Character Deep Dive: Inej Ghafa

Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa holding a knife in Shadow and Bone 1x01
NETFLIX © 2021

Portrayed by: Amita Suman
Book | Show: Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, Crooked Kingdom, and Netflix’s Shadow and Bone

“She was not a lynx or a spider or even the Wraith. She was Inej Ghafa, and her future was waiting above.”

Six of Crows

Inej Ghafa is one of the most exceptional characters of our time—a character I hope people will talk about for years to come because everything that she represents is reflective of what complexity looks like in the face of a strong woman robbed of so much, yet still, a beacon of hope in spite of it all.

Inej has had too much taken from her, stripped of agency from age fourteen, and sold to a brothel called the Menagerie. In both the book and the TV series, Inej’s history is primarily the same, except in the TV show Inej has a brother she was separated from, as well as her mother and father. (Whether they’re alive, we’ll hopefully learn someday.) Characters like Inej, especially in the Grishaverse, often lose parts of their humanity through their pain, but Inej fights through the darkness even when life forces her to do terrible things.

Inej remains an idealist even as she is often practical—as a girl who fights through the cages of heartaches, she clings to the glimmers of hope she can find, looking toward fairness even in the dead of night. A little Suli idealist, as Kaz Brekker calls her. She fights through uncertainties more intricately than often depicted in the fantasy genre, and at such a young age, too, she masters the art of grounding herself (both physically and spiritually). In many ways, she reminds me of Leia Organa: brave, commanding, and strong—a deeply warm presence who is easy to adore by all who know her. 

Inej Ghafa is courageous and confident in her abilities, yet, at the end of the day, she is just a girl who isn’t entirely certain of everything. Fourteen knives named after Saints to protect her and steadfast in her beliefs, but human and vulnerable and so unbearably kind. At the end of the day, she is just a girl searching for freedom—one careful, spider-like step at a time.

Knives for Flowers and Moonlight in Her Eyes

Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa in Shadow and Bone Season 2 Episode 1 "No Shelter But Me"
Cr. Dávid Lukács/Netflix © 2023

“The problem was that Inej was no longer certain what she was aiming for. When she’d been little, it had been easy—a smile from her father, the tightrope raised another foot, orange cakes wrapped in white paper. Then it had been getting free of Tante Heleen and the Menagerie, and after that, surviving each day, getting a little stronger with every morning. Now she didn’t know what she wanted.”

Six of Crows

Inej might not have a boy who gives her flowers, but Kaz Brekker understands that she cannot belong to anyone, she has to be free, and in her freedom, she has to have the means to protect herself. And so, he gives her knives along with the agency she needs most after the life she has lived. He gives her the safe space to explore city ledges, creaks, and corners to make discoveries—anything, everything, to excavate the depths of her being and desires; flowers or knives, whatever the choice may be, it is entirely hers.

And after all the trauma, nothing could mean as much as the agency could. “The heart is an arrow. It demands, aim to land true.” 

Inej Ghafa is stealthy and graceful on her feet, but like all human beings, sometimes, she doesn’t know which way to go. Sometimes she needs to figure out where she stands (with Kaz) or which route to take, and it’s part of the organic growth process. In all that she knows, there is also so much she doesn’t, thus, making her character more relatable in presenting viewers with the detail that even those who are equipped and presumably have it all together carry doubts and uncertainties.

She is, at the end of the day, just a girl trying to figure out how to navigate through a cruel and unkind world. A girl who carries knives to protect herself and others.

There is so much beauty in Inej’s refusal to kill, which the series touches on from the second episode, forcing us to wonder when the first will be and how it will play out. She has been through perilous climbs and forms of confinement no one should ever cross through, but she harbors the belief that no one should ever be robbed of anything, including their life, and thus killing someone could never come easy for Inej.

Inej kills an inferni for Kaz in Shadow and Bone Season 1 Episode 5

This detail is entirely why the series touching on her first kill being for Kaz works so well because apart from her family, he is, in every way, the one person Inej would not hesitate for. She will not kill unless she has to, unless it is an absolute last resort, in self-defense, or for those she loves, never just because they wronged her or others. It is always the final choice, never the immediate one. She’ll make people, especially men, beg first, cry out, and attempt to make matters right, but she’ll strike hard only if it’s for those she loves. Yet, when the dam breaks, when the first occurs, ridding the world of cruel people who will not yield will be more likely.

She isn’t ruthless, but she is merely a girl trying to ensure that no other human being experiences trauma and heartaches like the Crows have.

