The Grishaverse

"Do not be afraid. Fear is how they control you. There's so much in the world you don't have to be afraid of, if you would only open your eyes.""
— Matthias to Joran, Crooked Kingdom

Matthias Helvar was a former drüskelle from Fjerda and one of the protagonists of the Six of Crows duology. He was imprisoned in Hellgate on charges of being a slave trader until Kaz Brekker, Inej Ghafa, and Nina Zenik rescued him in order to force him to join their quest to rescue Bo Yul-Bayur from the Ice Court.


Matthias grew up in a southern Fjerdan village near Halmhend with his mother, father, and younger sister, who were all killed when a group of Inferni soldiers attacked the village.[2] Matthias became a drüskelle to avenge his family, and he quickly rose in the ranks after being taken under the wing of drüskelle commander Jarl Brum. As a young drüskelle, Matthias did not fit in with the other boys, though he was the strongest and the fastest. He often thought about running away from the drüskelle.[3]

When Matthias was twelve, he traveled with the drüskelle to Stenrink to choose an isenulf wolf companion. Rather than attempt to charm a young pup, Matthias released a slightly older wolf from his cage. The wolf bit him hard; Matthias declared him his isenulf, then passed out from blood loss. He named the wolf Trassel, meaning "troublemaker" in Fjerdan.[3]

One group of Grisha he captured as a drüskelle included Nina Zenik. Their ship was caught in a storm and destroyed; Matthias survived the shipwreck with Nina, and they survived together for three weeks in the Fjerdan wilderness. Nina kept him alive through the freezing water and Matthias saved Nina from falling into an ice crevasse, and he decided to get her safely home to Ravka. However, once they arrived in Elling, Nina told a Kerch trader that Matthias was a slaver. Several weeks later,[4] when they arrived in Ketterdam, Matthias was imprisoned at Hellgate. He fought in the Hellshow for six months before being freed.[5]

Six of Crows

Matthias is forced to fight three wolves at the Hellshow. Since wolves are sacred to Fjerdans, especially drüskelle, Matthias is reluctant to kill them and distraught when he does so. After the show, Kaz Brekker, Inej Ghafa, Jesper Fahey, and Nina rescue him from the prison by replacing him with Muzzen, a member of the Dregs who was tailored to look like Matthias. When Matthias wakes up and sees Nina, he strangles her, but is immobilized by Kaz.

After taking Matthias out of Hellgate, Kaz asks him to help them break into the Ice Court and retrieve Bo Yul-Bayur. Matthias believes Kaz to be a demon and calls him demjin throughout the duology. At first, Matthias refuses to help the crew enter the Ice Court, as he doesn't want to betray his country again. However, Kaz shows him a pardon, which would allow him to return to Fjerda without disgrace and become a drüskelle again, and Matthias agrees to help. Matthias describes maps of the Ice Court for Wylan Van Eck. Matthias assaults Kaz, trying to find the pardon, but Kaz uses sleight of hand to keep it from him and has Matthias shackled. When the group is ambushed while boarding the Ferolind, Nina unshackles him, and Matthias fights alongside her.

On the Ferolind, Matthias is shackled again. He visits Nina at Inej's sickbed and speaks with her, but for most of the trip, he and Nina actively avoid each other. The night before the Crows begin their trek across northern Fjerda, Nina begins tailoring Matthias to make him less recognizable once they arrive at the Ice Court. As they travel, Matthias reluctantly helps them learn the Ice Court protocols and guard stations.

The group stumbles upon the pyres of three Grisha, and Matthias and Nina fight. Matthias forces Nina to tell the group of how she betrayed Matthias and sentenced him to Hellgate. Two Shu-led Grisha under the influence of jurda parem attack the group. The Crows kill them, and Matthias agrees to help Nina bury the Grisha. While digging their graves, Matthias and Nina agree to kill Yul-Bayur rather than take him to Ketterdam, as they both want to keep parem a secret.

