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Series / Shadow and Bone

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"Bring the light."

"When I was young, I was afraid of the dark. When I got older, I learned that darkness is a place, and it’s full of monsters."
Alina Starkov

A Netflix-produced fantasy show based on Leigh Bardugo's worldwide bestselling shared universe of The Grishaversenote , Shadow and Bone begins in war-torn Ravka, a land which not only battles on two separate fronts against its industrially superior neighbours, but also suffers division within its own borders. Literally; the country is split in two by the Shadow Fold, a colossal wall of unnatural darkness filled with terrifying monsters ready to feast on anyone who dares to cross from one side of the Fold to the other. And yet to sustain both the country's war efforts and its dwindling eastern territory, the soldiers of Ravka's First Army must constantly risk their lives to make that journey.

Then, when her expedition is attacked and nearly overwhelmed, lowly soldier and orphan Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) abruptly unleashes an extraordinary power that could be the key to setting her country free. With the threat of the Fold looming and the darkness ever increasing, Alina is torn from everything she knows — including Malyen Oretsev, (Archie Renaux) her childhood best friend — to train as part of an elite army of magical soldiers known as Grisha, who comprise Ravka's Second Army and are led by the immensely powerful and intensely driven General Kirigan (Ben Barnes).

But as she struggles to hone her powers and comprehend her new role as Ravka's apparent saviour, Alina discovers that allies and enemies can be one and the same, and that nothing in this lavish world is as it seems. There are dangerous forces at play — from the royal palaces of Os Alta to the far-off city of Ketterdam, where a trio of charismatic criminals are rising from the slums to take on a high paying and high-stakes contract — and it will take more than magic to survive.

The cast also includes Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker, Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa, Kit Young as Jesper Fahey, Sujaya Dasgupta as Zoya Nazyalensky, Daisy Head as Genya Safin, Danielle Galligan as Nina Zenik, Calahan Skogman as Matthias Helvar, Luke Pasqualino as David Kostyk, and Zoë Wanamaker as Baghra.

The first season premiered on Netflix on 23rd April 2021. A second season premiered on March 16th 2023. However, it was announced on 15th November 2023 that the show has been cancelled after the second season.

Previews: Teaser Trailer, Official Trailer, 'Building The World' behind the scenes featurette.

Please put single-character tropes on the character sheet and episode-specific tropes on the recap page.

Shadow and Bone provides examples of:

  • Action Girl:
    • Though she starts off as a soldier, Alina's a mapmaker who doesn't display much fighting skill at first. Later though she gets trained in combat intensively.
    • While not to the same degree as Inej, Zoya can keep up in a fight and has combat training in addition to her Squaller abilities.
    • Inej is skilled at fighting with knives, and she's an acrobat too which helps her fight.
    • Additionally, female Grisha soldiers are fairly common, and a couple display their considerable combat skills.
  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: The Neshyener. A grisha-forged blade from legend, described as being so sharp it could cut through shadow. It turns out that's not hyperbole.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: While they were still friendly with Alina in the books, Marie and Nadia were initially only welcoming to gain status among the Grisha, judgmental of Genya, and implied to be Fair Weather Friends to Zoya.
  • Adaptational Relationship Overhaul: Marie and Nadia's friendly behavior towards Alina is genuine here and Alina likes them back while in the book she found them annoying (although she didn't express it out loud). Also, in the book, they hung out with Zoya while badmouthing her behind her back, while here they are not seen hanging out with her and only talk bad about her once (after Zoya hurt Alina during practice). Even then they are both surprised, which implies they think highly of Zoya and Nadia seems to be attracted to her. Finally, they both look down on Genya in the book, while here at least Marie is on friendly terms with her.
  • Adaptation Deviation:
    • In the books, Nina is kidnapped by Drüskelle while on a mission with Zoya in the Wandering Isle. Here she is kidnapped in Ravka while awaiting contact with the Conductor.
    • In the books, Kaz convinced the Dregs' boss, Per Haskell, to pay off Inej's indenture to the Menagerie. In the show and Kaz is paying off Inej's indenture in installments.
      • Per Haskell now shows up in season 2, with the Dregs and they join the Crows' crew.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • With the exception of Nina and Matthias's subplot (which was backstory in the books) the storyline involving the Crows is a series-original. While not impossible, there's little indication that they were hired for any job involving the Sun Summoner in the books.
    • Mal's time spent with the First Army and tracking Morozova's herd is mentioned in the books, but is not depicted or described in detail. The show portrays these events on-screen and follows him in pursuit of the stag.
    • There's General Zlatan who's leading the West Ravkan independence movement, a plot that did not exist in the original books. He's also working with Arken, who he's hired to kill Alina since she's an obstacle in his plan for independence; in the season finale Kirigan destroys Novokribisk not only to prove the power he now holds over the Shadow Fold, but to wipe out Zlatan and his movement.
    • In the books it was just Inej who was taken by the slavers. For the series, her brother was taken as well and they were separated. The books never mentioned if Inej had any siblings, just her parents and her relatives who work with them.
  • Adaptation Origin Connection:
    • In the show, Alina's parents died in the Fold instead of in a border skirmish, making the fact that Big Bad Kirigan created the Fold in the first place more personal.
    • Kirigan also now has a direct connection to the protagonists of Six of Crows, as Nina was on a high-level mission and directly answered to him at the time of her kidnapping.
  • Adaptational Personality Change:
    • The first season cuts a lot of the conflict between Mal and Alina in the first book, such as their confrontation at the Winter Fete. This has the effect of Mal coming across as more supportive and less judgmental.
    • Alexei in the original books was on much friendlier terms with Alina and could keep up with her witty quips just as good as Mal. His original death at the hands of the volcra still has a significant impact on Alina, and she even tears into the head cartographer for not trying to do more to help him. In the show, he's much timider, while Alina essentially ignores him as he tries to talk to her.
  • Adapted Out: Sergei, Marie's love interest in the books, is nowhere to be seen in the first season, although Marie does talk about a guy she has a crush on that might be him.
  • Age Lift:
    • Played with in Kaz, Inej and Jesper's case due to the Adaptation Expansion seen above. While is not clearly stated how old they are on the show, in the original books they are chronologically at least three years younger than Alina and Mal while here they all appear to be around the same age.
    • Nina was mentioned to still be a student in the Little Palace during the events of the Grisha Trilogy and wasn't part of the Second Army proper until the time-skip between the Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows. Here, Nina appears to be a fully-fledged Grisha.
    • In a physical sense with Kirigan. In the books, Alina constantly describes the Darkling as a "boy" and is surprised by how youthful he looks despite his status. No exact number is ever given, it's only mentioned that the Darkling is centuries old. Ben Barnes was 38 when the first season started filming, way past looking as youthful, but he does better look the part of his position.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Fedyor refers to Ivan (his fellow Heartrender) as his "better half" which could be a confirmation that they are together in the show, further backed up by a scene where Fedyor feeds Ivan a treat at the winter fete in a scene that looks like a romantic teasing gesture between a couple. However, there's no kiss or love declaration and the term "better half" is just ambiguous enough that it could be read as a joke.
