Nina Zenik is a Corporalnik Grisha soldier from Ravka who joined the Dregs, and one of the protagonists of the Six of Crows duology. She worked at the House of the White Rose and used her Heartrender powers in her services there until Kaz Brekker recruited her for his crew to break into the Ice Court. She is the only known Corpsewitch.
As a child, Nina grew up in an orphanage. During her time at the orphanage, she was bullied. One day she found out that she could make the kids bullying her suffer using her newfound powers, and soon after went to school at the Little Palace. Before the Ravkan Civil War, Nina attended school at the Little Palace before all of the children were evacuated to Keramzin. She was forced to cut her lessons short to start her training with the Second Army early, since they were low on soldiers.
While in the Wandering Isle on a mission with Zoya Nazyalensky, Nina wandered into a camp of Fjerdan drüskelle, including Matthias Helvar. She pretended to be a lost Kaelish girl, but the drüskelle saw through her disguise and captured her and took her aboard a ship with other captured Grisha. Nina was put in a cage and experienced grueling treatment and mocking at the hands of the drüskelle guards, who included Jarl Brum.
Matthias spoke with Nina one time and gave her a tin cup filled with water to drink. One night, the ship experienced a massive storm. Nina managed to cut her bonds and those of the other imprisoned Grisha using the broken water cup from Matthias, thereby escaping their cages. Matthias also survived the initial shipwreck, and Nina saved Matthias's life with her Heartrender abilities and kept them both warm through the freezing water as they swam to shore.
They found an abandoned whaling camp and spent the night, then stuck together for three weeks as they traversed the Fjerdan landscape. Though they argued and bickered, they became allies, if not friends. When Nina nearly fell into an ice crevasse, Matthias saved her life.
In Elling, Nina told a Kerch trader that Matthias was a slaver who had captured her. She surrendered Matthias to the Kerch in an attempt to protect him, but Matthias did not know this at the time. There were Grisha undercover in Elling who planned to take Matthias prisoner and bring him to Ravka for interrogation and execution. In accordance with Kerch law, Matthias and Nina were brought to Ketterdam. Nina tried to recant the charges, but couldn't without compromising Ravkan Grisha intelligence operations. Matthias was condemned to imprisonment at Hellgate.
Nina stayed in Ketterdam instead of returning to Ravka because she wanted to get Matthias out of Hellgate. She was originally approached by Pekka Rollins and invited to join the Dime Lions, but Kaz sent Inej Ghafa to recruit Nina to the Dregs instead. Nina accepted and began working at the House of the White Rose as a member of the Dregs.
Six of Crows
Nina is selected by Kaz Brekker to join his mission to kidnap and retrieve Bo Yul-Bayur from the Ice Court. Kaz visits her at the House of the White Rose and tells her about jurda parem and his plans to spring Matthias from Hellgate. Nina rows to Hellgate dressed as the Lost Bride and watches Matthias fight in the Hellshow, then enters Matthias's cell. She tailors Muzzen to look like Matthias and wakes up Matthias, who immediately strangles her.
Nina is the one who suggests the Crows enter the Ice Court on Hringkälla, to the anger of Matthias. When Inej is stabbed as the Crows escape the Ketterdam harbor, Nina nurses her back to health aboard the Ferolind. Jesper comments that Nina and Matthias ignore each other for most of the trip to Fjerda.
When the Ferolind reaches Fjerda, Nina begins tailoring Matthias to make him less recognizable. As the Crows traverse Fjerda, they stumble upon three Grisha pyres. Nina is furious and upset, and argues with Matthias, and Matthias forces her to tell the crew about how she betrayed him. The Crows are attacked by two Shu-led parem-drugged Grisha, including one of Nina's old classmates from the Little Palace, a Durast named Nestor. Matthias helps Nina dig a grave and Nina tells Matthias the truth of why she gave him to the Kerch: there were Grisha who recognized him and likely would have executed him. The two form a plan to kill Bo Yul-Bayur rather than retrieve him.
The Crows arrive in Djerholm and Nina learns the best place to set up their ambush of a prison wagon. Inside the Ice Court prison, she and Inej are taken to the women's side. Once the Crows escape their cells, Nina and Kaz search the cells for Yul-Bayur. Nina realizes that much of the Ice Court is built from Fabrikator glass and begins to fear the Ice Court. During the search, Nina encounters two guards, who set off the Yellow Protocol alarm before she kills them. The Crows manage to climb the incinerator shaft, and Nina and Jesper heal Inej's injured feet.
