Shadow and Bone is out. You’ve all had a change to binge it – probably more than once, decide on your favorite thing, and then obsess over those favorite things. My favorite thing about the show (about the universe, about the books, and about like, fandom lately) is Kanej, and when it came time to obsess about specific things ….well, that’s what I chose. Of course it is.
But I couldn’t (okay, fine, didn’t want to) do it alone! So, to join me in our mutual obsession is my lovely friend Gissane, from Marvelous Geeks, who is truly my Kanej soulmate, and the person who has put up with my internal monologue about these two for the past two months or so, all while providing me with her. Sometimes our conversations are just the two of us agreeing in all caps. Says it all.
This isn’t a comprehensive breakdown of why we love Kanej. It could never be. But this is still an attempt, or at least, our joint first attempt, at putting into words why this ship works for us, and why, out of everything Shadow and Bone has to offer, this is where we’re making our stand.
WHY WE SHIP IT
Gissane: It’s a relationship built on belief—tried, tested and true where they’ve both taken the time to meticulously see each other as they are while accepting one another through both their strengths and flaws. It’s never about changing each other, but challenging, taking care of, and confiding in each other. It’s a romance focused on a captivating partnership between two people who’ve been robbed of so much, but together they’ve found deliverance in a safe space where there’s growth, and a revered, immeasurable adoration that’s utterly healing. Also, slow burn, deliciously angsty partners in crime who’ve fortified the ability to speak without words? Yes, please.
Lizzie: Because it’s the only relationship both of them have that is more about their traumas, but it’s also not built on a lie, not built on the people they could be if they one day get over their traumas. Instead Kanej works because Kaz and Inej learned to care for each other as the people they are, not the people they might one day be. Which doesn’t mean they don’t hope, and push each other to be better, but it does mean there’s no pretense to their bond. It’s never “I will love you IF -” instead it’s “I love you DESPITE -” and there’s nothing more beautiful than someone who loves you for who you are, warts and all, even while they still expect you to be the best version of yourself.
WHY IT WORKS FOR INEJ
Gissane: At the forefront of Inej’s arc is the clear detail that she’s a girl who’s been robbed of agency when she was sold into a pleasure house, but in her position with The Crows, and inadvertently, Kaz, all that she has lost is returned to her in tenfold. Inej’s agency is Kaz’s priority, and the one thing he’s made eminently clear he never wants to take from her the way others have. Instead, even while he’d love to keep her by his side, in the books and in the show, he’s always given her the option to choose. She isn’t bound to him or anyone else. She is given the freedom to do as she pleases and when. She is given knives to protect herself along with the ship she’s always dreamt of, which is the ultimate mark of her sovereignty. Kaz adores her with his entire being, but more than anything, he tries to meet her halfway in every situation while respecting all that she stands for even if he doesn’t fully understand (i.e., her faith). In other words, she is his equal in more ways than one, but where she leads, he’d follow without reluctance.
Lizzie: Because, despite the fact that he – more often than not – cannot find his words, one thing Kaz has proven, time and time again, is that he respects Inej, he trust her, and he *will* make her a priority, without asking, or even expecting anything in return. This is particularly important for a girl of her background, who is always, in the back of her head, wondering what x or y thing she does is worth to the people around her, and how much of a debt she’s accruing – even if it’s just an emotional debt. Kaz is ruthless at times, unkind at others, but he doesn’t lie to Inej about what he expects from her, and he doesn’t make promises he can’t keep. Which in turn makes it so Inej doesn’t feel like she’s got to pay back Kaz for every word, every little kindness, or even every big one. Kaz makes his own decisions, and Inej respects that so much, respects him so much, that she’s able to trust that the things he says to her, does for her, are exactly what he wants to do, and she owes him nothing in return – not even her affection, which in turns makes it so much easier for her to feel that affection.
WHY IT WORKS FOR KAZ
Gissane: Kaz’s mechanisms are more complicated than the sturdiest of locks, and it’d take someone truly special to be able to crack through him. And even while there weren’t a lot of details that she knew, Inej is the only person who’s actively chosen to look beyond the tough exterior and straight into his heart. In seeing all that he truly is, the good, the bad, the ugly, she’s focused tirelessly on his soul and tried to understand the parts of him no one’s even dared to look at. She’s chosen to believe in him, care for him, and she’s chosen to protect him, which might just be the most noble part because as the boy who’s had no one for years, there’s now someone in his corner for whom his life is valuable to. She is the only person who could break down the walls he’s built around his heart, and the only person who could embolden him to conquer his fears because she wants to see him grow and find the absolution that he deserves. It’s so purely selfless on her end, that the benevolence he sees through her is the sole reason he tries to become the best version of himself.
