“But if they managed it, even after Per Haskell got his cut, Kaz’s share of the scrub would be enough to change everything, to finally put into motion the dream he’d had since he’d first crawled out of a cold harbor with revenge burning a hole in his heart. His debt to Jordie would be paid at last.”

Kaz narrates these words in Chapter 3 as he deliberates whether to accept the heist proposed by Van Eck. At this point in the novel, we know nothing of Jordie or Kaz’s backstory, but this private rumination provides the first hint of the all-consuming desire for revenge that motivates Kaz. Although Van Eck convincingly demonstrates the danger of jurda parem and the urgency of the mission, Kaz cares little about the purported goals of the heist. Neither is he particularly motivated by the massive reward, except insofar as it will provide him with the means to quench his thirst for vengeance. The words “finally” and “at last” imply that Kaz has been plotting his revenge for quite some time, and it will soon become clear that his obsession with vengeance is the driving force behind Kaz’s power and success. However, this power is a double-edged sword. Although vengeance empowers him, it also “burn[s] a hole in his heart” and weighs him down like an unpaid debt to Jordie. These metaphors suggest that vengeance is all-consuming and burdensome.   

“Nina would be waiting for him. They all would.  

But he needed this. He’d fought for this. It wasn’t the way he’d imagined, but maybe it made no difference. If Pekka Rollins was put to death by some nameless Fjerdan executioner, then none of this would matter. Kaz would have four million kruge, but Jordie would never have his revenge.”

Kaz narrates these words in Chapter 26 as he stands outside Pekka Rollins’s cell in the Ice Court, deliberating whether he should deal with Rollins or focus on the heist. His team and his life hang in the balance as Kaz decides whether his private vendetta or his loyalty to the team is more important. Ultimately, he chooses his vendetta, spending valuable time freeing Rollins and making him late for his rendezvous with the team. This choice infuriates the rest of the team and illustrates the danger of Kaz’s unbridled thirst for vengeance. Had Kaz simply left Rollins alone in his cell, the Fjerdans would have executed him, but Kaz cannot be satisfied unless he is the one to punish Rollins. He puts the heist and the lives of his entire team at risk rather than lose his chance at vengeance.

“There was no one and nothing to carry him now. He tried to think of his brother, of revenge, of Pekka Rollins tied to a chair in the house on Zelverstraat, trade orders stuffed down his throat as Kaz forced him to remember Jordie’s name. But all he could think of was Inej.”

Kaz narrates these words in Chapter 38 as he holds his breath in the underground river. Determined not to drown, he reflects on his life, seeking to bolster his will to live. His first instinct is to remind himself of his unfulfilled quest for vengeance against Pekka Rollins, which will never be realized if he dies. However, he discovers that his plans for vengeance are no longer powerful enough to sustain him. Instead, he can only think of Inej, and he realizes that what inspires him, what makes life worth living, is the possibility, however slim, of a future with her. This epiphany suggests that Kaz’s longstanding obsession with Rollins has prevented him from recognizing and pursuing his true desires. Though his feelings for Inej frighten him, they also represent a more powerful force than vengeance.