Nina and Inej climb through an air duct into a dressing room for some of the girls from the Menagerie and disguise themselves as the Kaelish and Suli girls, respectively. Inej is detained at the entry to the White Island, and Nina enters alone. In the ballroom, she attempts to gain the attention of a high-ranking military Fjerdan to learn Yul-Bauyr's location, but she is interrupted by Jarl Brum. Brum takes her to see the Grisha cells in the treasury, then traps Nina in one. Matthias frees Nina and promises to protect her forever, using the drüskelle oath to Fjerda, and the two find Kuwei Yul-Bo. Nina prepares to kill Kuwei according to their plan, but Matthias stops her by pointing out that Kuwei is an innocent teenager, not his father. Kuwei blows up his lab and the three escape to the courtyard, where they are accosted by drüskelle. However, the drüskelle include a disguised Kaz, who uses a whip to drag them all into the gorge beneath the roots of the ancient ash tree. When they emerge, Nina and Matthias revive a nearly-drowned Kaz and the four climb to the other side of the bridge, where they climb aboard Jesper, Wylan, and Inej's stolen tank.
Their tank's progress is hindered by the presence of hundreds of soldiers at the harbor, including a parem-drugged Heartrender. The Crows agree to die in battle rather than be taken captive, but Nina, despite the known risks, voluntarily takes some of Kuwei's jurda parem to amplify her own powers. She kills the Heartrender and forces all the soldiers unconscious, but a group of drüskelle wearing masks that inhibit Grisha powers. Jarl Brum fatally shoots Matthias and Nina, but Nina's amplified powers heal both of them, and Nina uses the unconscious soldiers to attack the drüskelle. She aims to kill them all, but Matthias requests she let them live, and she does.
On the Ferolind again, Nina speaks with Inej about their plans for the future. At Kaz's orders, she tailors Wylan Van Eck into looking like Kuwei with her enhanced powers. Matthias and Wylan keep watch over Nina's painful withdrawal. Back in Kerch, Kaz hides Kuwei and Nina in the abandoned cages below the old prison tower at Hellgate, where they would be safe. In the final chapter, Nina, weak from parem withdrawal, accompanies Kaz, Jesper, Matthias, and Wylan to the Emerald Palace to negotiate with Pekka Rollins.
Since taking parem, Nina has lost her appetite and is unable to use her Grisha abilities without furthering her addiction. In order to distract Cornelis Smeet, Nina dresses as a girl from the House of the Blue Iris and flirts with him as he plays cards with Jesper and others. Disguised as one of the blonde girls he likes, she steals Smeet's dog whistle so Wylan and Kaz can break into his house. When they return to Black Veil Island, Nina and Jesper argue about the job. The Crows discuss their next steps in the tomb; Nina translates for Kaz and Kuwei and tries to convince Kaz to let Kuwei go to Ravka but fails.
Having tried to tailor herself the night before, Nina is ill and craving parem. She tries to seduce Matthias to get more, but he reveals he gave the parem to Kaz, and the two cuddle instead. Colm Fahey comes to Black Veil and Nina helps Wylan and Jesper construct a lie about Jesper's life in Ketterdam. Later, Nina and the others row to the lake house to kidnap Alys Van Eck. Nina tries to take care of the guards, but she cannot use her Heartrender powers. Enraged, Nina controls nearby bone dust to silence and kill one of the guards, then is shocked at discovering this new power. They kidnap Alys and take her to Black Veil, where Matthias gives Alys Nina's cookies, much to Nina's chagrin.
Nina and Matthias walk through Ketterdam, distributing Mister Crimson outfits in preparation for Kaz's plan to exchange Alys for Inej. Nina grows frustrated with Matthias's worry for her, as she wants to move toward a more intimate relationship. Nina takes her position on the third floor of the Ammbers Hotel. When Jan Van Eck involves the stadwatch in the exchange, Nina and Jesper run down the hotel stairs; Nina is briefly knocked unconscious by an explosion at the House of the White Rose. The Anvil is also attacked, leading Nina to realize that someone is targeting Grisha working in the pleasure houses. The Kherguud are immune to Nina's heartrending, however, and one catches Nina in a metal net. Nina shoots the Kherguud in the eye point-blank, killing her and allowing herself to escape.
On Black Veil, Nina reunites with Inej and the Crows discuss the Grisha-hunting Kherguud and Kaz's plan to discredit Van Eck. Nina refuses to help unless Kaz helps her smuggle Ketterdam's Grisha safely to Ravka; when Inej sides with Nina, Kaz is forced to accommodate her. The next day, Matthias and Nina head to the Ravkan embassy disguised as sibling Fjerdan defectors. Nina hates her Fjerdan outfit until she realizes Matthias likes her in it, and the two exchange flirty banter throughout Little Ravka. They are attacked by Zoya and Tamar Kir-Bataar, who did not recognize Nina and thought they might be working with the Shu. Nina summons bone shards from a stall outside, revealing a new manifestation of her changed power. Zoya leads them to a hidden place beneath the embassy, where Nina reunites with Genya Safin. Although she is chastened by her former commanders, Nina defends Matthias to the Triumvirate and negotiates with them to take the Grisha to Ravka without the knowledge of Kerch's Merchant Council.
