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Characters / The Grisha Trilogy

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    Alina Starkov 
"I'm the Sun Summoner. It gets dark when I say it does."

The protagonist of the series and The Chosen One, one of the most powerful Grishas who has ever lived and the only one capable of destroying the volcra and the Shadow Fold.

  • Achey Scars: In Siege and Storm, Alina gets one from the Darkling's shadow soldiers. It itches whenever the Darkling is near.
  • The Ageless: What Alina supposed to become, considering the amount of power she wields. She gets better.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: The Darkling has this appeal for Alina, encouraged by her belief that Mal has forgotten about her. She comes to despise him after the events of the first book, but a very strong attraction is still clearly there.
  • Ambition Is Evil: She begins to show aspects this when she receives the second amplifier.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Ultimately Alina's fate at the end of Ruin and Rising.
  • The Chosen One: Happens when you're the world's only Sun Summoner and the only Grisha with the power to destroy The Shadow Fold.
  • Character Development: She's a sickly and naive girl when we first meet her but soon proves to be a lot more competent over the course of the trilogy.
  • Childhood Friends: With Mal.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Alina shows shades of this in regards to Zoya's interest in Mal.
  • Deadpan Snarker: One of Alina's most defining traits.
    The Darkling: What are you smiling at?
    Alina: Myself.
    The Darkling: Are you that funny?
    Alina: I'm hilarious.
  • Differently Powered Individual: She's a Sun Summoner, an exceptionally rare Grisha who manipulates light. She's the only one in existence, and furthermore the only one born in centuries.
  • Drunk with Power: This happens to Alina when she combines two amplifiers early in the second book.
  • Ill Girl: She's introduced as a frail, sickly being. It's revealed this is because neglect of one's Grisha powers taxes one's health; once Alina starts using her Sun Summoner powers more, she becomes haler.
  • It Gets Easier: Alina is told this several times during her Grisha training, but she refuses to believe it as she barely improves. It is only when she psychologically releases herself from Mal that she finally realizes her full power, and it certainly gets easier from there.
  • It Sucks to Be the Chosen One: Her belief. She feels alone during her Grisha training because she's one of a kind and can't relate to anyone but the Darkling.
  • The Leader: Of the Second Army.
  • Light 'em Up: The gist of her abilities.
  • Love Triangle: Between Mal, Alina, and The Darkling. In the second book, this becomes a love square between Mal, Alina, the Darkling, with the addition of Nikolai.
  • The Marvelous Deer: Alina's first amplifier is taken from the horns of a great stag.
  • Mentor's New Hope: For Baghra, though heaven forbid she admit it.
  • Messianic Archetype: She's the Chosen One, has a group of loyal followers, gets betrayed by someone she trusted, defeats a great evil, figuratively dies and is resurrected.
  • Not So Different: What The Darkling insists, before she shoots him down.
  • Pent-Up Power Peril: She was constantly sickly growing up due to subconsciously suppressing her powers. Once she starts using them regularly, her health improves greatly.
  • Please, I Will Do Anything!: Threatens to fight against The Darkling for the rest of her life if he harms Mal. But if he spares him, she promises to spend it "proving [her] gratitude."
  • The Power of the Sun: Her abilities derive from sunlight, which means it's more difficult for her to use her powers at nighttime or underground.
  • Reluctant Warrior: She honestly doesn't want to be The Chosen One.
  • Secret Keeper: Becomes one for the Darkling regarding his name. Worth mentioning that it was never explicitly stated that she wasn't allowed to tell anyone, but she never does.
  • Slave Collar: The first amplifier goes around her neck and can't be removed; Baghra tells her it was created with the intention of chaining her to the Darkling.
  • Scarpia Ultimatum: Can be an interpretation of her promise to the Darkling if he spares Mal
  • Took a Level in Badass: When she manages to get her priorities in order.

    Malyen Oretsev 

Alina's childhood best friend, a former soldier of the First Army and a gifted tracker.

