Book | Show: Six of Crows duology and Netflix’s Shadow and Bone
Featured Characters: Kaz Brekker and Inej Ghafa
It is a truth universally acknowledged that every romantic relationship has their song. For Kaz Brekker and Inej Ghafa, that song is “Beautiful Crime” by Tamer. Stop what you’re doing, listen to it, then come back. It’s as if it was written for them and only them.
What begins as a desire for freedom in the form of helping one another turns into a partnership none of them thought they’d ever find with another human being. It’s a story about equals, two people in a world with trepidations and lingering shadows no one could understand as closely as they could. It’s a story about a boy rescuing a girl from the worst kind of fate and saving himself in the process while she becomes the most significant source of light in the world. Inej Ghafa might not be a Saint, but she is the dawn that follows his nightfall—the magic that comes to life in everything she touches, the way she moves, and the choices she makes.
Theirs is the story of two people from whom the world has taken too much, leaving them with crosses to bear heavier than they could carry alone. In staking rooftops, nearly intolerable missions across deadly fields of grey, arcane heists, and every quiet moment between Kaz Brekker and Inej Ghafa found someone with whom they could slowly break down their armor. There’s an entire battlefield waiting for them to conquer in the series, but with every passing episode, they’re one step closer to understanding that together, there are no barriers too impenetrable with the other’s presence. Together, there’s always a safe space for them to crumble, even when it might not feel like it.
Kaz Brekker and Inej Ghafa: Without Armor
To understand Kaz and Inej’s (Kanej) relationship, it’s imperative to understand the armors they individually clad themselves in outside the relationship. “I will have you without armor, Kaz Brekker, or I will not have you at all” isn’t a demand for Kaz to change, but it’s the showcase that through everything, Inej is willing to meet him halfway. It’s the promise that if he removes his armor, she’ll be there to pull out the pieces of him that drown in the sorrows of grief. It’s the promise that she’ll be the armor he needs, carrying the fears left from the trauma that scars him. They are both two people who’ve been through severe forms of physical trauma, wanting to work through them only with each other, yet it’ll take time for those words to become a reality later in the books.
If Shadow and Bone does one thing best, it’s how it proves that when Kaz Brekker truly needs Inej Ghafa, she’ll be beside him in a heartbeat. (And the same can be said about her.) She’s right on time at the church to save his life in “Show Me Who You Are,” and the one who pulls him from the crowd in “Yuyeh Sesh (Despise Your Heart),” and she’ll be there wherever the future takes them next. It’s also why she doesn’t leave in “No Shelter But Me.” Inej will not abandon Kaz when she firmly believes he could need her because the intuitive, indescribable magnetism that binds them works like a lodestone to bring them closer.
She’ll have him without armor because she’ll help bear the burdens with him, pull him out of the waves, and set him free—Inej could guarantee as much because she cares enough for Kaz to stop at nothing to ensure that he’s okay. She’s also familiar with her own pain and trauma. “Then we’ll destroy him,” she says, without a shadow of a doubt, when she learns what Pekka Rollins did to his brother. “I couldn’t leave you, not like this,” she affirms when she chooses to follow him instead of the mark. (And this happens even after he spitfires that she’s his weakness, giving Inej every textbook reason why she should leave.) Yet that’s not her. It’s not him, either. Kaz Brekker, of all people, doesn’t need anyone to coddle him; he needs to be understood, and he needs to be taken care of because allowing someone in isn’t a weakness but denying the satisfaction of love is. He needs someone to present him with challenges while understanding his limitations and the treacherous heartaches running through him. He needs someone who believes that he can be better while they respect his agency.
In the same way that he is the one person she could trust with her knives, the very armor that shields her from her pain, Inej Ghafa wants to be the person he takes off his gloves for—as she sees in her poison-fueled vision—his bare hands securely encircled around her, his head inched close, their lips touching. After everything she’s been through at the Menagerie, he’s the only person she is willing to unveil every part of herself to, knowing with complete conviction that he understands her tells better than anyone else. He’d be gentle with her if that’s what she wanted. He isn’t at all like the men at the Menagerie. She isn’t merely a body to him; she’s a person. She might have her doubts because of various things he’s said or done, but she knows Kaz Brekker respects her. He’d be the kind of partner she’d need, no matter how those desires change by the occasion. No matter what trigger rises or what memory engulfs her.