“But what about the rest of us? What about the nobodies and the nothings, the invisible girls? We learn to hold our heads as if we wear crowns. We learn to wring magic from the ordinary. That was how you survived when you weren’t chosen, when there was no royal blood in your veins. When the world owed you nothing, you demanded something of it anyway.”

Crooked Kingdom

Inej Ghafa is the girl who feeds the crows, the girl who’ll scope high above to protect those who need her, the one who will see everyone for who they indeed are—the friend, the confidant. The one who will hold nothing against anyone but the girl who will do everything she can to help those around her find the absolution they need. She’s the girl who’ll aim her feet, square her shoulders, and set her sights on the moon, towards the magic and wonders and the search for something bigger because her choice is to try.

“If Kaz was their leader, then Inej had been their lodestone, pulling them together when they seemed most likely to drift apart.” Inej Ghafa is a magnetic force because of her unparalleled empathy. Caution, faith, and empathy—that is how she intricately and beautifully stands on her own as one of the most riveting characters in both literature and TV. She is, in every way, where the compass points, even as they follow Kaz into the darkness when he calls the shots; her choices and position with the Crows underscores the light she brings to their shadows. They need Inej. Inej needs them. Inej is their answer in more ways than one and their strength in trying times. 

Inej Ghafa and The Unwavering Faith

Inej Ghafa praying in SHadow and Bone Season 2 Episode 8 "No Funerals"
Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

“She’d kept her faith, her goodness, even when the world tried to take it from her with greedy hands.”

Crooked Kingdom

My friend and incredible writer Lizzie from Fangirlish got to chat with the cast earlier this and spoke about Inej’s faith to great detail with Amita Suman, which I believed to be crucial for this deep dive. 

“I think for Inej it’s just, everything that she does stems from this place, this faith and how she is so 100% committed to her faith (and to being) the voice of good, the voice of reason,” she shared, and this insight into her character is also an insight into the group dynamics, because if Inej is Inej, Kaz is Kaz and Jesper is Jesper, then Inej’s faith seems wildly out of place, not just in Ketterdam, but within this little family they’ve created together.

For Suman, it all comes from her character’s “gorgeous ability to see the beauty in the world and see the goodness in people despite all the terrible experiences that she’s been through,” something that makes it so much easier to understand not just why Inej is the one who humanizes Kaz, but why she’s the character you most relate to within the Crows. You might love Kaz, and laugh with Jesper, but it’s Inej you’re drawn to.

“Her religion has just made her into this beautiful and better person, and it has really strengthened her, and for me I truly and wholeheartedly respected that.”

Fangirlish | Read More Here

As a woman of faith myself, this is why Inej Ghafa is so important to me as a character—though our beliefs are different, the way she is written and thus brought to life by Amita Suman has never felt more organic. I’ve often vocalized that in media, people of faith are presented as one-dimensional, almost martyr-like, either entirely flawed and lost to one direction or unrealistically perfect. What is rarely depicted accurately is that there are complexities deeper and harder to reach than meets the eye.

No one is perfect, and there is no such thing as entirely good or evil; human beings are intricately complex. And we are not all the same in how we approach our faith either. Sometimes, we disagree with things within the church; I don’t even attend a lot, yet I still believe every day, with every fiber of my being. In that way, Inej is so acutely characterized because her “job” (if we look at it that way) isn’t exactly conventional for someone who follows some kind of religion, is it? She shouldn’t run with thieves and monsters. She shouldn’t do this; she shouldn’t do that. However, that never changes the depth of her beliefs or her heart, thus, showcasing that there’s so much more to faith than merely rules and regulations.

The life she has to lead does not leave much room for redemption, but that is not the case with how faith should be. No matter what said faith is, there is always room for grace. The Saints will protect Inej Ghafa because she is worthy of that protection and because she believes so fervently. It is why she is so determined to ensure that she and all others understand the importance of earning forgiveness while fighting the good fight of faith along with what happens on the streets.

Inej steals, and Inej kills when necessary, but her heart is with the Saints—her heart is always looking out for those who cannot look out for themselves. She’ll replace lion toys with crows when necessary and kill to protect those around her, but her heart doesn’t darken in the process. In all that she does, she is looking out for the captured girls, the orphans, and the lost boys like Kaz Brekker. She offers her prayers sincerely and profoundly because she cares about humanity with every part of her soul.

