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Written by Nancy C
"No murders. No funerals."
The Dregs say this phrase to each other before separating, and especially before going on dangerous missions. It represents their way of saying good luck, therefore showing the close relationship between the six of them, but it also represents the very dangerous tone of the story. While the characters are all very young, the missions they go on are dangerous enough that a simple "good luck" does not suffice: their main wish is that none of them die before they next see each other. Murder is a realistic downfall for any of the Dregs; it's something viable enough that it can be casually acknowledged.
The crow motif shows up multiple times throughout the novel- the Dregs' meeting place is called the Crow Club, and Kaz's cane has a crow carving on top of it- and represents the Dregs themselves. Crows are intelligent, sneaky animals, notorious for being untrustworthy in folklore. The Dregs are criminals; they constantly subvert the law in order to get what they want, and they're incredibly smart while doing it. Crows are also known for being drawn to shiny objects, and the Dregs take the Ice Court job in the first place for the large reward it will pay.
Nina and Matthias were brought together by a shipwreck, symbolizing the start of their relationship. In stark contrast, Inej was taken away from Ravka by a slave ship, which took her from her family and forced her to begin an entirely new life. The Dregs take a ship to the Ice Court, carrying them to their promised fortune. At the end of the book, Van Eck's destruction of their ship represents the start of the war against him, as he makes clear his willingness to kill his son and other innocent people to get what he wants.
The disguise motif presents itself numerous times throughout Six of Crows. In the Ice Court, both Nina and Inej disguise themselves as prostitutes in order to gain access to the prison. At the end of the book, Wylan disguises himself to look like Kuwei so that the Dregs can carry out negotiations and deceive his father. Matthias acts as a double agent within the Ice Court, pretending to be loyal to Jarl Brum so that he can kill him and save Nina.
Imprisonment and the sense of being trapped are two of the novel's most prominent motifs. Kaz experiences severe PTSD which prevents him from being physically intimate with anyone, trapping him in his body when he wants to confess his feelings for Inej. Inej was a slave in the Menagerie for a year before Kaz found her, and now finds herself trapped in Ketterdam while she saves money to return home- even if her home with the Dregs is less like a prison than the Menagerie. Nina was taken prisoner by Fjerdan soldiers and now, like Nina, finds herself stuck in Ketterdam, not financially stable enough to return to Ravka. Matthias was a prisoner in Hellgate for a year before the novel began, but he finds himself trapped by his traditional Fjerdan beliefs throughout the novel, which prevent him from joining fully with the Dregs. Jesper is trapped by his gambling debts, and Wylan is trapped by his learning disability, which prevents him from communicating as well as he'd like. His father's abuse also makes him feel trapped. The Dregs are also hired to break into the Ice Court prison.
Kaz sheds his birth name and takes on the name of Kaz Brekker after his brother dies, symbolizing his rebirth as Dirtyhands, the bastard of the Barrel. Inej undergoes a similar rebirth after leaving the Menagerie and joining the Dregs, when she takes on a new identity as the Wraith.
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