Kaz Brekker, the 17-year-old leader of the Dregs, is the cold, calculating mastermind of the heist who skillfully manipulates dire circumstances to his advantage while privately struggling with the emotional scars of his traumatic origin story, which he takes great pains to conceal. Despite his youth, small stature, and physical disability—he walks with a cane—Kaz has scrapped and fought his way to the top of his gang, carefully crafting a reputation for ruthlessness and violence to discourage his many challengers. Kaz’s effectiveness as a leader derives from his cunning ability to exploit the needs and weaknesses of his allies as well as his enemies. He demands loyalty from others yet he trusts no one, which allows him to anticipate and thwart those who dare to betray him. He views the world through a pragmatic and cynical lens, scoffing at the religious and patriotic ideals held by others. He claims to be motivated only by his desire for money, power, and vengeance on his enemies, chiefly Pekka Rollins.  

But Kaz’s tough outward persona masks his inner insecurities, which derive from the traumatic childhood experience of losing his brother Jordie. Kaz’s cynical worldview represents the opposite of Jordie’s naïve optimism, which allowed Jordie to be swindled by Pekka Rollins. Likewise, the emotional distance Kaz maintains between himself and others stems from his horrific experience on the sick boat after Jordie’s death. Kaz’s gloves and cane, which strike fear in his enemies and contribute to his mystique, are actually coping mechanisms that he uses to protect against his pain, terror, loneliness, and grief. His gloves shield him from human touch, which he cannot tolerate after being trapped in a pile of corpses on the sick boat, and his cane doubles as a weapon and a reminder of a past failure. These objects come to symbolize Kaz’s unique ability to transform his personal weakness into enormous power.   

True to character, Kaz leads the heist not because he believes in the mission but because the payout will help him get revenge on Pekka Rollins. However, as the novel progresses, he discovers that he has a weakness for Inej, and that vengeance is not the only thing he wants from life. Soon after he finally admits to himself, and to Inej, that he wants her, Van Eck exploits this weakness by abducting Inej and holding her for ransom. As the novel ends, Kaz vows to do whatever it takes to recover Inej and exact vengeance on Van Eck.