Related Content: Binding Wounds and Removing Armor: A Moment of Intimacy Between Kaz and Inej in Crooked Kingdom’s Chapter Twenty-Six
It’s why the Crooked Kingdom bathroom scene works so beautifully, and as mentioned in our scene breakdown: “Where they are both skilled and strong on their own, together, they are something else entirely; they are complexities etched into eons of darkness, finally discovering light in the unwavering loyalty and enveloping partnership that’s stirred them profoundly. It’s a moment of shared vulnerability with trepidations aside between two people who have had too much taken from them, but their belief in each other comes as an absolution of sorts.”
She wants to share his armor and be the strength he needs when it’s all too difficult to bear alone. She knows deep down that he values her presence, but hearing “I want you” is merely the beginning. Wanting entails actions. It requires patience. She’s willing to be patient with him if he can promise her that they can find lasting absolution together. And in the show, Amita Suman’s performances show us everything we need to catch how intimately Inej understands Kaz. Inej’s voice (courtesy of Suman’s incredible work) comes to the veneer with immaculate delicacy, and her expression is even softer, cradling his hands in hers, accepting that he’s just a boy whose fears are currently winning.
“But someday you’ll meet a boy who will learn your favorite flower, your favorite song, your favorite sweet. And even if he is too poor to give you any of them, it won’t matter because he will have taken the time to know you as no one else does. Only that boy earns your heart.”
And that’s okay because armor doesn’t fall overnight. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take patience, and both are fully aware of this, with Kaz’s nod affirming that for her, he’s going to try. He wants her to stay—he wants her, and he knows that she deserves better than what he’s offering right now. She has the freedom to find her family and knows that she isn’t tied to anyone or anything by virtue of everything that Kaz has done for her. And thereby, when she does return, it’ll be by choice. It’ll be for the six of them—everything that they stand for, and the boy who’s earned her heart. Kaz Brekker is well on his way toward earning her heart in the show. He’s closer than anybody else could get. He’s trying because, both in the books and in the series, it’s all for her. And at the moment, she doesn’t need flowers or sweets, she needs to find her family. He knows as much. He always as.
Where we see the words “You, Inej. You” to signify his thought process, Freddy Carter shows us the desire gilded across his face. Or, even thoughts like, “Because I’ve been looking for an excuse to talk to you for two days are exhibited in the quiet moments when she isn’t around, even while he’s angry and wanting nothing more than to be by her side. He approaches quietly at the church, lingering at the aisle, waiting for her to speak—to state that it’s his way of saying goodbye when, really, it’s yet another excuse to talk to her. (Much like their moment of vulnerability in “The Unsea.”)
This is how he earns her heart, brick by brick, becoming the man she deserves and the man she knows he’s capable of being. But it has to be his choice because of her and for her, but by his own doing. And that’s essentially the book territory we’ll hopefully cross with either a Six of Crows spin-off or Shadow and Bone Season 3.
Additionally, much of what we get in the show’s version is also a testament to Freddy Carter and Amita Suman as performers and the directing that asks that they look one another in the eyes while delivering the lines that matter most. There are conversations with spoken words and those they have with their souls—the hitched breaths, pleading expressions inching themselves as close as possible while boundaries abide. Their means of communicating in silence is something we’ve frequently explored here, noting that their silence often fills the space with the words left unsaid. It’s in those quiet moments where their most profound conversations take place, allowing us to see that their intimacy transcends beyond what’s on the surface.
Knives Drawn, Pistols Blazing
“I would come for you,” he said, and when he saw the wary look she shot him, he said it again. “I would come for you. And if I couldn’t walk, I’d crawl to you, and no matter how broken we were, we’d fight our way together—knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”
We aren’t here yet on the show, but we can see the remnants of it as a truth, cascading from the quiet moments they share in “Like Calls to Like.” This scene might not be a replica of the bathroom scene in Crooked Kingdom, but it’s concrete proof of the fact that Kaz Brekker has no idea how to handle the knowledge of Inej Ghafa in any sort of pain. It’s why he takes time to see her, as he does in Six of Crows. The thoughts alone destroy him without the others mentioning the extent of her injuries or detailing that he should bench his Wraith. He knows better than anyone else because he feels it.
