Friday, July 28, 2017

Thoughts on Kaz from Six of Crows

Last week, I posted my review on Six of Crows.  In it, I mentioned I had difficulties/thoughts with how Kaz became disabled and how he views it.

On page 401, there’s a paragraph in Six of Crows which talks about how Kaz came to limp:

When he was fourteen, Kaz had put together a crew to rob the bank that had helped Hertzoon prey upon him and Jordie.  His crew got away with fifty thousand Kruge, but he’d broken his leg dropping down from the rooftop.  The bone didn’t set right, and he’d limped ever after.  So, he’d found himself a Fabrikator and had his cane made.  It became a declaration.  There was no part of him that was not broken, that had not healed wrong, and there was no part of him that was not stronger for having been broken.  The cane became a part of the myth he built.  No one knew who he was.  No one knew where he came from.  He’d become Kaz Brekker, cripple and confidence man, bastard of the Barrel.

At first, my mind said this is Kaz wanting to show the world he’s a broken man on the inside by becoming physically disabled, wanting people to know everything he’s been through.  I didn’t like my initial impression of this tidbit in the novel.  Visibly disabled people aren’t visibly disabled because they have troubled souls or sinful histories. 

But, Kaz also wants the world to know he’s limped through hell and can still burn it all down if he chooses.  He sees his limp as something to illustrate his strength and tenacity.  He never uses his disability to play the victim and, if his enemies see weakness because of his limp, they are going to be in for an awful surprise.

He uses his limp also, it seems, to make him distinctive.  It is his legend, the cripple who can still kick ass.  It is a great thing, to see a disabled person strong and uncompromising. 

There were healers, though, who could have healed him without permanent damage.  Were they too expensive at the time of his injury?  Did he break his leg and see it as an opportunity to reinvent himself?  The paragraph merely says his leg never healed right, not that he did anything to alter it, for good or bad.  Maybe, like most of us, he just uses any angle he has.

I would have liked to know if Kaz turned down the chance to properly heal, or if he was too low in the gang’s ranks to warrant a Grisha (magic-user) healer, or if he thought that his broken leg wasn’t that detrimental.  It probably doesn’t matter, but part of the lore of his disability left me with an icky feeling, though Kaz is never portrayed as anything other than a strong, crafty, complex anti-hero.

Is it something he purposely chose?  Something he didn’t think about until later?  If Kaz let himself become physically disabled, does it change how I’d feel about his character?
I possibly read too much into a fictional character’s choices.

Have you read the book?  What do you think about the explanation for Kaz’s limp?

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sagamihara Anniversary

One year ago, a eugenicist prick killed nineteen disabled people and critically wounded more at a care center in Sagamihara, Japan.  The ideology and identity of the murderer was given more media attention than the survivors... any of them.  The victims became a number, nothing else.

The ripples through the disabled community were widespread.  It was horrific and sad.  But, it didn't surprise us.  Ableist beliefs have lead to the deaths of our people before...

A year has gone by.  No updates about the survivors are readily available.
A year has gone by.  No details on any increase in security have manifested online.
A year has gone by.  We still don't know their names.

It almost makes it unreal, to not have names or faces.  The public isn't owed the information.  But, are the victims owed the acknowledgement?  Shouldn't they be worth more media coverage than a vile piece of scum?

A year has gone by.  And we still remember.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Image: A crow at the top part of the image dips a very large wing until it touches the bottom edge.  It is on a background of grayish-white stormy clouds.  Individual feathers splay out from the bottom half of the wing.  The title starts where the wing starts and is written is curly white letters.  There is red subtext that reads "Six dangerous outcasts.  One impossible heist."

Kaz, a well-known lieutenant for the Dregs (a street gang) is given the opportunity for the payday of a lifetime.  The catch?  He and his crew must break into the Ice Castle, a fortress with a prison no one has ever broken into (or escaped from) and bring back an important prisoner… alive.  In a world of magic, rival gangs, and shaky alliances, the greatest heist in the land may turn into the worst decision ever made.

Kaz is a bad guy doing bad things in a worse world.  He walks with a limp, using a cane as both a mobility aid and a weapon.  Kaz cannot stand to be touched, skin-to-skin. His backstory was interesting and his character’s actions felt real because of it. 

The book is really about an ensemble cast, and the author gives all characters dimension and diversity.  Outside of Kaz we have Inej, the religious spy who hates killing (I read her as Native or Latina). And Jesper, the gunslinger with a gambling problem (he isn’t white, but am unsure what he’d be considered).  Wylan, a young man with a privileged past and an uncertain future accompanies them as well as a Grisha (magic-user) prostitute, and a man raised to hunt Grisha into extinction.

This book has disability done well.  It covers mobility impairment, PTSD, and learning disability.

The settings were nice, but weren’t described into oblivion.  I knew where the characters were, enough details to imagine the places, and that’s it.

Kaz wasn’t the only one with a backstory, many other characters had one as well, breaking into the flow of the “current story”.  At first, this irritated me because I didn’t want to be pulled between the present and past.  But, the backstories kept my attention and provided richness to the characters developing in my mind as I read.  I began looking forward to the times I got another piece of the puzzle that made up each character.  There was a scene or two where I didn’t realize the time transitioned, but that was rare.

The action was plentiful.  There were explosions, gunfights, and breathless escapes.  The pacing seemed right, after adjusting to the presence of the backstories.

The magic system in this book was pretty solid.  There were different classes of magic with different Grisha able to do different things.  It wasn’t the most unique concept, but it was interesting and served its purpose well.

This book might not be for everyone.  There is violence, the presence of sex slavery (but no explicit rape).  There is also a drug in this story that makes Grisha (magic-users) almost immediately addicted and has a large role in the novel.

There is a small aspect of this book, almost easy to miss, that I don’t know how to feel about.  In this world, there are Grisha who are healers.  Kaz has a limp because of a leg that set wrong after breaking and chooses not to get it fixed. (I find nothing wrong with not choosing a cure, in fact, it’s refreshing in fiction.)  At one point, it mentions Kaz not fixing his leg because he there is no part of him that hasn’t been broken, or made stronger from the breaking.  As if it were a badge, I guess. 
(I have many thoughts on this, maybe best left for next week.)

I really liked and recommend this book.  There is a sequel (out now) I will definitely be reading.  I hope the next one is as exciting and rich as this one was.

 One small warning, this book ends on a cliffhanger.

Author Bio:  Leigh Bardugo is the #1 New York Times bestselling and USA Today bestselling author of Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom and the Grisha Trilogy: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising. She was born in Jerusalem, grew up in Los Angeles, graduated from Yale University, and has worked in advertising, journalism, and most recently, makeup and special effects. These days, she lives and writes in Hollywood where she can occasionally be heard singing with her band.