Lizzie: Kaz likes to pretend that all he is is Dirtyhands, and perhaps he could have stayed only that, if Inej Ghafa hadn’t entered his life, and seen the part of him that was still that lost boy. And it’s not that Inej changed him, or she helped him remember that side of himself, or any of those tropes that entertainment tries to sell, it’s something deeper, I think, it’s that Inej made it impossible for him to lock away that part for good. Because she was always there, and she saw right through him, no matter how hard Kaz tried to hide his softness, there just came a point where Kaz realized he didn’t want to hide the best parts of himself. He wanted to show that side, at least to her. Inej allowed Kaz to be more than the boy defined by his trauma, and as someone with her fair share of trauma too, she also never judged him for his issues, a combination that made Kaz feel like his life – like he – was actually more than his planned revenge. There’s nothing more powerful than someone who sees the part of you even you thought was gone, and refuses to let you pretend you are less than you can be.
FAVORITE BOOK MOMENT (TOP 3)
Gissane: THIS IS SO HARD.
- Chapter 12
“I would have 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 out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”
(Which is also my favorite quote.) I will always and forever appreciate moments where someone says “I love you” without actually using the three words because it boldly illuminates the emotions in a more compelling manner. This in particular is a testament to their partnership, the unwavering loyalty to each other, and the element that no matter what happens, they will always choose each other. It’s a showcase of the detail that they don’t just care about each other because of what they physically bring to the team, but because the ways in which their hearts are connected goes beyond their physical needs, towards something indescribable.
- Chapter 26
If I loved this scene less, I might be able to talk about it more. It’s inexplicably the most intimate moment in all the books because what it touches on goes beyond their physical desires. The desire is clearly existent and there’s so much they both want with every part of their being, but this moment is all about binding the wounds that go past the flesh. Kaz’s decision to try comforting her might be driven by the genuine belief that he’s going to die, but it’s fascinating nevertheless, if it’s the last thing he does, he wants to help Inej in some way. And in doing so, they both get a moment, however brief it is, to really open up about their demons in a way that contributes to strengthening their relationship in a moment of vulnerability that solidifies they’ll always try to take the extra step with each other. (If I even dare to start talking about the fact that he tries to kiss her neck of all places, the place she’s actively voiced being haunted by, I’ll never shut up about it.) But there’s something so beautifully healing about Kaz’s lips on a pulse point where even though his haphephobia is triggered, for a moment, he’s closer to her heart in a way he’s never been with anyone else, which concurrently gives Inej a new memory to hold onto.
He buys her a boat, finds her parents, sets her free, and holds her without gloves. I just…I might never process this in its entirety, but my God, talk about actions speaking louder than words. It’s once again a testament to the fact that he’s always looked into what she needs, and what she’s wanted, and he’s made the decision to give her just that even if it meant he could potentially lose her in the process. She was never bound to Kaz, but this is such a reflection of the idea that he’d give her the world if she asked for it. And in setting her free this way, he gives her the safe space to return to, which we know that Inej would because they’re in this together, near or far, they’re each other’s home.
Lizzie: I might have struggled not to put the moment Gissane put first on my list, but since she did it so beautifully, I’m going to try to at least pick ONE that’s different …
- “She felt his knuckles slide against hers. Then his hand was in her hand, his palm was pressed against her own. A tremor moved through him. Slowly, he let their fingers entwine. / For a long while, they stood there, hands clasped, looking out at the gray expanse of the sea.” (CK, page 527)
Look, the entire plot of Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom is about Kaz accepting what is basically a suicide of a mission because the payoff, the money he can get, would be enough to get him the only thing he’s ever wanted – revenge on Pekka Rollins. And then they pull it off, they finally get the money, and the first thing Kaz does is …buy Inej a boat, find her parents, and make it clear that her life is hers, all the while reaching out to HOLD HER HAND, because she’s the only person he’s wanted to close to him in ages? How can this not be my favorite moment? Kaz Brekker is the biggest softie in the history of softies. And Inej too …like, the lost girl got everything she could have ever wanted. Her family. Her freedom. The boy she never thought would come back for her, not just COMING BACK FOR HER, but …literally putting his money where his mouth is, proving there is absolutely nothing more important than her. Not revenge, not power, nothing. Excuse me, I need a moment or twenty.
- My number two is the same as Gissane’s, and I think it’s my favorite because it’s so incredibly intimate, and they barely touch! But their intimacy has always gone beyond the physical. Kaz and Inej exude tension, and so much of it is what we consider sexual tension, except it should probably be named something different for them, because it’s not that they need touch – much less that kind of physical intimacy – to convey their feelings. And in this scene, in particular, these two broken people are just …laying their traumas bare in front of each other, in a way they never would have dreamed would have been possible, and though it’s still borderline unbearable and uncomfortable, they are also, in so many ways, if not each other’s exception, because trauma isn’t a thing you can handwave away, at least each other’s reason to try. For Inej, Kaz wants …to be close, to win at this dangerous game they’re playing, to do the kind of things that would bring a smile to her face – stuff that belongs more to the boy he could have been than the man he has had to become. And for Kaz, Inej can stay still, trusting him to never take something that she isn’t willing to give. It’s a powerful moment, and not because this is as intimate as they get, physically, but because it’s a manifestation of the level of intimacy they can only achieve with each other.
- “He took a breath. “I want you to stay. I want you to…I want you.” / “You want me.” She turned the words over. Gently, she squeezed his hand. “And how will you have me, Kaz?” / “How will you have me?” She repeated. “Fully clothed, gloves on, your head turned away so our lips can never touch?” / “I will have you without armour, Kaz Brekker. Or I will not have you at all.” (SOC, page 460)
This was the moment I knew Inej was one of my favorite female characters of all time, but also the moment that cemented the ship as the kind of ship that would not leave my mind. Because “I will have you without armour, or I will not have you at all?” is …everything. It’s I love you, and I want you, but I will not accept less than I deserve. It’s both Inej putting herself first, and Inej communicating to Kaz what she needs, so he understands what wanting her, and having her would mean. It’s the kind of statement that we hardly ever get from couples in any type of entertainment, and yet the kind that makes a couple. Because women, especially, are typically written to just …accept whatever a guy can give. Especially when it comes to someone as damaged as Kaz. But Inej is very clear that she won’t have less than she deserves, and she won’t allow him to just stay in his comfort zone and love her from afar. If he’s going to love her, if she’s going to take that leap of faith of not just accepting her feelings for him, but actually acting up on them …she’s going to need the same commitment from him. She deserves that, and so does he. It’s the only way they can be good for each other.
FAVORITE SHOW MOMENT (TOP 3)
- 1. 1×07
This is such an important moment for Inej to truly understand just how much she means to Kaz. It’s a moment of genuine vulnerability where for the first time, they’re both really baring their souls to each other in a way that acutely touches on the fact that their partnership is so much more than heists and money. They’re understanding the fact that there’s something deeper between them. They’re both completely on the same page about how valuable the other’s life is and in silent conversations, they’re promising that they’re ceaselessly going to do all that they can to protect each other. There are still uncertainties and neither of them have yet to fully process just how much the other means to them, but for a moment, they can find comfort in the loyalty between them that neither expected to find.
- 2. 1×05
This is also one of those moments that changes their dynamic substantially on the TV series because it boldly affirms that Inej will always have Kaz’s back in the same way that he has hers. When she kills the Inferni, she shows that his life is valuable to her, and that no matter how greatly it compromises her beliefs, there’s absolutely nothing she wouldn’t do to protect him. It’s a bold, loud showcase of the fact that he means a tremendous amount to her and that when she scales the rooftops, the corridors high and low, she’s always looking out for him. She’ll always be protecting him.
- 3. 1×04
This is such a subtle, small scene but it’s monumental in what it shows for Inej because willingly trusting Kaz with her knives is symbolically representative of the fact that she understands she is safe with him. Body and soul, armored or bared, she can trust him completely because up until this point, he’s proven that he’s unlike all the other men she’s known. He has proven that he’s going to look out for her and that in a room for people that likely aren’t trustworthy, she’s safe around him even with her knives in his hands. It’s also that romance hand flex that once again shows how great they are at silent conversations because in this moment, Kaz gives her the safe space to choose whether or not this is something she wants to do for the mission.
