all the time.
kelly [00:41:11] Mm hmm. Totally.
kelly [00:41:14] I think that like six of crows and crooked kingdom in particular, are a really fruitful foundation for examining the difference between labor and capital. So it takes a– so labor is like it takes a lot of work to, if you’re making minimum wage, like, make one hundred dollars. Right? And so the work it takes to turn ten dollars into one hundred dollars is a lot, especially when you’re comparing to what it takes to turn like a million dollars into ten million dollars or ten million dollars into a hundred million dollars because thanks to compounding interest, dividend reinvestment, other economic factors I’m like uneducated about and also, like, don’t really care about it. You just like, let your money sit there and if you have a lot of it, it becomes even bigger. So like just the fact that capital exists. Like, makes it multiply. And it just accumulates in the system that we have and it doesn’t require actual labor in order to create wealth. And so the billionaires that we have like today or like John Van Eck, any of this merchant council or whatever would— the fact that they have money justifies… it’s like a such circular reasoning and such like bullshit that when you’d like, try and actually figure out the why behind it, the logic completely falls apart. I dunno at least in the U.S., capital is taxed at a lower rate than wages for labor. So um I recommend the Netflix explained episode about billionaires that explains this very well. And I think this labor versus capital distinction helps explain why rich people can gamble without consequences or actually with immense benefits. It’s like why, you know, companies like Amazon pay nothing in federal income tax versus you and me pay a lot more than that! Like two graduate students making barely any money, pay a lot more in federal income tax than an enormous like globalized company that has made billions and billions and billions of dollars in profit.
kelly [00:43:23] Another way that we can understand or I guess Kaz provides us with another way of understanding where the sort of like entitlement to power comes from in the system that the novel explores. And he says “when a man spends that much coin, he thinks he’s earned the right to do whatever he wants.” And so that like. That is how power works in a class system for sure. Like just by having virtue, by virtue of having a lot of money, that means that you— or it like almost becomes its own justification for abuse of power.
jessie [00:43:58] And we see that with Van Eck. And I guess the other merchers seem like fine. Like they’re obviously upset with like obviously Van Eck didn’t really do those things, but like with the schemes that Kaz has put into place. But we do see that Van Eck thinks he could get away with all of these things. And Kaz and the dregs who have no money are the ones who actually get away with it. They’re the ones who can do whatever they want because they they are like the consequences are not bigger for them, but they’re like like what’s the worst that can happen? They’ll have to leave Ketterdam for as whereas for Van Eck like he I guess goes to prison? Which like I don’t agree with but [laughs] you know,.
kelly [00:44:42] I think we could just close the billionaire discussion by saying billionaires should not exist.
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kelly [00:44:49] I also think that there’s like a class, there’s a class aspect to “no mourners, no funerals”, the sort of dregs’ luck slash like greeting slash goodbye or whatever you want to call it. And I think it I mean, it’s tied to the conditions of death and mourning, as the words themselves say, right? So that like only– I think this— I can’t rember who explains it in my bed. I’ve been on Black Veil, but they explain that only the rich had like, the resources to have burials, right? And so or to have anyone at their funerals. So like who society actually mourns and grieves for.
jessie [00:45:28] They stopped burying people in Ketterdam after the plague.
kelly [00:45:32] Mm hmm.
jessie [00:45:33] And so, like, the rich people would like to have funerals in the country. So,.
kelly [00:45:39] Yeah, versus—
jessie [00:45:40] No, I 100 percent agree.
kelly [00:45:42] —Versus the poor are just buried or not buried! They’re burned.
jessie [00:45:48] Yes. But like, mmm, like in a mass sense, like all people who are dead would just get burned together. Their bodies would be burned together, which is like weird and gross to think about. I guess so [laughing] sorry listeners. If you didn’t want to talk about– listen to us talk about what you do with dead bodies I guess.
kelly [00:46:10] Yeah. You can compost them now. Fun fact.
jessie [00:46:14] I know. I’m. I just want to do whatever is most like environmentally friendly.
kelly [00:46:19] Probably not burning and dumping the ashes into the ocean like they do in Ketterdam.
jessie [00:46:25] No, may–. Yeah. I don’t think burning is very environmentally friendly because but yeah, it’s hard because I also don’t want to be a burden to whoever has to pay for these things, you know?
kelly [00:46:37] [laughs] Yeah.
jessie [00:46:38] Because funerals are expensive and I don’t want kids, so who knows who’s going to even take care of that.
kelly [00:46:42] Ooh, that’s a whole other discussion!
jessie [00:46:45] Oh, yeah. [laughs] Maybe I’ll die first. You can take care of it for me.
kelly [00:46:50] [laughing] Well, you’re gonna have to– you’re gonna have to make a will.
jessie [00:46:53] Yeah, I know. I have a book. I need to fill it out. [laughs]
jessie [00:46:57] Yeah, we’ve gone completely off topic anyways. Yes, definitely some class issues here, but we also do see some mourning taking place in the dregs when Mattias dies, which I thought was interesting. I did not think that would happen. um I feel like we don’t really see Kaz participate, but he’s kind of, like, not emotionally invested in Mattias or most of the dregs. I think, yeah, maybe just Mattias.
kelly [00:47:25] I don’t really know what I’m trying to get to with this, like, whole idea about no mourners, no funerals, but because it doesn’t mean like, I’m not sad that you died or like no grief or no connection.
jessie [00:47:36] Right.
kelly [00:47:37] But it does. It’s basically like. A revindication of not being rich, I guess.
jessie [00:47:43] I think so, because if you can’t have a funeral, then there’s no one like there’s not that outward display of mourning that I think normally– usually takes place for most people in a funeral setting,.
kelly [00:47:58] And especially because the dregs, I mean, as their name implies, you know, outcasts of society. And basically people that society has already deemed as useless. And so, like, they wouldn’t grieve them anyway. And so I think it’s like a revindication of that identity position.
jessie [00:48:16] Yeah, it’s kind of like the “break a leg” thing, I guess, a little bit in that you say that and I don’t know where that phrase comes from, but you say it as a way to be like, hopefully we don’t need this to happen. Like, I hope you don’t die. [laughs] They’re doing dangerous things because they are positioned as the lower class people.
kelly [00:48:39] mmhhmm.
jessie [00:48:39] And if they were positioned as like the upper class people, this wouldn’t be necessary for them to do because they would have the power.
kelly [00:48:47] Right.