The Crows enter the Ice Court as prisoners. After escaping their cells, they make their way to the basement, then up the incinerator shaft to roof of the prison sector. From there, the boys to the roof of the drüskelle sector, then Kaz and Matthias cross the Ice Moat to the White Island in the center of the Ice Court via a secret bridge known only to the drüskelle. They enter through a gate and encounter two drüskelle guards, who they incapacitate. Matthias briefly debates shooting Kaz and dooming the mission, but decides to save the group instead. Kaz and Matthias dress in the drüskelle's uniforms and enter the palace.

In the palace, Matthias and Kaz see Nina with Jarl Brum, Matthias's old commander. While Nina is distracted, Matthias approaches Brum, feigning loyalty to the drüskelle. Brum is glad to see Matthias, as he believed he had died on the shipwreck. After Brum locks Nina in a cell and prepares to use parem on her, Matthias speaks with Brum and learns Fjerda's plans to use Grisha as weapons. Once he learns the location of the Shu scientist who makes parem, Matthias knocks Brum unconscious with a sleeper hold and steals the key to Yul-Bayur's lab. Matthias returns to free Nina from her cell. He recites the drüskelle oath to Fjerda, changing it to be his promise to Nina: “I have been made to protect you. Only in death will I be kept from this oath.”

The two find Yul-Bayur's lab, but learn Yul-Bayur was killed in the battle between Fjerda and Kerch. Instead, they meet Kuwei Yul-Bo, Bo Yul-Bayur's son, who has been attempting to recreate jurda parem under Fjerda's order. Matthias convinces Nina not to kill Kuwei, who is an innocent boy. They ask Kuwei to destroy the lab instead and flee as the lab explodes, but run into drüskelle on the White Island who incapacitate Nina and Matthias with a whip Matthias himself designed. Kaz uproots the sacred ash tree and drags Nina, Matthias, and Kuwei into the spring beneath the ash.

When they emerge from the water in the gorge, Matthias and Nina revive an unconscious Kaz and hike up the gorge to the outskirts of the Ice Court. Soon, Inej, Jesper, and Wylan come out of the Ice Court in a tank. Nina, Matthias, Kaz, and Kuwei grab onto the tank, and the group speeds towards the harbor, destroying the bridge behind them and stopping the Fjerdan army from following them. At the harbor, their path to the Ferolind is blocked by hundreds of soldiers. Nina decides to take some of Kuwei's jurda parem to she can save the group, despite Matthias's objections. Matthias asks Nina not to kill the drüskelle but rather to give them another chance to be taught to be something better, the way Matthias had been taught by Nina.

Aboard the Ferolind at sea once more, Nina begins to suffer withdrawal from the parem. Matthias stays by Nina's side during the entire journey back to Ketterdam, taking care of her and telling her stories about his life.

Matthias, Kaz, Jesper, Inej, and Wylan-as-Kuwei meet with Jan Van Eck on Vellgeluk and are double-crossed. At the end of Six of Crows, Matthias, Jesper, Nina, and Wylan accompany Kaz to make a deal with Pekka Rollins to get Inej and their money back from Van Eck.

Crooked Kingdom

Matthias keeps watch while Kaz and Wylan break into Cornelis Smeet's house, then rows them back to Black Veil Island. As the Crows discuss Kuwei's future, Matthias is uncomfortable with Kuwei going to Ravka, the enemy of his country, but he is also upset with this making Nina unhappy. Rotty and Specht report that Muzzen was killed in Hellgate by the drüskelle, leading Matthias to regret the death of the man who died in his stead. That night, Nina comes to Matthias's bed seeking parem, but he reveals he gave the remaining drug to Kaz, and the two cuddle instead.

The next day, Matthias and Kaz shadow Jesper and Wylan as they meet with Colm Fahey at the university and defend them when they are fired upon. At night, Matthias and Jesper make a show of setting out a gondel to Eil Komedie to retrieve Inej, then head to the lake house and kidnap the pregnant Alys Van Eck. Matthias, recalling his own mother's pregnancy, tries to soothe Alys.

