When I think of female heroines, so often my mind jumps to the heroines who star in the most popular books; Katniss Everdeen, Celaena Sardothian (or however her name is spelled), Hermione Granger, Beatrice Prior etc. There are so many heroines who are amazing, who are complex, multi-faceted and morally grey. But today I want to talk about Inej and the kind of heroine she is and what it means to me.

Inej has been through some of the worst experiences, kidnapped and separated from her family, sold into sexual slavery, sexually abused, raped and objectified. Inej has seen much more than most of us, thankfully, will see in our life. And yet, that hasn’t broken her as a person. Despite everything Inej has been forced to endure, she still believes in the good of the world. She hasn’t lost hope and she hasn’t let the world break her. Something I find encouraging seeing in a heroine amongst so many who become hardened. Those other stories aren’t wrong or irrelevant, because everyone has their own threshold of what they can handle. But for me, I’m relieved to read about a heroine who is still in the middle of fighting that battle. Make no mistake, the battle will never be over for Inej.

The most prominent example of compassion I can think of is when Jesper formally apologizes to Inej. This situation is handled with grace and care and it shows in the final cut. Inej acknowledges Jesper’s apology, but she also doesn’t let him off the hook. She tells him it’s OK, but that he can’t let it happen again and he needs to change. “This action will have no echo” is probably one of the most memorable quotes from Crooked Kingdom for me, and it’s something I can easily apply to my life.

This particular brand of forgiveness is one rarely seen in YA fiction. Most apologies are flung back into the offer’s hands or accepted so quickly it seems unrealistic. So seldom is accountability, integrity and improvement the center of apologies in YA, which is why this one is the most unique. Inej knows Jesper is sorry, but she also knows this is an opportunity for reflection and redemption. Jesper has struggled with gambling for a long time, and it hasn’t escaped anyone’s notice, but Inej still holds him accountable for his actions. It’s this balance of accountability and love that makes Inej one of my favorite heroines.