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jessie [00:48:50] Are you ready to talk about gender?
kelly [00:48:53] This wasn’t– gender isn’t like the, a main access or axis of conflict in the novel necessarily. Not in the same way that class and ability are I don’t think. Or race even. But Kerch does have an oppressive patriarchal structure. We especially see this with Alice and how she’s growned up– grown up, growed up–
jessie [00:49:18] [laughs]
kelly [00:49:18] GROWN UP in um…She’s the product essentially of this really patriarchal society and how it infantilizes women and makes– they are made to be, like think of themselves as having limited amounts of power or use or like worth in society. And I’m using these like and I mean worth and like quite literally the capitalistic sense, right. Because they don’t like, make as many deals. We don’t see any merchers who are women… what do you think?
jessie [00:49:53] Yeah, I would agree, because we also see it with Wylan’s mom, who somehow Van Eck is able to put all of his– her possessions into his name and take those things from her and then institutionalize her with no repercussions and hide the fact that she’s alive. So I think we see it with both, I guess with Wylan’s Mom and his step mom, the ways in which women are seen as second class citizens.
kelly [00:50:27] Mm hmm. It’s also curious to me the– how they’re both… they’re second class citizens, and yet their ability to produce an heir, like their reproductive their reproductive capacity is basically the only… Is like one of the driving forces behind Van Eck’s pursuit of wealth in the first place. He all talks about like making a legacy and passing it down. So he treats them, treats these women like shit. And at the same time, without their ability to have children, he doesn’t have a reason for– or that’s where he looks to, for his reasons, for building his fortune.
jessie [00:51:10] Right. Right. But I don’t– he says that, but I don’t believe that. I think it’s more selfish than that.
kelly [00:51:17] Mmm, yeah.
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kelly [00:51:18] we see Nina weaponizing her femininity, which I mean, she flirts and manipulates with greedy men, we see her at the like at the beginning of the machinations of this scheme to get Inej back with Cornelis Smeet, the lawyer. And it to me reminded me of like a “by any means necessary”. Like, if that is what needs to happen, then that’s what you do. If that’s what you’re using, then– or if those are the resources at your disposal and that’s what you have to use. And I think this is even more interesting, given that Nina is also disabled, a disabled character in a certain sense. We’ll talk about this in the next section. But often disabled individuals have their sexuality erased completely. And we actually see Mattias doing this to her for most of the novel until they make out in the Ravkan embassy or whatever.
jessie [00:52:12] Yeah, um Mattias and his views are trash. I think I already said I don’t really like him as character, but yeah, the way he treats Nina is also really like infantilizing at certain points where he’s like maybe, you know, he wants her to do things his way even though she is strong on her own. She doesn’t need Mattias around. It’s very frustrating.
kelly [00:52:37] I just liked the fact that the novel was like, no, she is disabled, but she’s also super sexy and not afraid of her sexuality either.
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kelly [00:52:48] Let’s go to ability, disability, body minds, cetera. You mentioned this a few minutes ago, but Wilens mother Maria Hendricks is diagnosed with, quote, hysteria and persecution disorder and then institutionalized without her consent consent by her spouse and has all of her like estate taken like stolen from her,.
jessie [00:53:15] Right.
kelly [00:53:16] And her child.
jessie [00:53:18] Yes, and everyone thinks she’s dead.
kelly [00:53:21] Yeah. So what Van Eck is able to do is pathologize her and in a way that’s super believable and legible to the other institutions, I guess, within that operating within Kerch. And then that means that he can– she’s disposable to him.
jessie [00:53:39] And some of that I’m not sure is partly due to her gender. She’s a woman. So obviously this goes well. He just gets a new younger wife.
kelly [00:53:47] Mm hmm.
jessie [00:53:50] um But I’m not sure if I’m remembering correctly, but I don’t know if this story actually deals with, like talks about if she had mental health issues. Like, I don’t know the story or if they were made up by Van Eck.
kelly [00:54:04] I think that they were made up.
jessie [00:54:06] OK. That’s what I thought. But I wasn’t sure.
kelly [00:54:09] He makes them up because of her– what he sees as like a deficiency on her end, which is Wylan’s inability to read.
jessie [00:54:19] Yeah. So I guess that’s the other thing is like weaponizing mental health issues is a lot of what’s going on here with Maria Hendricks.
kelly [00:54:28] Totally.
jessie [00:54:29] Van Eck is like a terrible person.
kelly [00:54:31] he is so terrible.
jessie [00:54:33] He’s so bad.
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jessie [00:54:36] We also see Nina dealing with addiction to what is a called Parem?
kelly [00:54:41] Jurda Parem.
jessie [00:54:43] Yeah. Jurda Parem. Which is a lot like we get a lot of instances of seeing her deal with going through the withdrawals and those kind of things, which I think is something we don’t really get a lot of in YA books and definitely not in fantasy books. So I really appreciated seeing this, especially when you think about some of the things going on in the United States right now with issues surrounding the opioid epidemic, um which, you know, is also racialized.
kelly [00:55:15] Totally.
jessie [00:55:16] But we can link to some things about– some videos. There’s a good episode of Patriot Act about the opioid epidemic. But um there’s a lot going on with Nina and this story.