  • Amplifier Artifact: Live animals and some humans — as well as their remains — can amplify Grisha abilities. Some Grisha seen have a bone or other body part hanging off them to indicate that they've amplified their abilities. A subplot sees Alina try to seek Morozova's three beasts, legendary amplifiers that would give her insane power boosts, to destroy the Shadow Fold.
  • Arranged Marriage: According to Nikolai, his mother didn't choose to marry the King, and this is partly responsible for how she turned out.
  • Badass Longcoat: Pretty much everyone has one of these, though the Grisha in particular wear keftas that are not only long and beautifully embroidered, but also bulletproof.
  • Bat Out of Hell: The hellish volcra that prowl the Fold look like man-sized bats with an Eyeless Face and More Teeth than the Osmond Family.
  • Betty and Veronica:
    • Thanks to Mal getting dosed with Adaptational Nice Guy, Mal and General Kirigan are a more conventional Betty and Veronica for Alina's Archie than in the books. Mal is the loyal, dependable, and protective childhood friend (Betty) while Kirigan is the mysterious, dark magic-using Veronica who catalyzes Alina's development into the Sun Summoner (Veronica).
    • Alina and Zoya towards Kirigan. Personality-wise, Zoya is a proud "mean girl" (Veronica), although she was also implied to be Kirigan's loyal past lover. Powerful but naive new girl Alina is the Betty. Kirigan rejects Zoya in favor of Alina though this was more related to him needing her powers than romantic feelings.
  • Big Fancy Castle: The Grand Palace and the Little Palace in Os Alta, where the royal family and the Grisha respectively live and train.
  • Blood Magic: The offensive application of Heartrender abilities — they can control opponents' circulation to incapacitate them. Season 2 reveals that particularly powerful Durasts can do something similar by manipulating trace metals in the blood.
  • Body Horror: Unlike the book, where amplifiers are worn as jewelry or talismans, the series has it so the amplifier has to be integrated with the Grisha's body to work. When Morozova's stag is made into one, the antlers can clearly be seen beneath Alina's and Kirigan's skin and poking out of her collarbone.
  • Book Ends:
    • The first season begins with Mal and Alina reuniting at an army camp. It ends with the two of them on a boat for parts unknown.
    • At the end of the first episode, Alina undergoes a Traumatic Superpower Awakening on a skiff in the Shadow Fold after seeing Mal heavily injured by a volcra while being carried off by one herself. Near the end of the last episode, Alina is once again on a skiff in the Shadow Fold but is now fully in control of her Sun Summoner powers. She breaks from Kirigan's control and harnesses said powers to save everyone else on the skiff.
    • In the first episode, Kaz, Inej, and Jesper get started on Dreesen's job by recruiting a Heartrender. They end the eighth episode saying they probably need to recruit a Heartrender for their next plan. Kaz even says they're ending this adventure the way they began it.
  • Brother–Sister Team:
    • Tolya (brother) and Tamar (sister) work in complete tandem in combat.
    • Nadia teams up with her brother Adrik to become a duo of Squallers, which are helpful against the nichevo'ya.
  • Bulletproof Vest: The Grisha wear a variation: bulletproof keftas. It's notable since the rest of the First Army get no such protection, further adding to the strained relations between the everyman and The Beautiful Elite.
  • Chekhov's Gag: The goat that the Crows have during their trip through the Fold is mostly treated as a one-off joke by Jesper. He even gives the goat a name, Milo, and Jesper ties a bullet around his neck for "remembrance" and his treatment of the goat is treated as him being jokingly sentimental. But when Mal is taken prisoner by the Darkling in a tent, the goat shows up. Mal then uses a treat to lure Milo to his side and uses the bullet around his neck to unlock the chains.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Inej shows Kaz a necklace stitched for her by her mother, saying it's supposed to represent Sankta Lizabet. Later on we find out she's still very much connected to her faith, which causes trouble with the rest of the Crows when she doesn't want to follow on the original plans because she believes in Sankta Alina.
  • Clarke's Third Law:
    • Played with. According to many Grisha, what they do is not magic but rather "Small Science". The Conductor isn't a Grisha but is able to open a Materialki lock with engineering know-how.
    • According to the commander, with the swift progress technology makes the Grisha (who before the advent of the gun were worth fifty soldiers) gradually become obsolete as tools of war.
    • The Conductor has built a system that can cross the Fold — a feat that often results in many Grisha lives lost — through sheer brilliance of engineering. In one notable instance, he manages to circumvent a Grisha spell by using a lodestone.
  • Closest Thing We Got: Though Healers are obviously the discipline best suited to medical care, Corporalki Grisha can all manipulate the human body. In the absence of a Healer in the main cast, Nina (a Heartrender) and Genya (a Tailor) will occasionally provide first aid.