  • The Ace: Mal is handsome, an unbelievably good tracker, and makes friends very easily. Alina muses that you could drop him anyway in the world and before long he'd fit in perfectly.
  • Childhood Friends: With Alina.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: At the climactic confrontation of Ruin and Rising, Mal, having realised that he's the third amplifier, guides a badly-wounded and utterly broken Alina into driving a knife to his chest, taking her power to its logical conclusion.
  • Hypocrite: He flirts and sleeps with women as much as he wants while in the First Army, but when he sees Alina wearing signs of the Darkling's favor, gets furious and accuses her of being a whore.
  • Like Brother and Sister: How Mal sees Alina, much to her silent torment. He comes around.
  • Love Epiphany: Mal comes to realize just how much he loves Alina back while they are in hiding from The Darkling.
  • Love Triangle: Stuck in one for the bulk of the series, with Alina and the Darkling, and later, Alina and Nikolai.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Mal is described as a very handsome man, turning heads wherever he goes, much to Alina's annoyance.
  • Really Gets Around: Implied to be the case during his time in the First Army.
  • Scarily Competent Tracker: It's said of Mal that he can "turn rocks into rabbits." He's so good he can even track a sea-serpent on the open ocean.

    The Darkling/Aleksander Morozova 
"Fine, make me your villain."

The mysterious force that leads the Grisha.

  • The Ageless: The Darkling states that he is 120 years old, but it's implied that he's much older.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: The Darkling has this appeal for Alina, encouraged by her belief that Mal has forgotten about her. She comes to despise him after the events of the first book, but a very strong attraction is still clearly there.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Defines it. He wants to make the world a safer place for Grisha, so he'll just conquer the world. The Shadow Fold was also brought about by him experimenting too much and too darkly with magic.
  • Animalistic Abomination: What happens when he starts messing with real magic, accidentally creating the volcra.
  • Ax-Crazy: He always had shades of this but it becomes most prominent in Ruin and Rising.
  • Betty and Veronica: The Veronica to Mal's Betty for Alina's Archie.
  • Big Bad: Revealed to be the Black Heretic, the one who created the Shadow Fold, halfway through the first book. His goals are further revealed to be expanding the Fold to consume Ravka, and he even declared Alina can make him the villain if she wants.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: For the majority of Shadow and Bone he seems like a good and even kind man who only wants the best for his country and encourages Alina in her training. By the end of the book he sheds this mask to reveal his true persona.
  • Casting a Shadow: His main ability; he wouldn't be called the Darkling if he didn't manipulate shadows.
  • The Chessmaster: He is a master at manipulating people and events to serve his purposes.
  • Diagonal Cut: Possesses the rare ability called "The Cut", which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin.
  • The Dreaded: Even the Grisha feel uneasy around him in Siege and Storm.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: He's pale-skinned and dark-haired and very creepy. Even before he's revealed as evil, people are scared and unnerved by by virtue of his powers.
  • Eternal Love: He believes eventually as Alina comes to accept her immortality, they will share this.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Played with. Darkling sees his mother as someone who can share his immortal life, but blinds her when she helps Alina. But then later when she commits suicide, he not only tries to stop her, but Alina feels him grieving through their link.
  • Even Evil Can Be Loved: Despite all the terrible things he's done, his mother still loves him and Alina still feels something for him, to the point she cries when she kills him. This helps the narrative humanize the Darkling.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": He's addressed as "the Darkling", and apparently has been for centuries. We don't find out his real name until the end.
  • Faux Affably Evil: He is very suave and seductive in nearly all his scenes, which only serves to increase his cold and manipulative aura.
  • Forceful Kiss: A few with Alina.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: His face is faintly scarred by a volcra attack.
  • Grey Eyes: Frequently described in loving detail by Alina's narration.
  • Hates Being Alone: Seems genuinely troubled by the prospect of spending the rest of his long life by himself.
    The Darkling: Don't let me be alone.
  • Hobbes Was Right: He certainly seems to believe that without him as its sole ruler, Ravka will never be a great power again.
  • I Can Change My Beloved: Tries to invoke this in another attempt to bring Alina to his side.
    The Darkling: You might make me a better man.
    Alina: And you might make me a monster.
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: When he captures Alina after she attempts to escape with Mal in Shadow and Bone.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: In Ruin and Rising Alina concludes: "For all his crimes, the Darkling had loved Ravka, and he'd wanted its love in return."
  • If I Can't Have You...: Towards Alina and Ravka both, preferring to destroy them rather than see anyone else have them.
  • It's All About Me: He claims his actions are for the good of Ravka, but as Alina points out only as long he is the ruler.
  • Lack of Empathy: One of his most prominent qualities. The Demon in the Woods and Ruin and Rising seem to imply this developed as a survival and coping mechanism.
    The Darkling: If I still felt as you do, if I ached as you do, I could not have borne this eternity.
  • Life Isn't Fair: He exasperatedly espouses this philosophy to Alina in Shadow and Bone.
  • Living Emotional Crutch: Given his level of obsession with Alina and the more irrational he becomes at her rejection, she seems to become this to him.
  • Love Is a Weakness:
    The Darkling: The problem with wanting is that it makes us weak.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: He certainly seems to act more irrationally when it comes to Alina.
  • Love Makes You Evil: All his wicked deeds are rooted in his love for Ravka. And if his claims to love Alina are true, a few can be attributed towards his feelings for her.
  • Love Redeems: Baghra hopes that this can be the case with him.
  • Love Triangle: In one with Mal and Alina.
  • Manipulative Bastard: He plays with Alina's emotions to get what he wants.
  • Mindlink Mates: At the end of Siege and Storm he and Alina become a romantically one-sided version of this.
  • Morality Chain: He tells Alina she could become this for him eventually. She counters that he would corrupt her.
  • Moral Sociopathy: The Darkling seems to have a kind of moral structure, but it is incomprehensible to all but himself.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Repeatedly threatens to kill or attempts to kill Mal in order to have Alina all to himself.
  • Not Good with Rejection: Cannot take being turned down by Alina.
  • Not So Different: One of the main things he uses to try to convince Alina they belong together is pointing out how similar they are.
  • Not So Stoic: His usual demeanour is cool and distant, but he's highly selective of what emotions he shows and who he shows them to. How much of it is genuine is up for interpretation.
  • Power Is Sexy: This combined with his looks makes the Darkling a much-desired man among women. He himself has this for Alina to the point of obsession.
  • Say My Name: Asks this of Alina as he's dying.
    The Darkling: Once more. Speak my name.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Really begins to come across as this, especially in Siege and Storm.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Almost exactly how Alina describes the expression in his eyes when she comes to him at Keramzin.
  • Übermensch: He tries to impress on Alina that they are this.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Baghra says he used to be just a brilliant, talented boy.
  • Utopia Justifies the Means: Claims he wants to use the Shadow Fold to make Ravka a safe place for Grisha.
  • Villainous Crush: Has a severe case of this for Alina.
  • Visionary Villain: His goal is to make Ravka a great nation and a haven for other Grisha.
  • We Can Rule Together: He offers this to Alina multiple times.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Certainly comes off as this in The Demon in the Woods. This however is debatable by the time of Shadow and Bone.
  • Yandere: Very much so towards Alina. By the time of Ruin and Rising, he's so far gone he declares that he'll destroy everything she loves so she has no shelter but him.