kelly [00:55:30] That’s very true. We see both addiction and then also like the fallout of addictions, so like the withdrawal. We see how addiction isn’t just this like monolithic experience. It’s not just like then the urge to use a particular substance. It’s also the um like the physical repercussions, like she experiences for chronic fatigue, for example. And I thought that this was the – Again, the flashbacks really flesh this out. I think Bardugo does this masterfully, masterfully. She did it with pretty much every character well, where they’ll be like in the middle of a big action sequence and then it’ll flashback to a moment that, like mmm gives the reader more information, like about the depth of this character and what they’re going through. And like they’re like overall personality or development as a person. And but it like ties back to them, like the current moment. So this is, for example, this up is the Nina. And so will we get flashbacks of her on the boat back from Djerholm right after she took the jurda parem for the first time. And we see her in the throes of withdrawal and she’s really emotionally abusive to Mattias and the things she says are awful. And umShe’s kind of like all over the place. we see her vomiting, shivering, fever. So we see these like her bodymind experiencing this whole gamut of symptoms from the drug, would you think about this portrayal?
jessie [00:57:07] I think it was good. I don’t have a lot of experience, like personally or like in my peripheral relationships with people dealing with um like drug addiction. So I hope that it’s like a good portrayal, but I can’t speak to that. I did think it was interesting how it changed the way that Nina’s Grisha power worked, which I wasn’t expecting. For some reason, she can, like, reanimate dead bodies now, which I thought was really cool, but also, like, kind of creepy in Halloween-esque. So I was reading this book right after Halloween. So I was like, oh, like creepy vibes, I enjoy this. [laughs] So it was interesting to think about how sometimes addiction might change different parts of a person. And I think sometimes you can see this is like how like maybe your body doesn’t function the same after going through withdrawal or going through um going through addiction. So I thought that was really interesting part of the story.
kelly [00:58:12] Yeah. I think– And it’s like you said earlier on, more nuanced, I think, exploration and like a visibleization of the struggle with addiction that I haven’t really seen and other fantasy books. um And I also thought it was very realistic is the wrong word because we’re talking about fantasy and it’s apples to oranges. But–.
jessie [00:58:35] Right.
kelly [00:58:36] –responsible I guess, the way that the that Bardugo portrayed Nina’s fatigue and her like shifting relationship to disability slash ability within like a disabled bodymind that then gains new abilities, right? So it doesn’t it’s not all black and white. It can’t all be. It’s not like…. Moral judgments of like good versus bad don’t really hold sway here.
jessie [00:59:03] Yeah, and I think it’s also good because we see a lot with Kaz, like a depiction of a physical disability. So it was good to see also like an– this is kind of like an invisible disability or an invisible illness that Nina is going through. So, like, people have their good and their bad days, like where they will feel fine, but like that doesn’t… You know? It’s you know, it’s kind of like the spoonie melon– metaphor. Like how many spoons does Nina have today? And that is going to depend on a lot of things.
kelly [00:59:32] This connects to some of the to some theory I’ve been reading recently about like this idea of like crip time, so short for cripple and this Indic like that. Some disabled people are and like theorists and thinkers are taking up kind of like how “queer” was taken back up or “Chicano” was taken back up or used to be an insult. And now it’s like, like a reassertion of the self. And through this, like, identity that was um stigmatized and still is stigmatized. But um in these theorizations crip time isn’t linear or easily measured or you can’t, like, take it for granted. So this idea of good days versus bad days or spoons or how much emotional energy you’re expending on thinking about how to best take care of yourself or how to take care of other people. I, I thought that like Nina is a… Provides a good example for this idea.
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kelly [01:00:32] I think we also have to talk about Jesper and addiction. Jesper is portrayed as being addicted to gambling and also to the adrenaline rush that comes from all of his like operations with the dregs, I guess.
jessie [01:00:50] Right.
kelly [01:00:51] But and Inej suggests that he’s filling a void with gambling and fighting and that that’s not really healing. And she insinuates that the him not using his power is what’s creating this void that he then filled with less savory habits, shall we say? I guess this was this just serves to me like a good reminder asking like, what purpose does the serve when you’re distracting yourself from pain, which [jessie laughs] you and I have all talked about using growing up, using books as a way to do this.
jessie [01:01:24] Yeah, it’s it’s it can be hard to find– like, it’s hard in the society we live in, like with capitalism to find like quote unquote a productive thing to do when you’re also like feeling like shit. [laughs]
kelly [01:01:38] Slash all capitalism wants you to do is be productive.
jessie [01:01:42] Yeah. So kind of part of me is like, I’m not going to be productive. I’m just going to read this book. Is that productive? I don’t know. I guess it’s up to the to the reader or bake a cake um… Which is productive and that then I will eat. [both laugh] Which is great.
kelly [01:02:00] Yeah.
jessie [01:02:01] It’s hard because I feel bad for Jesper and I talked a little bit about it in the six of crows episode about how his um like his way of dealing with pain is very racialized, which I didn’t appreciate in either book. um But. I don’t know. It’s hard because he’s like lost his mom and that was like his one connection to his powers. So… But it also turns out that he’s also kind of using them all the time when he’s, like, shooting people. So I don’t know. It’s it’s kind of a mind–. Like Jesper is kind of like a mindfuck for me. Like, I don’t know what to think about Jesper. He’s so complicated that I think I could I could have like a whole book about Jesper, and that would be very helpful.
kelly [01:02:46] Yeah. One thing I think that’s important for understanding him as a character is that like a lot of his trauma comes from his white slash non magic dad.
jessie [01:03:00] ooh which I can so respect.
kelly [01:03:01] Who– totally! Which like he’s the one telling Jesper that, like, it’s not a gift, it’s a curse. His power, like it killed your mother. And so instilling this like self-hatred and fear about a character– an internal characteristic that Jesper can’t change about himself. And I think that most of the novel is a journey dealing with all of that. First of all, in covering the uncovering that that hurt even happened to begin with.
jessie [01:03:27] yes.
kelly [01:03:27] And then also like starting the process of unlearning that narrative.
jessie [01:03:31] Yeah. And Jesper’s like a very complicated character one, because of his magical about abilities that his dad cannot understand, but also because he is bi racial, which let me tell you is a complicated thing all in and of itself. So I’m sure he’s dealing with, you know. Having the non racialized parent be the one who parents you is very complicated, I can say from personal experience, but also like feelings of imposter syndrome. And like in so many ways, especially because Jesper is constantly interacting with Nina, who does have powers and is using them. He’s just a very complicated character. And I could probably read a whole book about Jesper. He’s not like my favorite character, but he’s just there’s so many, like, interesting things about him that I would like to know more about.