- 1. 1×07 – the conversation by the fire
I think this is their best moment in the show so far, and I think we’ve both waxed poetic about book Kanej with regards to their feelings and their reasoning, but this moment is so important because you can feel Kaz’s struggle to find the words, to keep Inej close, even if he feels like he can never truly have her, just as you can feel Inej’s longing for Kaz to give her something, just a tiny reason to stay. But it’s also monumental because the actors make it so, because Amita Suman can tell a whole story with her eyes, with the way they fill with tears, with how her lip trembles, and just …with the way she looks at Freddy, as Kaz. And Freddy, he’s speaking just as loudly in his silence, as he grips the cane like he probably wishes he could hold onto Inej, as he forces himself to find some words, any words, because the few seconds when he thought she was leaving were the worst in his life. It all hits so hard, on first watch and even on the twentieth re-watch. In fact, I probably will go watch it again now that I’m done writing about it.
- 2. 1×05 – Inej kills for Kaz
We’re waxing poetic about OTP scenes that for other people wouldn’t even be considered true OTP scenes, and that’s the power of Kanej. Because this scene isn’t just about Inej putting her beliefs on the line for Kaz – without even thinking about it, she throws her knife without hesitation when she sees Kaz in danger – it’s about Kaz understanding what she gave up for him, and it’s about Kaz trying to comfort her in the only way he can, with words. This is an incredibly scene at showcasing what Inej would do for Kaz, just as Kaz putting the Crow Club as collateral showcased what he would do for her, and it helps the show establish that, despite the fact that Kaz’s struggle is way more prevalent than Inej’s, this is not one-sided at all. They’re both in this, completely.
- 3. “She isn’t like you. No one is.”
As an intro into their characters, this is …a lot. Not just because Kaz says it like it’s a fact, not a romantic declaration, and not even because Inej looks like she’s been winded by what he considers obvious, but because it establishes so well what these two are, not will come to be, but already are, even if they don’t realize it. Kanej in the show isn’t the story of two people who fall in love, it’s the story of two people who are already pretty deep in, and cannot, for the life of them, find a way to express that. Well – that’s mostly on Kaz, but there’s also a lot of fear in Inej, fear of opening up, of trusting someone not just with her life, but with her heart. And this scene perfectly establishes the tone of the relationship to come, setting you up to root for them, even if it hurts.
FAVORITE QUOTE (BOOK/SHOW)
Gissane: Book: “I would have 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 out together-knives drawn, pistols blazing. Because that’s what we do. We never stop fighting.”
Show: “Crows don’t just remember the faces of people who wronged them. They also remember those who were kind. They tell each other who to look after and who to watch out for. No Saint ever watched over me. Not like you have.”
Lizzie: We agree on the book quote, but I’m going to choose another one so we don’t repeat ourselves:
Book: “She smiled then, her cheeks red, her cheeks scattered with some kind of dust. It was a smile he thought he might die to earn again.”
Show: “No Saint ever watched over me. Not like you have.”
WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SHIPS
Gissane: I can’t remember the last time I shipped something this fiercely in a fantasy genre because their partnership is just unmatched. It’s the silent conversations, the longing gazes, and the unparalleled actions that contribute to showcasing that they care immensely about one another. There’s nothing they wouldn’t do to protect each other. They’re each patient, unbelievably respectful, and so deeply gentle in how they approach the other’s demons. And largely, though there’s so much aversion to physical touch, somehow, they are still one of the most intimate couples I’ve ever shipped and that in and of itself is so beautifully inexplicable.
Lizzie: It’s a ship built on absolute trust. Like Gissane, I can’t remember the last time I was this invested in a ship in the fantasy genre, and so much of it is in the silent moments, in the unsaid things. This isn’t built like a typical love story, so as I was reading first – and then watching – it was the sort of dynamic I absolutely adored because they snuck up on me. I’m also a sucker for the ships that are more about the emotional connection than the physical one, and the fact that they can still manage to be as intimate as other couples, without even TOUCHING, is absolutely mind-blowing. It’s the sign of good writing, and of characters that, I think, will stand the test of time.
Shadow and Bone is available on Netflix.