The Grishaverse

"It was always hungry for more—money, mayhem, violence, lust."
Jesper Fahey, Crooked Kingdom

The Barrel is the entertainment and pleasure district of Ketterdam.


The Queen's Lady Plague hit the crowded slums of the Barrel harder than any other area of Ketterdam.[1]

Every few years reformers attempt to clean up the Barrel, leading to pamphlet and propaganda wars between merchant reformers and the owners of the gambling dens and pleasure houses. Every time, however, the Barrel wins out because building owners pay heavy taxes on their profits to the city,[2] and nothing motivates the Kerch like money.[3]


The Barrel is bracketed by two major canals, East Stave and West Stave, which each cater to a particular clientele. Unlike buildings in the rest of the city, buildings on the staves are bigger, wider, and painted in garish colors that clamor for attention from passersby. The Barrel is noisy, chaotic, and crowded with people; it smells of bilge, clams, and wet stone.

The area between the staves is a tangle of narrow streets, minor waterways, and tilting buildings. Most of the buildings in the Barrel were built without foundations, on swampy land where the canals were haphazardly dug. These buildings are often falling apart—cold and damp, with plaster sliding from the walls and gaps in the windows wide enough to let in rain and snow. They have gabled peaks and off-kilter chimneys;[4] sometimes the fireplaces are too clogged with debris to function.[3]

The Lid[]

The Lid is the section of the Barrel closest to the harbors. The best, most expensive betting halls and pleasure houses are in the Lid, which is favorably situated to attract tourists and sailors coming into port. The Lid also contains respectable opera houses.[5]

East Stave[]

East Stave is the Barrel's gambling district. Both sides of the canal are lined with betting halls, some grand and some squalid, with garish facades meant to entice tourists looking for fun. Most gambling halls employ barkers to shout from the doorways, promising the biggest pots and the liveliest play. The stave is also lined with street vendors selling food, street magicians doing tricks, and people dressed in bare scraps of silk to lure clients across the bridges to the brothels of West Stave.


West Stave[]

Main article: West Stave

West Stave is home to the Barrel's pleasure houses.



"Alliances shifted this way and that in the Barrel, but your gang was your family, the only protection that mattered."
Nina Zenik, Six of Crows

The Barrel is the terrain of Ketterdam's numerous gangs. Most gang members wear flash: gaudy waistcoats, watch fobs studded with false gems, trousers in every print and pattern imaginable, and bright colors. Thieves in the Barrel often carry bonelights—small glass spheres that glow green, made from the dried and crushed bodies of bioluminescent fishes. Some gang members also carry a sharp blade known as "kind steel", to grant a quick death in case of capture.[14]

Tourists and locals alike often visit the staves dressed in the costumes of the Komedie Brute to disguise their identities. Thanks to this, the Barrel also draws tourists who simply wish to crowd-watch. The Barrel is highly active at night—many shops are open at all hours,[12] and music can be heard from run-down cafés.[15] The crooked alleys and dark corners are often occupied by couples taking their pleasure.[15] Wealthy merchants disparage the Barrel as a place of filth, vice, and violence. Every so often, some merchants will try to clean up the Barrel and drive its denizens into "honest work".[16][2]


  1. Six of Crows, chapter 22
  2. 2.0 2.1 Crooked Kingdom, chapter 5
  3. 3.0 3.1 Crooked Kingdom, chapter 1
  4. Six of Crows, chapter 10
  5. Crooked Kingdom, chapter 4
  6. Crooked Kingdom, chapter 7
  7. Crooked Kingdom, chapter 12
  8. Six of Crows, chapter 18
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 9.8 Six of Crows, chapter 5
  10. Six of Crows, chapter 26
  11. Rule of Wolves, chapter 27
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Crooked Kingdom, chapter 8
  13. Crooked Kingdom, chapter 27
  14. Six of Crows, chapter 12
  15. 15.0 15.1 Crooked Kingdom, chapter 14
  16. Six of Crows, chapter 3