Matthias and Nina distribute the Mister Crimson outfits for Kaz's plan; Nina tries to kiss Matthias, but she grows frustrated with his incessant worry for her. He takes up his position on top of the Emporium Komedie and watches the exchange of Inej and Alys on Goedmedbridge. When Van Eck reveals he involved the stadwatch, Matthias sets off Wylan's fireworks as a distraction. Matthias and Wylan reach Jesper and Nina after the explosions at two of West Stave's pleasure houses; he shoots the khergud, but bullets fail to injure the Shu soldiers. The four run back to Black Veil, where the Crows discuss the Kherguud and their plan to discredit Van Eck.

Dressed as Fjerdan siblings, Matthias and Nina go to Little Ravka to get the Grisha safely out of Ketterdam. Matthias is uncomfortable with Ravkan culture, but Nina alternately teaches and flirts with him. They arrive at a tavern and are attacked by Zoya Nazyalensky and Tamar Kir-Bataar; Matthias uses a duskbomb from Wylan to counteract the Heartrender, but the Squaller pins them to the ceiling. Zoya attempts to shackle Matthias, but Nina defends him. He encourages Nina when she is cowed by the disapproval of her former mentors. In a hidden cistern under the Ravkan embassy, Matthias and Nina argue about their relationship, then kiss passionately for the first time before being interrupted by the Zoya and Genya Safin. They negotiate the safe passage of Grisha refugees out of Ketterdam. When Tamar gives Nina a lethal pill to take in case of capture, Matthias fears for her life.

The two decide to get waffles, but return to Black Veil instead when Nina discovers a wanted poster for Matthias. Matthias stays on Black Veil with Jesper and Kuwei, discussing the consequences of and possible antidote to parem. However, they are attacked by Dime Lions. Using his military strategy, Matthias devises a plan using the unknown Grisha abilities of his companions to scare the Dime Lions and allow Matthias, Jesper, and Kuwei to cross the canal away from the island.

The Crows reconvene at the Geldrenner Hotel. Matthias learns about Nina's transformed power, and while Nina is uncomfortable, Matthias posits that her new power is still natural. When Inej shares about her encounter with Dunyasha Lazareva, Matthias shares Fjerdan intelligence about Dunyasha's claim to the Ravkan throne. Over the next few days, Kaz outlines their plan to auction Kuwei and scam Van Eck, Matthias sees Nina in a proper kefta for the first time, and the two spend their downtime in the hotel together.

Matthias and Kaz accompany Kuwei as his protectors at the auction. The drüskelle jeer at Matthias, and a young drüskelle takes particular notice of him, but they cannot legally do anything until the auction concludes. Matthias enjoys watching the charges against Van Eck mount, and then the auction dissolves into chaos when the Council of Tides arrives, the plague sirens sound, and Kuwei is shot. Matthias follows the stadwatch with Kuwei's body and brings a medik. They take a fishing boat with Rotty and Nina through the canals, swapping Kuwei for a real corpse along the way, and deposit the body at the Ghezendaal hospital.

As Matthias leaves the hospital, he encounters the young drüskelle on the street. Matthias tries to reason with the boy to teach him everything he learned about humanity from Nina, but the boy shoots him in the stomach. He makes it to Nina's bottleboat under Zentsbridge, kisses Nina, then collapses against her, revealing his injury. Matthias asks Nina to promise to help the other drüskelle, be merciful to Fjerda, and bury him according to his religion before dying in her arms.

Personality and traits

"Matthias Helvar was a soldier and a hero. He saved me from drowning. He kept us both alive on the ice. He endured a year in the worst prison in the world for a crime he didn't commit. He forgave me for betraying him. He fought beside me, and when he could have abandoned me, he turned his back on the only country he'd ever known instead. For that, he was branded a traitor. But he wasn't. He believed his country could be more than it had been. He lived with honor and died with it too. He wasn't always a good man, but he had a good heart. A great, strong heart that should have kept beating for years and years."
— Nina, King of Scars Chapter 8

A year in confinement at the inhumane penitentiary Hellgate made Matthias cold, brutal, hateful, and unforgiving, all needed for him to survive in the brutal atmosphere of the prison. Matthias spent his year in prison dreaming about the girl he had begun to love, imagining being with her lovingly and taking his revenge all the same. After escaping, Matthias was angry at being made to betray his country again and did not get along with the rest of the crew. Over the course of the Ice Court heist and the return trip to Ketterdam, Matthias becomes more at ease among the Crows, though still standoffish to new people.

