Inej struggles throughout the novel to find her path and escape the fear and self-doubt caused by her past traumas. A former Suli acrobat, Inej was stolen from her family by slavers as a teen and sold to Tante Heleen, the proprietor of the Menagerie who forces her to work as a prostitute. Kaz strikes a deal with Heleen that allows Inej to come work for him, and her acrobatics skills make her well suited for spy craft. Although Kaz gives her a measure of freedom, she remains an indentured servant. She feels conflicted about the crimes she commits on behalf of Kaz and the Dregs, which conflict with her Suli values, and she often feels lost and homesick, longing to return home but knowing she could never resume the life she once imagined for herself. Inej agrees to the heist largely out of loyalty to Kaz, but she feels confused by Kaz’s restrained affection, wondering if he truly loves her or is simply exploiting her like everyone else.  

After Inej nearly dies trying to scale the incinerator shaft, she realizes that she needs a purpose apart from Kaz. She decides she will use her reward from the heist to hunt down slavers like the ones who stole her away. She faces her past tormentor, Tante Heleen, and brings the woman to her knees, then leads half the team to a spectacular escape from the Ice Court. By the end of the heist, Inej distances herself from the pain of her traumatic past and reclaims her own power.