Related Content: Knives, Trust, and Loyalty in Shadow and Bone’s “Otkazat’sya”
Come hell or high water, be it Pekka Rollins, or an even more significant threat in their future, Kaz would never leave Inej behind. In fact, so many of his thwarting words in “Every Monstrous Thing” are because of his own fears, directly correlated with not knowing where she is or, more importantly, if she’s safe. Simultaneously, it’s the inability to say how much he wanted her there. “It’ll give me some comfort to know that you’re with me in the shadows,” draws back to the need he expresses in “No Mourners.” Kaz Brekker needs his girl. It’s that simple. (Hey Siri, play “I Need My Girl” by The National.) And he needs her to believe that she could never fully be his because she’s meant for freedom he’ll fight through anything to provide.
Though it’s comforting when she’s beside him, he doesn’t need the Wraith; he needs and wants Inej—the girl whose laugh he believes he’ll have to die to earn again. The girl whose laugh he wants to bottle up and get drunk off of every night. And if she never wanted to be a spider again, he’d accept it, still reaching for her to ensure she has everything—still fighting, knives drawn, pistols blazing to ensure she’s happy, safe, and free. It’s essentially why Kaz looks for her parents both in the books and the show because despite caring for her as much as he does, he’d do anything to ensure she’s happy. He’d do anything for her to find the family she longs for. And part of that finding happiness is knowing that even when he tells her that hope is dangerous, he’ll enlighten the idea by harboring it for her. What Kaz Brekker cannot say with words, he establishes with actions.
And she’d do the same for him. “Inej would never betray him. He knew it. Kaz felt ill. Though he’d trusted her with his life countless times, it felt much more frightening to trust her with this shame.” She knows better than anyone when he needs her the most—when he cannot let his walls down because the water is too high, and he’s fighting through tides ceaselessly threatening to collapse on him. She’s aware of those moments, and she’s by his side through it. As noted for “Yuyeh Sesh (Despise Your Heart),” when she’s scouring the shadows, a mark in site, a part of her is always with Kaz Brekker, looking out for him and focusing on the ways she could fight to pull him out without eliciting the tides. She’s the only person with whom he feels safe, even when he’s crumbling and cannot see beyond the locks he’s carved around his soul.
“Her voice had brought him back from the dark; it had been the tether he gripped and used to drag himself back to some semblance of sanity.” We don’t get this exact moment in Shadow and Bone Season 2, but we watch him come back from the waves at the site of her handing him his gloves—we watch him calm from the panic, resorting to fetal position only around her because he knows that she’s the one person who won’t use this tell against him. We also see it in his poison-filled hallucination, allowing him to later confirm that she’s the strength that pulls him out while vengeance drowns him. He trusts this now, knowing she’ll keep his vulnerabilities close, sealed in the deepest corridors of her being, watching for the minute flashes where it seems he could fall again, and arms at the ready to pick him up without a word. “I couldn’t leave you, not like this.” She’s the only person who could say the words aloud without fully scaring him away. She’s the only person who can pull him out of the waters, whether poison-induced or triggered by a touch that isn’t tied to the violence he could endure. She’ll kill for him before anyone else because his life matters significantly to her—not because the streets of Ketterdam deserve the monster that he is, but because the boy inside is her person. Whether they realize it or not, Kaz Brekker and Inej Ghafa are each other’s equal—the only exception to all the rules.
Not Like You Have
“He need to tell her…what? That she was lovely and brave and better than anything he deserved. That he was twisted, crooked, wrong, but not so broken that he couldn’t pull himself together into some semblance of a man for her. That without meaning to, he’d begun to lean on her, to look for her, to need her near.”
The quote might represent Kaz’s thought process in the books, but it also rings true for Inej. In more ways than one, despite the freedom she longs for, she too needs him near. It’s what happens when two people connect on a profound, indescribable level that they can’t quite fathom. It’s what happens when two people understand that there’s someone in this world with whom they’re not only safe but valued. Slavers take Inej from a family she adores, but she finds her people outside of them too. It’s why the decision to ask Kaz to meet her parents is crucial at the end of Crooked Kingdom because it tells that not only has he earned her heart, but she wants her two worlds together. She wants the life she’s known and the life she creates with him to blend into a kaleidoscope of colors, ceaselessly evolving for her to cherish. Despite every heartache, Inej Ghafa wants a love story like the one her parents share. Yet, the quote is an incredible compact for Kaz because he’s the one who pretends that he’s above it—he’s the one who believes that he should be the one taking care of others and not the other way around.
Related Content: A Moment of Vulnerability in Shadow and Bone’s “The Unsea” Between Inej Ghafa and Kaz Brekker
For someone like Kaz Brekker, finding another human being to break down his walls is no small feat. Because that very person needed to be the one soul in the world who’d look out for him in a way no one else had, Jordie included. Jordie was a kid himself, not suited to be a guardian. Inej is here to be his equal—his confidant, his shadow, and his protector. She’s someone who’s seen the ugliest sides of him and still chooses to stand beside him because she not only cares deeply but because he’s also her sunrise, despite his crooked edges. He’s her hope for salvation in every regard.
“Nina glanced from Inej to Kaz and saw they both wore the same expression. Nina knew that look. It came after the shipwreck, when the tide moved against you and the sky had gone dark. It was the first sight of land, the hope of shelter and even salvation that might await you on a distant shore.”
There are many Kaz Brekker and Inej Ghafa (Kanej) quotes in the duology that stick out like sore thumbs. “That’s the laugh,” “One minute he made her blush, and the next he made her want to commit murder,” “He found a way to give her the freedom he promised,” and so forth. But what’s often stayed with me is Nina’s perception of the two of them, as well as the scene of the two of them leaving the church hand in hand. “Rising like smoke from a flame.” It’s the look that comes after a shipwreck—the one that words could never do justice. Where the other is, there’s always hope. Where they’re separated, then united, that’s when all is at ease again—when it doesn’t feel like the world is so vast and bloodcurdling it could swallow you up whole.
It’s knowing that however tumultuous the waves are, or how close she is to vanishing, they’re beside each other, holding one another steady through the rocky agitations, guiding them toward release. While the intimacy they share doesn’t often equate to physical touch, it allows for a deeper focus on their souls—the places they go where they don’t let another person follow. Kaz and Inej uncover those spots and inch closer only when the other gives permission. It’s about knowing, with utmost certainty, that though they are alike in many ways, they could be each other’s anchors when necessary.
A soulmate shouldn’t be the person who’s exactly like you, but rather the person who understands your crosses because they carry versions of their own. Kaz and Inej are both familiar with deep, physical and emotional trauma, but they’re simultaneously aware enough to be the other’s safe space for comfort because their familiarity with boundaries allows for give and take in equal measures. When they get to a place without armor, the acute awareness of each other’s agency and tells will enable them to love carefully, abundantly, and incandescently.
“The world was made of miracles, unexpected earthquakes, storms that came from nowhere and might reshape a continent. The boy beside her. The future before her. Anything was possible.“
Kings and Queens
One of the riveting things about Six of Crows is how quickly this quote comes into play, threaded with a bit of irony. Still, it’s a sentiment that rings true to who they are. The Barrel doesn’t belong to kings; it belongs to bastards like Dirtyhands and the Wraith—the rightful rulers, should the time come. And by the end of Crooked Kingdom, we’re closer to this proposal than ever before, allowing Shadow and Bone Season 2 to inadvertently prove why the two of them together remains an incredible idea. His darling Inej—treasure of his heart. Kaz Brekker doesn’t need to acknowledge Saints when Inej Ghafa stands before him. He merely needs to believe that someday when he’s out of the waters, he can stand watching the skyline with Inej beside him.
So much of this is future-based. Where Kaz Brekker and Inej Ghafa (Kanej) will be years from now when heists are on pause, dangerous men behind bars, and innocent lives set free. It’s Taylor Swift’s “The Great War” and “Call It What You Want” era—the confirmation of the one thing that’s always been right, the trust and solace they earnestly unveil in each other. But there’s a long, long road ahead before we get there—both in the books and in the show. And they’ll get there. They’re well on their way already.
This Kaz Brekker and Inej Ghafa (Kanej) deep dive will be updated after Season 3 or a potential Six of Crows spin-off.