Matthias is quick to anger and prioritizes protecting the friends he'd made in the Crows over being nice. He shows a soft spot for Nina and worries extensively about her. Matthias has good intuition and is able to deduce truths about the emotions of Kaz, Nina, and Jesper that most people do not recognize.[5][6]

Physical description

"His hair was long and burnished gold, and his pale blue eyes glinted like ice beneath a winter sun. He looks like a painting, she thought, a Saint wrought in gold leaf on the walls of a church, born to wield a sword of fire."
— Nina, Six of Crows Chapter 14

Matthias is muscular and tall with the distinctive blonde hair and ice-blue eyes of the Fjerdan people. Before he was imprisoned at Hellgate, Matthias had worn his hair long in the style of the drüskelle. However, due to his year in prison, Matthias was pale, his hair short and messily-cropped, and covered in wounds and scars. By Crooked Kingdom, Matthias is growing out his hair again, and it curls around his ears. According to Leigh Bardugo, Matthias's height is 6'4".[1]

Nina Zenik temporarily tailored his appearance before the Crows breached the Ice Court to avoid identification from the other drüskelle. She tinted his hair black and made his eyes "toffee-brown".

Skills and abilities



Nina Zenik

"I have been made to protect you. Even in death, I will find a way."
— Matthias to Nina, Crooked Kingdom

Matthias meets Nina in the Wandering Isle one year before Six of Crows, after Nina leaves her party of Grisha led by Zoya Nazyalensky. He recognizes her as Grisha and captures her, taking her on a ship to face trial in Fjerda. After some of the other drüskelle suggest "having fun" with Nina, Matthias snaps at them, likening the Grisha to dogs. She asks him for water, saying that he would not treat dogs so cruelly. Matthias does not respond, but soon he returns with a tin cup of water for Nina.[7]

When a storm wrecks the ship, Nina uses the broken mug handle to get out of her cage, which saved her life. Matthias and Nina were presumably the only survivors of the shipwreck, and they had to work together to get through the stormy ocean and make it to shore, with Nina keeping his heart beating and Matthias swimming.

They are equally wary of each other at first, not even telling each other their names. But they grew to be something close to allies while walking across the Fjerdan wilderness.

Nina accused Matthias of being a slaver and gets him sent to prison.

After escaping Hellgate, Matthias was angrier and colder than he was originally with Nina.

The soft spot he had always harbored for Nina grew throughout the duration of the Crows' journey to the point of affection and love.

to be continued...




  • Matthias is pronounced Matt-EYE-us.[8]
  • Matthias' astrological sign is Taurus.[9]
  • According to Leigh Bardugo, Matthias is "secretly a Hufflepuff."[10]



v  d  e
Main Characters Kaz BrekkerInej GhafaJesper FaheyNina ZenikMatthias HelvarWylan Van EckKuwei Yul-BoJan Van EckPekka Rollins
Minor Characters JoostAnyaEmil RetvenkoCouncilman HoedeGeelsBo Yul-BayurPer HaskellTante HeleenJordie RietveldSpechtRottyJarl BrumCornelis SmeetAdem BajanColm FaheyAditi HilliAlys Van EckMarya HendriksZoya NazyalenskySturmhondGenya SafinDunyasha LazarevaAnikaPimKeegRoederKarl DrydenJellen Radmakker
Locations KetterdamThe BarrelHellgateIce CourtDjerholmBlack Veil IslandKerchFjerdaRavkaNovyi ZemShu HanWandering Isle
Groups The DregsDime LionsBlack TipsStadwatchGrishaDrüskelleThe MenagerieHouse of the White RoseMerchant CouncilCouncil of TidesKhergud
Events HringkällaHellshowQueen's Lady PlagueKomedie Brute
Miscellaneous JurdaJurda paremKeftaIndentureDjelGhezen