One of my favorite things Inej ever says in Crooked Kingdom is: “What you want and what the world needs are not always in accord, Kaz. Praying and wishing are not the same thing.” This idea touches on something crucial to any faith: the detail that prayers come with action until the very thing is entirely out of our hands. Prayer is belief but also movement; it is a step and sometimes a promise. Inej is steadfast in prayer and ardent in the fervency of her actions. She prays, and she fights. She prays until there is nothing left for her to do.

It’s little moments on Shadow and Bone where we see Inej praying amid high stakes. Or how we know she uses Suli proverbs to guide her in the books—all the details we get, the quiet gazes to the sky, towards Alina, the bows, they are each tremendous exhibitions of the layers inside her. Inej’s faith is her compass, it is the very thing that gets her through the darkness she continues to face, and it is the same reason she remains empathetic even when the world terrorizes her. It’s the token, the comfort, the light she holds onto, steadfast and beautiful—the one net she can always rely on.

She bends and climbs, all while broken by longing and heartache, but Inej Ghafa’s faith never wavers—it gets stronger. It grows by the page, and it grows by each episode. On a show full of powers, Inej is incomparably skilled with knives, but belief is her fortitude.

Inej Ghafa in Shadow and Bone 2x04

As trained as she is in the art of daggers, the perfect aim, the covert stride, Inej’s faith, and the choice to believe in something entirely hers is the strength that shapes her. Belief in anything is a compelling force, resulting in another reason her character is so well written, as there isn’t judgment towards unbelievers. She doesn’t need Kaz to believe in Saints, but she needs him to believe in something because she understands dark and lonely nights and having to stitch yourself back up. She understands the need for something bigger than her demons—something stronger than her heartaches and sacred that she can hold onto when all else is lost at sea. (And he finds that belief in her—because of her.) 

Inej’s faith is why she looks toward who people are on the inside, not the fires forged on the veneer. When she looks at Dirtyhands, the Bastard of the Barrel, she sees Kaz Brekker, the boy—she looks into his heart, sealed and guarded, choosing to believe in him, even when he hides truths from her.

Inej Ghafa looks at complicated people, and she builds a language with them that is sincere, heartfelt, and full of belief. Empathy and unceasing adoration forge the mechanisms of her heart, ensuring that her light consistently comes to the surface. She is willing to look into everyone’s souls to help break the dams they create for themselves. Faith is her agency. The belief in Saints, the desire to allow them to guide her, mold her, and step with her, is the very thing no one could take from her and the one thing she’ll hold on to vehemently.

Onward, Forward, Toward the Light

Amita Suman in Shadow and Bone 2x08 with the Neshenyer blade
Cr. Dávid Lukács/Netflix © 2023

Inej Ghafa, the tiny but mighty girl with fourteen knives, runs headfirst toward Volcra and powerful people because she is not a person who is capable of backing down from a fight. She could never watch people suffer without stepping forward because that is not who she was raised to be, and most beautifully, that is not who she chooses to be. She chooses to be the girl who will always use her skills for good, even when she embarks on a mission she disagrees with.

She is the girl who stands her ground and says what is on her mind, defending why she decides not to capture Alina no matter what is at stake because her beliefs matter more to her. It is why she would prefer Kaz without armor in the books (and likely later in the series) because she does not want to contribute to his demons, but instead, she wants him to break free of them—she wants him liberated from the burdens, the trepidations, and the crosses he carries. She wants him to be happy, and she wholeheartedly believes that he deserves her loyalty, her (eventual) adoration, and, ultimately, her forgiveness.

She knows that hope is not dangerous, but it is the only thing that can be a person’s will in darkness.

Finally, something about Inej is so innately warm and comforting; there are so few characters like her in TV and literature combined. It’s hard to read Inej Ghafa quotes without feeling like a friend is guiding us through something crucial—there is a light in her, brighter than that of a Sun Summoner, I’d go so far as to say. She is a stunning force of daybreak in the book series and the show. Through Amita Suman’s brilliant performances, she is, in every way, the one character who feels most like home.

Inej Ghafa in Shadow and Bone Season 2 killing Mongos
Cr. Dávid Lukács/Netflix © 2023

There is not a single character on this show that does not have ulterior motives or something questionable about them, and while Inej is far from perfect and complex in her own right, she is the one character you know will be the easiest to befriend. Her warmth, primarily driven by her faith and empathy, allows most viewers to sense the softness in her spirit. Suman masterfully brings a plethora of grace, humility, curiosity, and eons of compassion to Inej in every scene. When you look into her eyes, sincerity pours through like heavy, unceasing rain—there is no doubt about Inej’s heart or her intentions. Through her mannerisms and the wide range of emotions, Suman lays everything bare for viewers to see—she continues to understand the character’s quips with brilliantly meticulous performances that bring to life thousands of emotions, even in silence. I mention it in almost every episode review, but she is easily the performer who stands out almost effortlessly.