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jessie [01:04:23] We also see Genya and Kaz interact. Actually, I don’t think we actually see them interact, but she helps, like, heal him after his– he gets like beat up or whatever.
kelly [01:04:35] Yeah, it happens off the page.
jessie [01:04:37] Yeah. But he Kaz doesn’t let Genya fix his leg, which I really appreciated. And I’m sure part of this maybe relates to Bardugo who actually does use a mobility device. um But we don’t need miracle cures. Like it’s it’s a hard thing. And I know it’s very complicated for both of us because we’re kind of like, I would love that. But also, like, what does that mean? You know, so but I really appreciated that, unlike in some other stories we’ve read, we didn’t just get like a magical miracle cure to to a disability.
kelly [01:05:10] Mm hmm. I appreciate that very much. And I’m not sure that that would have… I think that Bardugo’s personal experience…I’m sure inevitably affected how she like the more respectful and nuanced way that she portrays ability and disability in these novels.
jessie [01:05:31] Right. I can’t imagine it wouldn’t. But, I guess all disabled people see themselves differently.
kelly [01:05:38] That’s true.
jessie [01:05:38] It’s also very complicated. But but I think she actually does a really good job of showing that throughout the novel that there can be different types of disability.
kelly [01:05:46] Yeah.
jessie [01:05:46] And everyone’s going to deal with that differently.
kelly [01:05:49] And it’s not a monolith either.
jessie [01:05:51] Right. Yes. Not even a little bit. [laughs]
kelly [01:05:54] Like we’re seeing how for the Grisha, it’s not a monolith or like all people of color like that, that cat tag as an overarching category is both useful and problematic.
jessie [01:06:07] Yes. Yes, exactly.
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jessie [01:06:11] We also see Kaz and Inej dealing with their past traumas. And it was very difficult to read. But I love them both. I just want to hug them. But maybe not Kaz because he doesn’t appreciate being touched by people. So I wouldn’t like, asked people first before you touch them. That’s a good reminder to everyone, including hugs and handshakes.
kelly [01:06:32] Yep.
jessie [01:06:33] All the things. People don’t appreciate it for different reasons. But I just really appreciated seeing how each of them have dealt with their past traumas. And it was just a lot. But I just, like, made me love them all the more.
kelly [01:06:48] Definitely. There’s such. like, I think that the novel strikes a really good balance between like having the their traumatic events that they’ve experienced influence them as a person and who they’ve grown into. But it also just doesn’t define them completely.
jessie [01:07:11] Right.
kelly [01:07:12] Or limit them necessarily. And one thing I think we see both Kaz and Inej, cash [both laugh], Kaz and Inej manifesting as dissociation. We see them both using dissociation as a survival tactic, especially when Inej with sexual trauma. And she was talking about wha– when she…I can’t remember who she tells the story to but about …was it to Kaz? About when she finally meets someone who saw her, who was performing. And so it kind of broke the spell between she couldn’t dissociate anymore
jessie [01:07:47] Mmhmm
kelly [01:07:48] When he was her client, because he knew her or he thought he knew– he had seen her before– she before in her previous life as an acrobat. And there’s a really good essay by Amita Swadin about pleasure after called “pleasure after childhood sexual abuse” that grapples with these sorts of questions. And it’s an adrienne maree brown’s recent book, Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good. So I’ll make sure to link to that resource.
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jessie [01:08:18] We’ve touched on it a lot, but going back to Wylan, we get a lot of books about characters who love to read, which I always appreciate but at the same time, also kind of takes me out of the book because I know it’s an author writing about people who like to read. Um but Wylan can’t read, and that is such a change from the norm. I think kaz— obviously Kaz isn’t the only disabled character in the story, but I think I have some issues with the way Wilen is portrayed. And I’m not sure that his inability to read is really fleshed out and it’s not given a name. And something about that just seems like, I don’t know, very discomforting to me about the way that Wylan’s character was portrayed in particular.
kelly [01:09:04] That you like wanted like more information about it? Or…? Can you speak a little bit more about that?
jessie [01:09:14] Yeah, so I was. um Not going to name names. I was speaking to someone who is dyslexic and talking about this characterization in particular. And they were talking about how a character not being able to read is often used as like a plot device, but not in any meaningful way. And it made me think of Wylan and his inability to read and like, what does that add to the story? So coming from a dyslexic perspective, I– which, you know, is something that I don’t have and it is and is very hard to like, wrap your mind around as someone who doesn’t have any difficulties reading, I– it just made me like take a step back and think about Wylan and why is he given– why is he not able to read? And what does that mean to the story. So I think in talking with that person, it made me take a step back and think about the way that people who can’t read are portrayed in media and books and I think it’s good that they gave Wylan… Like he’s very smart in facts, but not to say that reading is related to intelligence… But I think it is so wrapped up in intelligence that it it felt a little like off to me.
kelly [01:10:38] hmm Would we call this agraphia? Like the inability to recognize, like, written characters? But at the same time, Wylan does math.
jessie [01:10:50] Yeah. So that is the complicated thing. And that’s kind of what when I was talking to the dyslexic person about, like they talked about how oftentime in media dyslexia is like a joke or a person who can’t read is often the butt of a joke or made out to be unintelligent. Or they have like this other ability that they’re really good at. And how they don’t appreciate that. Now, obviously, that’s all—.
kelly [01:11:15] And then, like, it makes up for that, quote, unquote. And I see.
jessie [01:11:19] Exactly! They found that kind of frustrating. Now they didn’t read this book. This is of me telling them what this book is about. And it’s only obviously one dyslexic person. So obviously also not a monolith. But thinking back to their own experiences, they didn’t appreciate the way that media often portrays people who can’t read.