While Zoya and Genya debate Nina's proposition, Nina and Matthias argue about their relationship status, then kiss passionately before they are interrupted by the Triumvirate. They agree to Nina's deal and leave the embassy. Tamar gives Nina a lethal pill, to use if she is captured by the Shu; Nina pockets it despite Matthias's protests. After using her new abilities, Nina is hungry, but when she notices a wanted poster for Matthias, the two rush to Black Veil and update the other Crows on the ship to Ravka situation.
Nina and Inej head to Van Eck's sugar silos at Sweet Reef, where Nina pretends to be a Ravkan immigrant looking for work to distract the guards while Inej climbs the silos and walks the high wire. A group of Dime Lions approaches the silos, looking for Nina, and she realizes Pekka Rollins and Van Eck are working together. The Dime Lions seize her, but Nina controls the dead bodies on the barge, scaring away the men. When Inej falls from the high wire after her fight with Dunyasha Lazareva, Nina's corpses hold the net and save Inej.
Kaz and Wylan meet the girls at Sweet Reef, and together they go to the Geldrenner Hotel to reconvene with the other Crows and Jesper's father. Nina is uncomfortable with her new power, but Matthias encourages her that it is not unnatural. As Kaz outlines his plan to auction Kuwei, Nina provides information about Ravka and the Triumvirate in the city.
Over the next few days, Nina dons a kefta once more to play the role of Colm's multilingual Grisha assistant as they con the Merchant Council into funding a fake jurda consortium. When Karl Dryden and Van Eck come to meet with Colm, Nina supports him and helps put Van Eck on the defensive. Nina and Kaz then collect dead cells from a body in the morgue, which she uses to stage a plague by grafting the necrotic flesh onto people in the gambling parlors and pleasure houses of the Staves. From there, Nina and Rotty prepare a fishing boat to take Kuwei and Matthias away from the auction, with Nina playing the role of a pregnant woman. Under Zentsbridge, Nina watches Zoya revive Kuwei, and meets Sturmhond.
Matthias runs to Nina and kisses her, then collapses against her, revealing he has been shot. When he dies in her arms, Nina attempts to bring him back from the dead, but Inej encourages her to let him go. They row to the Van Eck house, convert the bottleboat into a bodyman's barge, and hold a small funeral for Matthias. Nina is smuggled out of Ketterdam on the sickboat to a ship that will take her, the Ravkan delegates, and the Grisha refugees to Ravka.
King of Scars
Rule of Wolves
Personality and traits
Nina is bold, loud, and flirtatious. She has a terrible singing voice and loves to indulge in food, especially sweets like cake, waffles, and toffees. Despite her forwardness, Nina cares deeply for her friends, especially Inej Ghafa. She is described as shameless, but in truth the opinions of her friends and mentors matter greatly to her. Above all, Nina is very loyal to Ravka and deems herself a Grisha soldier of the Second Army first, always putting her country's needs before her own.
Nina has long, curly brown hair and green eyes. She is tall and curvaceous, described by Kaz as "built like the figurehead of a ship carved by a generous hand". As a Corporalnik, she wears a red silk kefta with a black waist tie and gold trim. She also sometimes wears a blue jacket. According to Leigh Bardugo, Nina's height is 5′9" - 5′10".
In King of Scars, Nina takes on a new appearance to look Fjerdan. As Mila Jandersdat, she is pale, with straight, ice white hair, and blue eyes. Her eyes become narrower, her cheekbones higher, her brows lower, and her mouth broader.
Powers and abilities
Nina is a Grisha Corporalnik. Initially, she is a trained Heartrender. Though she is not a Healer, she has some proficiency with healing and manages to care for Inej after she is stabbed. Nina also dabbles in the art of Tailoring and uses her skills throughout the Crows' journey to alter the appearances of the members.
She is also gifted with languages, displaying proficiency in Shu, Kerch, Kaelish, Suli, and Fjerdan (alongside her native Ravkan), as well as a partial understanding of Zemeni—many of these skills acquired during her education in the Little Palace and honed by her experience serving in the Second Army.
Under the effects of jurda parem, Nina's powers were elevated to new heights. She was able to kill another Heartrender from afar, defeat an entire army singlehandedly, control hundreds of unconscious soldiers, and heal fatal shots to Matthias and herself. She was also able to expertly, permanently tailor Wylan to look almost exactly like Kuwei; her tailoring was so good that it didn't have "seams". Even Genya Safin, a master Tailor, had a hard time undoing what she had done to Wylan while under the effects of parem.