When you think about how much Inej has gone through, it is entirely too harrowing to process, mainly because we know that despite this being a fantasy, countless people have similar experiences. Girls whose bodies were taken advantage of, broken, and destroyed. Inej Ghafa was forced to submit and do nothing while terrible men crushed her body and soul, and Saints know what else, given the detail that she has had to learn how to stitch parts of herself back together. The sheer trauma and terror she has lived through should be enough to make her see the world for how dark it is. Yet, that’s not Inej Ghafa.

We know all the pain has (and continues to) cause distress that will take years and time to work through. (The way she winces and draws back her shoulder ever so slightly in Season 1, Episode 4, “Otkazat’sya,” after being touched by Marko, is utterly haunting in how it exhibits Inej’s discomfort with unwanted touches.) Climb after climb, prayer after prayer, day by day, Inej fights through, and Inej finds the light.

It is a testament to belief—to the fact that having something to hold onto, something that gives you hope, can help keep the monsters and nightmares away. And there is so much about Inej that exudes hope in the form of an evocative glow even when she’s angry, sad, or perplexed. It’s always there, tucked and guarded behind her eyes. The kindness she chooses to pour into everything she does remains her most profound, unbridled light. 

When Shakespeare wrote, “though she be but little, she is fierce,” he was talking about Inej Ghafa, I’m sure. Small and stealthy but mighty with empathy—combined with her unique skills, it is her heart of gold that stands out so beautifully, it is actually overwhelming.

Inej Ghafa in Shadow and Bone Season 2

Inej Ghafa on a ship in Shadow and Bone 2x08
Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

Shadow and Bone Season 2 digs deep into overtly showing viewers Kaz Brekker’s past, but it showcases Inej’s trauma more quietly (and brutally, given a single scene in “Rusalye“). The season is a monumental exhibition of her loyalty and the lengths she will push herself toward to protect those she cares about. It’s also an illumination of her desires and longing, the most human emotions, each laced with the need for consent.

She consistently proves through her words and actions that there’s nothing she wouldn’t do for those she cares for—the Crows and Alina Starkov especially. We’ve known this since Season 1, but Season 2 carefully expounds on it. Through statements like “then we’ll destroy him,” “the only thing I can promise that Pekka Rollins will beg,” Inej Ghafa promises her friends, in this case, Kaz, her hand—her loyalty, heart, and everything in between. As the Wraith, Inej has the freedom to live, scour the streets, open her walls, and fight for Saints. As a result, it allows her to choose who she wants to be and how she wants to live her life, despite the tragic circumstances.

It ultimately leads us to what life in the Barrel consistently teaches Inej. Though she would prefer to live without killing others, some men are beyond redemption. Some need to beg. And it’s precisely what she must ensure they do in “Like Calls to Like” when she goes after Mogons. He refers to her as the “little lynx”—a title book readers will know when recalling Inej’s past, essentially implying that he’s someone who’s sexually abused her at the Menagerie. And in how he maneuvers, it’s disgustingly clear that his intentions aren’t merely to kill—they’re to torture in ways a soul should never experience. We see a surplus of her heartaches through Amita Suman’s astounding and haunting performances as she cringes and simultaneously fights as hard as she can. But still, throughout much of it, the presentation of her trauma is clear as day in that scene. She’s reliving it in silence, making everything we get thereon clearer. 

A man like Mogons won’t change—there is no redemption for him, and yet, after she rightfully kills him, Inej Ghafa prays for the Saints to forgive what can be forgiven because, despite all the pain, she’s a woman who still believes there’s light left in this world. (She’s better than all of us in this way.) She believes in hope, even when she needs to do unspeakable things to survive, because this is how and why Inej differentiates from murderers. It’s never a thrill for her—it’s the last resort. It’s for every little girl who comes after her, ensuring that their futures are infinitely brighter than her past.