kelly [01:11:40] Yeah, and it does seem to me that the novel is cognizant of those societal narratives, right? And that it’s like commenting on them and playing with them, but that doesn’t mean that that like, the way that Wylan’s character itself is portrayed is like devoid of problems.
jessie [01:11:57] Yes. So that was my issue after talking with the person, you know. People who can’t read are often given like this other special ability. So in Wylan’s case, like he’s very good at math and he’s good at science, but he can’t read. So there’s always like if you don’t have one kind of intelligence, you need to have something else in that place. So I can see where that would be kind of like, like, conflicting, you know.
kelly [01:12:25] Totally, totally.
jessie [01:12:27] So that’s my feelings about Wilen and his portrayal. I just feel like very complicated about it, but it’s also not a disability I have. So I also can’t 100 percent speak to that either, you know?
kelly [01:12:39] Totally. Yeah, I think that’s– I’m glad that you brought this up, because it transitions into some– like a little bit more of a broader way that we can approach the discussion of disability through these novels. I think that, like six of crows and crooked kingdom are like helpful for discussing these two different models of disability, so the social model versus the medical model of disability. And this is ––shout out to my disability studies seminar where I’ve been learning the stuff this semester. So the medical model is the dominant cultural narrative. People have what doctors would diagnose as certain impairments, whether that’s cognitive, physical or otherwise, or if they’re like not neurotypical. And then these differences are pathologized. They are diagnosed and then patients are made to undergo treatment to cure slash correct what’s “wrong”– and these are massive air quotes around the word wrong —with them. So that’s how this medical model works, and we can I mean, just by describing it, you can probably see how problematic that is. And then the social model of disability says that the ways we move through the world determine how we experience disability. And so you can have an impairment that isn’t necessarily disabling depending on the context. The context is is is huge. And so accommodations and accessibility can radically shift the experience of disablement, for example. And Kaz, Inej, Nina and Wylan, I would say, could all be considered disabled in their own ways. Maybe Jesper too. And then, but when they operate in community with one another, like I guess the context of their interactions… the like the…They’re not experiencing disablement necessarily in the same way as when they’re out in the rest of Kerch or the rest of Ketterdam interacting with like the normies, you know? So their impairments aren’t necessarily aren’t necessarily disabling in their context when they’re like working together and scheming and doing all their plans because we see them, they’re actually like incredibly capable. And the novel, I think, knows that that is surprising to the people with power in the book. Right. Like Van Eck or the traditional power structures. But I think as the readers, we’ve known that they’re powerful and capable the whole time.
jessie [01:15:10] Yeah. It’s like another way of like looking at them as a group, because Kaz always talks about— Kaz, in particular because his disability is visible—talks about how people underestimate him because they see him using a cane as opposed to when he’s with the rest of the dregs, like they know, like maybe Kaz is the most powerful of all of them. So they’re like, don’t fuck around with Kaz. Like, [laughs] he’s not the he’s not the person to, like, mess around with. But out in society, no one would think twice about underestimating him.
kelly [01:15:44] Mm hmm. Like, it’s a m– mobility device and it’s a weapon,.
jessie [01:15:47] Right.
kelly [01:15:47] And it’s like a social statement. And, you know, it’s a part of his identity and. Right. It’s not just one or the other.
jessie [01:15:56] I would really recommend it in addition to the resources that Kelly has talked about. If you’re on Twitter following @coffeespoonie on Twitter.
kelly [01:16:06] Totally.
jessie [01:16:07] they talk a lot about visible vs. invisible disability. Good days and bad days. And they do a lot of disability work, which I really appreciate and love reading what they’ve been writing. So, yeah, follow them on Twitter.
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kelly [01:16:25] I think we can understand or read Jan Van Eck as like a metaphor maybe for the state that sees accommodations for disability as slash accessibility as like a drain or a waste of resources. So this like hegemonic narrative that um they’re asking that– that people with disabilities are asking for things that they don’t need or they’re ask– or that they’re like asking at all rather than entitled to this shit. And this is a prevalent narrative that we see in our empirical world. And let’s not forget, it’s also racialized. So an example of that would be like the “welfare queen” bullshit that Reagan and his administration weaponized.
jessie [01:17:09] Yeah. And I mean, we see this even in, like school settings where they don’t meet people’s accommodations or they try to find work arounds because they’re expensive. When really people are entitled to those accommodations and…
kelly [01:17:24] Or like white children will get accommodations and black children will get expelled or disciplinary action.
jessie [01:17:33] There’s a really good article and I’ll have to try and find it and link to it in the show, notes about the public school system in the United States attempting to hold back teachers from helping make diagnoses. Now, I’m not sure that public school teachers are able to make those diagnoses, but like they’re not even allowed to bring it up with parents because the schools can’t afford to meet the accommodations, which is actually super important, that kids have those accommodations so they can be at the same starting point as the rest of their class. So it’s really frustrating.
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kelly [01:18:14] The last thing that I’ll comment about for ability, disability, illness, whatever is the all the history of the plagues that we see in Kertch and epidemics. So the Queen’s Lady Plague was the most recent one and it profoundly changed the entire country. Right. I can’t remember how much of the population they say died, but it was a lot. It was like a lot. And that’s when they started– they changed their burial practices, they have like. We see the protocol, the Kaz and company exploiting the plague protocols too at the end. um But even then, we see that like it’s a huge threat that they’re not equipped to deal with in Ketterdam.
jessie [01:19:06] Well and like people are so afraid of it, like the doctor is like, “I got to go into hiding A.S.A.P.”. I’m like, what the fuck use are you?! [kelly laughs].
kelly [01:19:16] Yeah. I read– I watched another episode of explained that’s about like epidemics and how profoundly unprepared we are for them. So I was just like that little ray of sunshine to think about. But there’s also definitely race and class are determining factors for who dies and how versus who was able to survive.