    Nikolai Lantsov/Sturmhond 

The younger Ravkan prince. He's probably prettier than you.

  • Loveable Rogue: You want to hate him, but you just can't.
    Nikolai: I have several ships. The Darkling wanted a whaler, so I got him one.
    Alina: You mean you stole it.
    Nikolai: Acquired it.
  • Meaningful Name: An in-universe example. His childhood nickname was Sobachka, which he plays on to create his later alias, Sturmhond.
  • Non-Answer: Notorious for this.
    Alina: Do you ever answer a question directly?
    Nikolai: Hard to say. Ah, there, I've done it again.
  • Royals Who Actually Do Something: Nikolai left court as soon as he could, insisted on doing his military service in the infantry, apprenticed to a gunsmith, and then later went to study shipbuilding. This turns out to be useful when he becomes a pirate, er, privateer.


A short-tempered woman who teaches Alina how to summon her power.

  • Antagonistic Offspring: She spends the whole trilogy trying to find ways to redeem him. Lampshaded by Nikolai:
    Baghra: The little Saint, returned to save us all.
    Nikolai: Well, she did almost die trying to rid us of your cursed spawn.
  • Cynical Mentor: Baghra is not impressed with Alina's progress.
  • Darwinist Desire: A particularly cold example.
    Baghra: I wanted a child, so I sought out the most powerful Grisha I could find. He was a Heartrender. I don't even remember his name.
  • Driven to Suicide: In Ruin and Rising.

    Genya Safin 

    Tolya and Tamar 

  • An Axe to Grind: Tamar's weapon of choice, though she has several other concealed weapons to choose from and even Alina once referred to her as a 'walking armoury'.
  • Half-Identical Twins: Both are ruthless Shu Han Heartrenders who rely more on their physical combat skills than blood-bending to disable their opponents. They also believe in the Sun Saint and agree on most things.
  • Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: What the twins look like standing side by side.
  • Warrior Poet: Tolya with his recitation of epic poetry.


Example of: