Mal (Archie Renaux) and Alina (Jessie Mei Li), aka Malina.
From surprise romances to people-eating monsters to an unlikely group of heroes banding together, Netflix’s latest young adult fantasy series has it all. Yet for those who haven’t read the book that Shadow and Bone is based on (the series also incorporates characters from Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows novel), a few of the finer world details might need extra explanation.
Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about the so-called Grishaverse. Plus, a few thoughts on what might happen after that charged ending. Throw more questions into the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them!
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Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Ben Barnes as General Kirigan, aka the Darkling.
Who are the Grisha?
Aside from bringing slick military coats back into fashion, the Grisha are people who can control the elements on a molecular level. They don’t call it magic, but the “small science.” The Grisha live in the Tsarist Russia-inspired Ravka, a land pinned in by magic-hating nations as well as the threat of the Shadow Fold. Times haven’t been great for Grisha folk. Below is a look at where they live in relation to the rest of the world. Note the location of Kerch and, more specifically, Ketterdam, the gambling capital where Kaz, Inej and Jesper chase lucrative jobs.
Have you seen the beautiful new map of the Grishaverse by Sveta Dorosheva? Color version and where to find it are up on my IG 🌙🖤 pic.twitter.com/ohpEoZs7ty
— Leigh Bardugo (away for a while) (@LBardugo) December 14, 2018
Who’s the Darkling — really?
General Kirigan, aka the Darkling, leads the Second Army, which is made up of Grisha (Alina and Mal are grunts in the nonmagical First Army). The Darkling ranks No. 1 as the most powerful Grisha, wielding the ability to summon and manipulate shadows. The Darkling claims to be the great-great-great grandson of the Black Heretic. But psych! As we discover later in the series, The Darkling is the Black Heretic, aka Baghra’s (Alina’s magic tutor) son, aka the one who created the Shadow Fold around 400 years ago. The Volcra have been preventing him from expanding the Fold to gain more power, but when Alina comes along, the Darkling senses an opportunity to use her Sun Summoner abilities to fend off the monsters.
What are the Volcra — really?
Baghra reveals that the flesh-eating Volcra have a tragic past: The Fold turned humans into the monsters long ago.
Why can’t the Grisha just go around the Fold?
If you’ve been wondering this, fair enough. But there’s a good reason the Grisha make attempts to travel through the Fold. Take a squiz at the above map once more and you’ll see Ravka is bookended by the nations of Fjerda and Shu Han. The Fjerdans, Viking-esque folk who live in the mountains, train holy soldiers like Matthias to hunt and kill Grisha. The Shu people, known for their scientific and technological advancements, kidnap Grisha and experiment on them. (This is why Grisha frown on Alina when they discover she’s part-Shu.) From top to bottom, Ravka is pretty vulnerable, at war with both nations.
Genya (Daisy Head) and Alina (Jessie Mei Li).
What are the different Grisha powers?
Let’s start with the Grisha who wear red robes: Heartrenders, like Nina, can control — and stop — heartbeats, and Healers, like Genya, can patch you up, scars and all. (Genya wears white because she’s a servant of the Little Palace.) In blue, we have those who control the weather, including Alina, a Sun Summoner; Squallers, who control the wind; Infernis, who harness fire; and Tidemakers, who control water. In purple: Durasts, who manipulate solid matter, and Alkemi, who manipulate chemicals.
What’s with the creepy Apparat?
The Apparat is that priest who pops up in the Little Palace after Alina demonstrates her powers. He informs Alina, “You have no idea how much larger a role you have to play, do you?” and talks of toppling generals, crumbling nations and birthing empires. He calls her Sankta Alina, believing she’s a saint. A fanatic, the Apparat might have a bigger role to play in controlling Alina in later seasons.
What’s the currency of Kerch?
Kruge. Jesper, Kaz and Inej are initially enticed to pull off the job to capture Alina for a tidy 1 million kruge.
What does the stag do?
Alina dreams of a glowing white stag, which she and Mal eventually encounter in person. This is Morozova’s stag, an ancient creature that appears only at twilight. Morozova was the father of Baghra, obsessed with creating Amplifiers. The Darkling uses the stag’s antlers to make an Amplifier for Alina’s powers. The stag helps Alina at the end, guiding her to Inej’s dagger, which she uses to stab the Darkling’s hand, removing the piece of antler connecting him to her.
What’s next for the Darkling?
After surviving the Volcra attack and dragging himself out from the Shadow Fold, the now-scarred Darkling calls on a few hulking shadow monsters to follow him to wherever he intends to go next. Even though Shadow and Bone the TV series differs from the book slightly — thanks to the inclusion of Six of Crows characters Kaz, Inej and Jesper — it’s still probably safe to say that like the books the Darkling’s next destination is wherever Alina and Mal head to. While he’s lagging behind, Alina might set about working on her abilities to become powerful enough to one day take down the Shadow Fold for good.
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