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jessie [01:19:45] Finally, it’s time for Shipwrecked, a segment about sexuality, asexuality, sex, romance and relationships, and sometimes we take some liberties and do some shipping of our own.
kelly [01:19:56] I’m going to start with Mattias and Nina. [laughs]
jessie [01:19:58] boo!! [laughs]
kelly [01:19:59] [laughing] I don’t really get it. I see… I could like maybe see the charm… Maybe? But I don’t. I don’t know. Nina clearly is happy with Mattias, but and they have some good banter, I think.
jessie [01:20:17] yeah They really do.
kelly [01:20:19] It was– I think particularly Nina has good banter because she’s the funny one. Matthias is just there.
jessie [01:20:25] It’s hard because Matthias is like coming from such a patriarchal society and like, he just wants to like take Nina and like wrap her up in the Fjerdan clothes and like turn her into like a breeding source that I’m just like, oh, like Nina, why do you like this dude? [laughs]
kelly [01:20:46] It is a little. It is strange. Yeah, very strange.
jessie [01:20:49] But maybe she’ll like, find someone new and Kingo scars someone better and like not so terrible.
kelly [01:20:57] Yeah. Maybe we’ll see. We also get some not so great father-son relationships in this book,.
jessie [01:21:08] Dads Are Trash. [laughs]
kelly [01:21:09] We see we see it with Wylan and Jan Van Eck. Obviously, I don’t even know how much more we can say about that. Like Jan Van Eck is a garbage parent. And the garbage person. We also see a problematic father-son dynamic with Colm and Jesper. But Colm is like well-intentioned and I think actually loves his child, even if he has hurt him.
jessie [01:21:34] Yeah. Don’t trust Dads. That’s that’s what I took from this story.
kelly [01:21:40] Everyone needs therapy.
jessie [01:21:41] Oh my god, yes.
kelly [01:21:43] Yes. And I do think that especially Jesper is near– jesper’s like character arc shows this, well, I guess wylan’s too, the coming to terms with like learning who your parents really are and having, like, the veil lifted, you know, about who we thought they are and the excuses we were maybe making for them and that some of those relationships, when the like dust settles, are like worth repairing and like expanding beyond. And some of them are not.
jessie [01:22:13] For sure.
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kelly [01:22:16] Friendship and camaraderie and chosen family are just also important in this novel. And I love that so, so much.
jessie [01:22:25] Yeah, it’s a really good friendship story. I know. So we don’t get that much romance in this story. But I really like the coming together of all the, you know, all of the dregs and like their stories and their interactions with each other or just some of my favorites.
kelly [01:22:40] They just meet each other where they’re at and accept each other, which I think is… It’s just so radical.
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kelly [01:22:49] We have two slow burns.
jessie [01:22:51] Yeah. So we have Jesper and wylan who finally, like, kiss. And it’s very exciting, I guess. I like the two of them together because I feel like they just go, you know, like they just fit. And then we have Kaz and Inej who are both dealing with, like all this shit, like all the things. And it’s like. I don’t know. I really like them together. I really like them apart. I just– kaz and inej are like my fave. I don’t know. I think they’re just dealing with so much. And I like that they have like this like little spot of, like hope in each other.
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kelly [01:23:34] Now we’re going to talk about writing style, narration, characterization, plot structure, and basically whatever else comes to mind in a segment called Kill Your Darlings.
kelly [01:23:44] I thought Bardugo slayed, in this novel and in the series, especially with writing the multiple point of view chapters. I thought this was much more effective than the Grishaverse, which is all from Alina’s perspective. The first person perspective, I think it helps, obviously, that all of these different POV chapters are from complex and vibrant characters. And I haven’t read Ninth House yet, but I think this is her best. The best that we’ve read for the podcast anyway.
jessie [01:24:15] Yeah, and I think it’s really difficult because sometimes if you get more than a couple POVs, certain characters will sound so similar. So she did a really good job of each character has like their very own voice. And it doesn’t sound like another character. I really appreciated that. I think she did a fantastic job. Like, I don’t know how she did it. [laughs]
kelly [01:24:36] It was– I thought that was incredible. And it was there were like cliff ending– cliffhangers at the end of each PSV chapter, but they weren’t as like… I don’t know… gut wrenching or like abrupt as… And I’m not saying that that’s a bad thing, but it’s just like a different tonal and rhythm that, like Sabaa Tahir’s novels have, for example.
jessie [01:25:00] It makes me super excited now that I finished Six of Crows series. I’m so excited for this show, even though I’m– I I want the show, but I don’t want any of the grishaverse stuff [both laugh], just the six of crows things. I forget the actor who’s playing Kaz, but he’s just like perfect in my mind of what Kaz looks like, so I’m very excited. Obviously, because he is my aesthetic. [pauses] Speaking of Kaz, it was so long before there was a Kaz chapter like I’m reading reading. I mean, I’m like, where the fuck are we going to get Kaz? I understand that is really difficult. It would be really difficult to have a ton of Kaz because of the large cast. But I was waiting for what felt like forever. And then it seemed like they were few and far between, which was very sad for me personally. But I guess it’s hard because like every reader is going to have a different favorite character. Like not everyone’s going to love Kaz as much as I do.
kelly [01:25:55] I’m not sure. I think the– I think a lot of the bookstagram community would agree with you.
jessie [01:26:02] Yeah, probably. Which, speaking of Kaz, uhh he’s so ruthless but also seems to do ruthless things and like the perfect way. Like in the beginning of the story, there’s that little girl and he’s like talking about how he’s going to murder her and her family.
kelly [01:26:18] And her dogs!
jessie [01:26:19] And her dogs, if really doesn’t do what he wants. And it’s like one of those things that in real life, we would hate a person like that. But in a book, in this character, it’s just so, like, perfectly ruthless that I’m just like, I love you and I shouldn’t, but I do [laughs]
kelly [01:26:37] So when you come at me for my problematic views, let’s just keep this in mind.