After surviving the worst effects of jurda parem, her abilities as a Heartrender changed from manipulating living bodies to manipulating dead bodies. She controlled crushed remains from a graveyard, a collection of bones, dead bodies, and the cells of a body in the morgue. With this new power, she is known as a Corpsewitch.
Nina and Matthias first met when she was captured by a group of Fjerdan druskëlle, who included Matthias, and put in a cage on a ship bound for Fjerda. However, a storm wrecked the ship and Matthias and Nina were assumed to be the only survivors. The two were wary of each other at first but grew to be something close to allies while walking across the Fjerdan wilderness. When they reached a city, Nina handed Matthias over to a Kerch trader in order to protect Matthias from Ravkan spies, but Matthias was wounded by her betrayal. Matthias was sentenced to Hellgate; Nina stayed in Ketterdam for over a year, hoping to free him. When Kaz finally agrees to get Matthias out, Nina is overjoyed to see him again, but Matthias attempts to kill her. The two act as if they hate each other but quickly become allies again when they determine they have the same goal: kill Yul-Bayur. At the Ice Court, Matthias saves Nina from Jarl Brum by pretending he is still loyal to Brum, and the two embrace as Matthias promises to protect her, using the druskëlle oath to Fjerda.
Matthias looks after Nina as she suffers from the side effects of taking jurda parem. She insults and cajoles him in the grips of withdrawal, but Matthias stays with her and tells her intimate details of his life with the druskëlle. Matthias continues to worry for her back in Ketterdam, before Nina tires of his attitude and ices him out for a day. In Ketterdam's Little Ravka, they discuss each others' culture more, bicker, flirt, and eventually kiss passionately for the first time. They make plans for their future together, but Matthias is shot and killed by a druskëlle boy. As he dies in her arms, Nina promises to help Fjerda and have mercy on the other druskëlle.
Hanne lived in the convent of Gäfvalle, where Nina stayed along with two other members of her covert mission in Fjerda undercover as Mila. Nina first meets Hanne when Hanne is dressed as a soldier with the other Spring Maidens in a field riding horses, wanting the freedom of being a man but knowing it is against Fjerdan rules. After Nina, Leoni, and Adrik help save a girl from her injuries from a spooked horse, Nina realizes the spark in Hanne—what makes her different from the others. Nina later comes to find Hanne is Grisha and begins to teach her how to use her powers under the guise that her sister was Grisha. Nina first thought Hanne was a Heartrender, but it appeared to be that Hanne was a Healer. The two become very close, eventually working together at the end of King of Scars to begin to bring down Jarl Brum. Nina also appears to show romantic feelings for Hanne.
Inej and Nina first met when Inej was sent to recruit Nina to the Dregs. The two formed a close relationship, as they were both young women from Ravka who worked in pleasure houses and the Dregs. They became each other's emotional support in the group and care about each other a great deal. When Inej is stabbed by Oomen as the Crows leave Ketterdam, Nina heals her and takes care of her for the remainder of the journey. Aboard the Ferolind as they return to Ketterdam, Nina and Inej discuss their hopes for each other's future happiness. When Inej is taken captive by Van Eck, Nina wants to retrieve her immediately; the two are always thrilled to be reunited. Although Nina is accustomed to criticism of her country from Matthias, it upsets her greatly when Inej points out Ravka's treatment of the Suli. Nina shows great care for Inej's life and is often appalled by Kaz's seeming disregard for her safety. Inej comforts Nina after Matthias's death.
- Nina's astrological sign is Leo.
|Main Characters||Kaz Brekker • Inej Ghafa • Jesper Fahey • Nina Zenik • Matthias Helvar • Wylan Van Eck • Kuwei Yul-Bo • Jan Van Eck • Pekka Rollins|
|Minor Characters||Joost • Anya • Emil Retvenko • Councilman Hoede • Geels • Bo Yul-Bayur • Per Haskell • Tante Heleen • Jordie Rietveld • Specht • Rotty • Jarl Brum • Cornelis Smeet • Adem Bajan • Colm Fahey • Aditi Hilli • Alys Van Eck • Marya Hendriks • Zoya Nazyalensky • Sturmhond • Genya Safin • Dunyasha Lazareva • Anika • Pim • Keeg • Roeder • Karl Dryden • Jellen Radmakker|
|Locations||Ketterdam • The Barrel • Hellgate • Ice Court • Djerholm • Black Veil Island • Kerch • Fjerda • Ravka • Novyi Zem • Shu Han • Wandering Isle|
|Groups||The Dregs • Dime Lions • Black Tips • Stadwatch • Grisha • Drüskelle • The Menagerie • House of the White Rose • Merchant Council • Council of Tides • Khergud Soldiers|
|Events||Hringkälla • Hellshow • Queen's Lady Plague • Komedie Brute|
|Miscellaneous||Jurda • Jurda parem • Kefta • Indenture • Djel • Ghezen|