Consent and Armor

Kaz Brekker and Inej Ghafa in Inej's vision focusing on consent

There’s no moment in Shadow and Bone Season 2, as well as in the books, that people misinterpret as wrongfully as they do, like Inej telling Kaz she’ll have him without his armor. And “Nih Weh Sesh (I Have No Heart)” shows Inej’s intentions brilliantly by bringing to our screens the sincere meaning of those words. In Inej’s vision, Kaz gently removes her knives before stating, “may I.” Her vision is about consent. It’s a bold, profound showcase of the detail that he’s not only the sole man she’ll trust with her knives but that in allowing herself a second chance to heal from her trauma, she wants someone who’ll ask for permission—someone who’ll respect every part of her, inside and out. She wants Kaz Brekker to be this person because she knows he’s the one who sees her, even when she doesn’t say a word. He might not know the extent of what she’s been through, but he understands enough to be her safe place.

Similarly, Inej Ghafa can promise the same careful, beautiful love in return. She knows deep down that even if the trauma follows like a stubborn shadow, glimmers of light are possible where there’s love. She isn’t demanding Kaz do something she herself isn’t working on. She isn’t asking him to give parts of himself that she wouldn’t care diligently for. Inej knows that the armor is a barrier that stands in the way of their happiness, and at the same time, she doesn’t know the depths of his haphephobia because it’s not something he exposes to her. Yet, vowing him that she will have him, looking him in the eyes, and gently taking his gloved hand in hers, Inej promises that she’ll stand as the blockade he needs to move forward.

Related Content: Relationship Deep Dive: Kaz Brekker and Inej Ghafa

Theirs is a story of healing—one consensual step at a time because whether they realize it or not yet, they both love each other in insurmountable ways. There are quantities they’ll learn to understand through time while learning more about themselves in the process. The love consistently brewing in Inej Ghafa toward humanity, the good fight is undeniable. We simply need to look at all the words Amita Suman speaks in silence—the strength she consistently conveys with all the light she lunges with. Hers is a story that focuses on following the waves, pushing beyond the tides to save those who are drowning. Whether it’s Kaz or the children like her she’ll bring home from Slavers, Inej is the girl who’ll never let another soul experience heartaches like hers.

He’s the one who gives her freedom, and in turn, she’ll fight through hell and back for him, not because she owes him anything, but because she wants to. Because after everything she’s been through, she’s still just a girl, looking at a boy, wanting to know his tells and everything else he’ll share with her. Inej Ghafa knows better than anyone what it feels like to want to vanish from one’s own flesh. One day, she’ll share that story with Kaz Brekker, but today, she doesn’t know the entirety of his either. She merely wants to ensure they’ll get to a place where he won’t drown and she won’t vanish because being together should be about healing the broken parts of themselves by choosing to love every piece of each other.

Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa on the roof looking out for Kaz in Shadow and Bone 2x05

At the end of the day, Shadow and Bone Season 2 focuses closely on restating Inej’s loyalty by bringing her devotion centerfold. She wants to protect the world, but through it all, she’ll defend those she loves above all others. It’s why she follows Kaz, instead of the mark, in “Yuyeh Sesh (Despise Your Heart)” because she knows he needs her more than anyone else at this moment. It’s why she’s searching for family and why she’ll return more ready than ever to go to battle. 

We have seen skilled and incredibly capable characters like Inej Ghafa before, but they are only sometimes brought to life with the level of vulnerability and tangible warmth that the Grishaverse explores. It’s as though women or girls with the same backstories seldom show all corners of their beings. Inej is a badass, but simultaneously, she is so wonderfully soft that it’s heartwarming. She feels and expresses so much while keeping walls in front of her when necessary. There is a balance with her traits (fitting considering the acrobat she is trained to be), and Inej’s layers shape her in a way that’s impeccably inspiring because it tells girls that they can be both badass and soft.

They can throw knives and put out fires while exuding warmth and kindness at the same time. Vulnerability isn’t a weakness but a strength, and it takes immense courage to keep it wrapped delicately alongside weapons.

Inej’s prominence is grounded in her humanity—the imperfections and the beauty. She is the girl who’ll be full of overwhelming contentment when seeing Saints, the girl who will fight for her friends until her final breath, the girl who will stand her ground and cry and sometimes even bite her tongue. She’s the girl who will always see the light in everything, even when the world proves it isn’t worthy.

Inej Ghafa is the girl with a laugh worth bottling up, the beacon of hope for everyone who knows her—the absolute force of nature who doubts, aches, and cries, but she always stands back on the rope. She climbs to the ledge, through the window, onto the dock, and crosses to the end of the line.


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