jessie [01:26:42] Yeah. Yeah. Like don’t in real life don’t like these kind of people and in books. Kelly cannot give me any shit for this because she’s like, I heart the Darkling.
kelly [01:26:54] I don’t know! [laughing]
jessie [01:26:58] So I’d just like to point out, Kelly, don’t come at me for this [both laugh]
kelly [01:27:04] I agree with you, though, that, like Kaz’s ruthlessness is tempered. With a sort of it’s not like an empty ruthlessness. It’s not like for the sake of exerting power or for the sake of inflicting harm. That’s not to say that, like just because you have a justification behind the bad shit that you do, it means that it’s like, OK,.
jessie [01:27:25] Yeah. But it’s also hard because he tells Pecca Rollins that he, like, buried his kid alive and he didn’t really do it. But he wants them to know that he could have if he wanted to.
kelly [01:27:36] Right.
jessie [01:27:36] And that is the kind of ruthlessness I’m like, you want people to know you could do something bad even if you didn’t choose to.
kelly [01:27:44] And I think that that gets to the heart of what power is for Kaz. And it’s very much his like, his reputation, his information gathering. Well, a Inej’s information gathering and then also the like weaponization of a persona. And like the stories that get told about him and and the gloves that he wears, you know, his dirty hands monicker, that that is that’s very much how Kaz’s power works, is with words and scheming,.
jessie [01:28:13] Which I think is a little bit why he’s so concerned about his own feelings for Inej, because he knows that having someone you care about makes you vulnerable like we see with Peca Rollins. So we do see him kind of like fighting these feelings he has for her, even though I think they kind of come around in the end,.
kelly [01:28:33] well especially like I mean, come on, he brought her parents over from Ravka.
jessie [01:28:38] So I think– I don’t– it’s hard because, like, their relationship is going to be like a not like a normal relationship. Like she’s obviously going off to kill the slavers and kaz’s going to stay in Ketterdam, I assume. So they’re gonna have like a long distance relationship.
kelly [01:28:55] Yeah. Question. Could we see kaz and ine– Kaz and Inej as fitting somewhere on ace spectrum? Like, really only attracted to one another because they know each other so well.
jessie [01:29:10] I think so. I think so. I’m– Kaz talks like a little bit about having feelings for some other girl, which isn’t to say that people who are ace don’t have feelings, but…
kelly [01:29:26] Like, they can experience arousal, etc..
jessie [01:29:28] Yeah, exactly. But, yeah, I do think there’s like a connection between Kaz and Inej that they don’t have for other people.
kelly [01:29:35] Mm hmm. And that they’re they just don’t seem to be interested in sex or sexuality outside of that.
jessie [01:29:41] No, not at all. Yeah, I would agree with that. I think that’s a good reading.
kelly [01:29:46] A possible. Possible reading.
jessie [01:29:48] Yeah, possible reading.
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jessie [01:29:52] We also see parents as a liability in this story. I guess only in the case if you care about your parents and what happened to them [both laugh] Jesper is like–
kelly [01:30:03] Speaking of ruthless
jessie [01:30:05] Yeah Jessie’s heartless. We got it. [laughs] um But Jesper is like very worried. Like his dad is used as a ploy to bring him somewhere, like bring him out of hiding. And yeah, your parents can be a liability as much as anyone else if you care about.
kelly [01:30:27] I think that– I mean, it’s– there’s two points that you made are very connected, right? The fact that, like caring about other people–.
jessie [01:30:34] –makes you vulnerable.
kelly [01:30:35] Cr– Can… You can either see that as a strength or weakness, and it’s probably both/ and.
jessie [01:30:40] Both. And. And maybe says something about me that I’m like caring about people makes you vulnerable. [laughs] Yeah. Therapy. Here I come. [both laugh]
transition [01:30:49] [spellcasting sound]
jessie [01:30:54] OK. So at the end of the day, at the very end of the book. Inej is going to Pecca ROLLIN’S and I don’t think Kaz asked her to, but she went because she loves Kaz and I really liked that. What what are your thoughts?
kelly [01:31:07] I agree in that I don’t think she did it at her– at Kaz’s direction.
jessie [01:31:12] Like, I think it was her way of showing she cared was like, don’t cu– because she’s not going to be there to, like, help get information for Kaz when she’s off doing her own stuff, she’s like, this is her way of helping to protect Kaz. And I like that.
kelly [01:31:29] Absolutely. It was like heart emojis.
jessie [01:31:31] I was like, oh, that’s so sweet. Like, you’re you’re threatening to murder someone for for the guy you love. That’s real cute. [kelly laughs].
kelly [01:31:39] Is that your love language, Jessie?
jessie [01:31:40] [laughing] yes.
kelly [01:31:42] [laughing] Now we know.
jessie [01:31:43] But only threaten to murder bad people. Not like good people. [laughing]
kelly [01:31:49] Speaking of Pecca Rollins, I’m a fan of the book– this book ending tactic that Bardugo uses. We see it again in this novel. And we saw it before in the Grisha trilogy with like the specific point of views, that point of view chapters with like different style and tone starting and finishing the novel. And it was Pecca Rollins this time, correct?
jessie [01:32:11] Yeah. I don’t remember how six of crows started, but I’ll believe that.
kelly [01:32:16] I guess maybe I don’t know. I just remember… [pauses] Maybe, maybe this is my head. I know that, like the last chapter is Pecca Rollins.
jessie [01:32:24] Yes, that is the case for sure. Yeah,.
kelly [01:32:28] I just– it was a it’s not a choice that we see too many authors making.
jessie [01:32:33] Right.
kelly [01:32:33] And it’s kind of strikes me as a little bit of a signature. And I like that.
jessie [01:32:36] Yeah. Yeah. Because I expected it to just end with that last Inej chapter and I was fine with that. But I also really appreciated this ending, obviously.
kelly [01:32:47] Well, because I do think we see Pekka Rollins as kind of a setup, as a foil for Kaz, right? This is who Kaz could be in the future, potentially. um And I guess it was a way of [pauses] ending the book without concluding it, right?
jessie [01:33:05] Yeah,.
kelly [01:33:05] We get the impression that all of these characters are going to keep on living in this fictional world, which I really like, because I want to, you know, imagine that it continues on.
jessie [01:33:15] Yeah. And like, hope for another book or the TV show will be really good.
kelly [01:33:19] Yeah, that’s true.
transition [01:33:19] [bright, whimsical music plays]
jessie [01:33:23] Recommend, if you like. Heist stories and breaking up systems to take advantage of them, like we see with Kaz. I really enjoyed this. I, I obviously love a hesit story, but I really enjoyed the story, like the way that they take advantage of terrible systems of oppression and use them to their advantage. I really liked that.
transition [01:33:45] [bright, whimsical music plays]
kelly [01:33:49] Before we end. It’s time for real talk. Jessie, did reading this book make your perspective change in any way, or did it make you interrogate a concept, system or trend that you hadn’t before?
jessie [01:33:59] Yeah. So I kind of want to talk about Inej and the Suli idea of forgiveness. She says, and I’m gonna to butcher this, I know it [laughs] “Mati en sheva yelu. This action will have no echo. It means we won’t repeat the same mistakes and we won’t continue to do harm” on page 338. I really appreciated this look of what what forgiveness can mean and how it means that you will work in the future to to change what you did that hurt someone. And I think I appreciated it because we so often get apologies that are, “I’m sorry, but” and so this is like a differentiation from that. And so I really appreciated this idea. Even though part of me is a little bit like, oh, I’m I, I agree, you can forgive people, but like, I’m like, forgive, but like, never forget because I– you know, you can’t trust people not to repeat their actions. But I kind of appreciated this way of looking at forgiveness as a way to say, like, “I’m sorry that I hurt you and I will actually do something to make sure I don’t do it again.”
kelly [01:35:08] Right. It reads to me less as forgiveness and more as like an actual model of accountability and repair. Which is why Inej says that the Suli don’t have a word for I’m– don’t have an expression for “I’m sorry,” right?
jessie [01:35:23] Right.
kelly [01:35:24] They just– they say that this action will have no echo. It gets just like a radically respon– like a much more responsible way of being accountable for your actions. And then also, I think sometimes we get apologies that are like like you said, fake apologies, or even if it just says “I’m sorry,” it is coming from a spot that is insisting that the other party forgive, right? It’s like expecting forgiveness immediately upon giving the apology. And it doesn’t seem like this like Suli idea works that way, which I think is really refreshing.
jessie [01:36:06] Yeah, like it puts all of the responsibility on the part of the, like onto the person who committed the action that required an apology. As opposed to like, yeah, because I think you can apologize to people, but you cannot, like, expect them to always accept that. And that’s also fine.
kelly [01:36:26] Or even if forgiveness or acceptance does happen, it’s not necessarily on the timeline of the person who caused the harm in the first place, right?
jessie [01:36:35] Exactly. Exactly. What about you?
kelly [01:36:39] Rereading this series made me think about the really famous Audre Lorde quote, that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” And I first encountered these words in the collection of essays, This Bridge Called My Back: writings by Radical Woman of Color. And I thought that Kaz, Inej, Wylan, Jesper, Nina, Mattias… this, like “motley crew”, is a good example of Lorde’s quote. Like they understand the master’s tools, Kaz and Inej in particular understanding them, but then using– finding their own ways to work around and within and on top of and below and like fracture apart the systems of oppression in which they are all caught up.
jessie [01:37:31] Yeah, because at every moment I feel like we think Kaz is working within the system that great– like not Grisha– Ketterdam has put in place like the Mercher council.
kelly [01:37:41] Yeah!
jessie [01:37:41] And all those things. But like. He is like… I like. It’s hard to say like because you don’t see it until the very end, everything come together and him be like, “no, I didn’t do that at all.” Like, it’s a whole different thing that I’ve decided to do that doesn’t work within the societal norms.
kelly [01:38:01] Mmhmm It’s like a way of using the force of the wheel. Like understanding how the wheel works and the forces at play in order to and then slash using forces outside in order to break the wheel.
jessie [01:38:13] Yeah. Like, you kind of have to understand how it works in order to take it apart.
kelly [01:38:17] Exactly.
jessie [01:38:18] Yeah. Yeah. And I… Yeah. That’s Yeah. I like that reading.
kelly [01:38:22] And one more thing came to mind too. This– Jesper pretty much sums up our entire podcast platform [jessie laughs] in– when he says “you can love something and still see its flaws”.
jessie [01:38:32] it’s too true.
kelly [01:38:34] So true!
jessie [01:38:35] Yeah. Like all the books. [laughs].
kelly [01:38:38] Love it.
transition [01:38:39] [bright, whimsical music plays]
jessie [01:38:43] Thanks for listening to JK, it’s magic. We’ll be back in two weeks for a discussion of The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline. As always, we’d love to be in conversation with you, magical listener! Let us know what you think of the episode. Anything we miss or just say “h”i by dropping a line in the comments or be reaching out to us on Twitter or Instagram @jkmagicpod. You can post or tweet about the show using the hashtag critically reading, and you can contact us via email at jkmagicpod (at) gmail (dot) com.
kelly [01:39:13] You can subscribe to JK, it’s magic on the podcast app of your choice and we appreciate it three thousand percent if you would rate and review the show and spread the word to other RAD readers slash listeners out there. If you’re interested in supporting the show, you can make a one time donation on Kofi. Is that’s how you pronounce that? [laughs] And you can also support us monthly on Patreon in exchange for a mini-sodes, bonus eps, swag, our rad Discord channel and much more.
kelly [01:39:41] Kelly is recording on Cheyenne, Ute and Arapaho land. Jesse is recording on Peoria, Kaskaskia, Peankashaw, Wea, Miami, Moscoutin, Odawa, Sauk, Mesquaki, Kickapoo, Potawatomie, Ojibwe and Chickasaw land.
jessie [01:40:01] Until next time, stay magical.