  • Coin-Targeting Trickshot: Jesper's introduction in the first episode has him ask a patron at the club if he is using legitimate coin. Jesper explains that genuine currency can take a bullet — and to prove that the patron is cheating them, he tosses one of the coins into the air and blows a hole clean through with his gun. This establishes Jesper as a quick draw with a quick eye.
  • Color-Coded Elements: Downplayed — the Etherealki all wear blue kefta; the color-coding is in the embroidery. Inferni kefta are embroidered with red, Tidemaker kefta with blue, and Squaller kefta with silver. Alina, as the Sun Summoner, gets a unique one that's embroidered in gold.
  • Color-Coded Wizardry: Grisha wear colour-coded outfits depending on which order they belong to: Etherealki (blue), Materialki (purple) and Corporalki (red). General Kirigan, as the only Grisha capable of manipulating shadows and darkness, wears black. Alina eventually gets a special kefta from General Kirigan that's black covered in gold, to symbolize her power over light, and when Kirigan hold her captive for his display of her power, she's made to wear a golden kefta embroidered with black that capitilizes on her role as Sun Summoner.
  • Cool Sword: Season 2 has the Neshyenyer, the only weapon that can kill nichevo'ya. It's never rusted despite being centuries old, and glows a luminous crystal.
  • Compressed Adaptation: Nina and Matthias's storyline does happen as it does in the books. It just happens during the two-year time skip between Ruin and Rising and Six of Crows, much later than the events of Shadow and Bone.
  • Costume Porn: The costumes in this show are gorgeous. All of them. Even the background soldier extras wear elaborate uniforms, the Grisha are clad in colorful longcoats with beautiful embroidery, and that's not even getting into the fancy dresses the world's nobility and Alina show off every chance they get.
  • Crapsack World: The world as shown in the series is mired in a long-running war between multiple nations; racism, slavery and witch hunts are rampant; everything outside the royal palaces are dirty and downtrodden; some cities are entirely ruled by ruthless crime lords; and most people are struggling just to survive for another day. Oh, and there's a localized, dark magic-spawned Mordor full of vicious monsters in the middle of the main setting.
  • Creator Cameo: Book writer Leigh Bardugo is the first Grisha to step forward to hug Alina after the Darkling's demonstration of her powers, welcoming her to their ranks.
  • Dark Is Evil: The Shadow Fold is a blight upon Ravka, and the need/desire to destroy it and liberate the country is emphasized throughout the season.
  • Deadly Doctor: Corporalki Heartrenders are technically this, as they can use their mastery of manipulating flesh and bone to give their enemies a heart attack or stroke, or even crush their heart or lungs within their chest. Even non-combatant Healers can count heartbeats on the battlefield to gain an idea of enemy numbers.
  • Deadly Sparring: During her training with the Second Army, Alina is sparring with Zoya and gets angry when Zoya not only keeps knocking her down but taunts her about her crush Mal. When Zoya arrogantly lowers her guard, Alina is able to punch her in the face, prompting an enraged Zoya to use her Squaller powers to send Alina flying across the field, briefly knocking her out. When Alina comes to, Zoya is being furiously reprimanded by the trainer for using potentially lethal force and even gets temporarily reassigned away from the Little Palace. Considering that Alina is the Sun Summoner, it's unsurprising Zoya is punished so severely.
  • Decade Dissonance: Since Eastern Ravka is trapped behind the Shadow Fold, it's failed to industrialise on anywhere near the same level as other countries in the world, or even Western Ravka. West Ravkans deeply resent having to send supplies and young people to bolster the East, and it's sparked a fastgrowing independence movement
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: In the book Alexei is dragged off the skiff by a volcra and into the Fold to be killed and eaten, while in the show he jumps off the skiff and manages to get all the way to Western Ravka, gets abducted to Ketterdam to be interrogated for the truth about Alina, and then is unceremoniously shot to keep knowledge of the Sun Summoner a secret.
  • Didn't Think This Through: In the first episode, barely five minutes after the Grisha in charge of the crossing explains that the only safe light source while in the Fold is the blue lantern and any other kind of light will attract the volcra, one of the soldiers lights a regular lantern when the blue one gets snuffed by a stray gust of wind (which, for that matter, wouldn't have happened if David had designed it to have more protection from such gusts). Predictably, half the crew then gets eaten by volcra.
  • Differently Powered Individual: In this world, people with preternatural abilities are known as Grisha, and are divided into a number of categories and subcategories depending on their capabilities:
    • Corporalki, The Order of the Living and the Dead:
      • Healers — can mend bones, heal cuts
      • Heartrenders — can manipulate a person's internal organs, for good or ill
      • Tailors — can temporarily change a person's appearance and perform superficial healing
    • Etherealki, The Order of Summoners:
      • Squallers — can manipulate the wind and air currents
      • Inferni — can call up fire
      • Tidemakers — can control all forms of water
    • Materialki, The Order of Fabrikators:
      • Durasts — can manipulate glass, steel, wood, plants, stone, or anything solid on a molecular level
      • Alkemi — specialize in chemicals, like poisons or combustible materials
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: Pekka Rollins has Tante Heleen killed between the first and second seasons, so he can have the murder pinned on The Crows.
  • Elemental Powers: As in the books, Etherealki Grisha can manipulate the elements. Squallers can control the air, Inferni can control fire, and Tidemakers can control water. In the Materialki order, Durasts can manipulate glass, steel, wood, plants, stone, or anything solid on a molecular level.
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: The First Army wears drab olive green uniforms while the Second Army wears blue, red or purple uniforms (depending on their order) with elaborate embroidery. The Second Army also live in luxurious tents with better food when on the frontlines, and they stay in a veritable palace back in Os Alta and upgrade to even more glamorous silk keftas, though they don't get a choice.
  • Extended Disarming: When Inej returns to the Menagerie at Tante Heleen's summon, she pulls out all the knives that are concealed in her clothes, boots and hair. It takes a while.
  • Fantastic Racism:
    • Fjerdans hate and fear Grisha and will not only kill any that they find in their own country, but actively go on raids deep into Ravkan territory to abduct them for trial and execution. Even many ordinary Ravkans aren't too comfortable around Grisha; there's obvious tension between the First and Second Armies, an innkeeper rats Nina out to the Drüskelle, and General Zlatan has been turning a blind eye to the Fjerdan raids.
    • Alina faces discrimination for being half-Shu, a country the Ravkans are currently fighting.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture:
    • Ravka is based on 19th century Tsarist Russia, including its failure to industrialize on the same level as other countries. Its closest neighbors are Fjerda to the north, a grim, conservative warrior culture that evokes Scandinavia, and Shu Han to the south, based on China.
    • Kerch is modelled after the Dutch Republic. Nina mentions the country having a very libertine attitude towards nudity, indicating a bit of Freestate Amsterdam as well. Ketterdam, on top of being rather obviously named after Amsterdam, also takes some inspiration from Victorian London, New York City, and 1920s/'30s Shanghai.
  • Far East: In season 2 we get a glimpse of Shu Han, and it is shown to be a mixture of China and Japan, with some central Asian aesthetics thrown in.
  • Fantasy Gun Control: Averted, unlike most fantasy works. The Ravkan First Army wields rifles, Jesper is a gunslinger par excellence, and two Drüskelle make use of a water-cooled machine gun against Ravkan infantry in one scene.
  • Fighter, Mage, Thief: The Crows.
    • Kaz is the thief. He is a criminal mastermind and sleight-of-hand expert. He avoids fighting but when he has to, he relies on stealth and sneak attacks.
    • Inej is the fighter. She's a martial artist and knife-fighter.
    • Jesper is the mage. He uses his Durast powers to guide the bullets from his gun. He rarely fights at close range, preferring distance attacks.
  • Fire and Ice Love Triangle: Alina has the choice between Mal and the Darkling. Mal (fire) is her enthusiastic, good-humored and down-to-earth childhood friend, whom she's had a crush on for years despite him never seeming to notice her in that way. The Darkling (ice) is the aloof, refined and mysterious Shadow Summoner who offers to help her unlock her true potential and treats her as someone of great importance. At the end of Season 1, Alina rejects the Darkling and runs off with Mal due to discovering how utterly cold and ruthless the former can be, though it remains to be seen if things turn out the same as in the books.
  • Firearms Are Revolutionary: It's mentioned that a few centuries ago Grisha were almost considered a One-Man Army due to their powers enabling them to outclass the average soldier. After firearms were invented, though, soldiers armed with guns are considered to be on increasingly equal footing with Grisha, and considering Grisha have to make certain gestures to use their abilities as opposed to just squeezing a trigger, it can make things a lot dicier.
  • Fire, Water, Wind: "Regular" Etherealki are either Inferni, Tidemakers, or Squallers. Kirigan empowers a particularly ruthless trio in the back half of season two, who launch brutal fire/water/wind combinations at the heroes.
  • Foil: General Kirigan and Kaz Brekker — who actually have a brief showdown in the sixth episode before the big skiff battle in the eighth, and have more in common than either would likely care to admit.
    • Their similarities:
      • Cultivating a certain self-image in front of their peers; Kirigan is the wise general with a troubled past who fights for the freedom of all Grisha; Kaz is "Dirtyhands," a young crime lord of the Barrel who will do any kind of Dirty Business for the right price.
      • Intelligence and the ability to adapt when things don't go the way they want.
      • Manipulative natures they've honed.
      • Strong interest in a certain girl close to them (Alina for Kirigan, Inej for Kaz) that both consider one-of-a-kind.
      • A deep-rooted desire to settle old scores.
      • a strong will to see their goals achieved.
    • Ultimately, though, there are a few key differences:
      • Kirigan takes great pains to reassure others (and possibly himself) that he has the best interests for Grisha at heart even when it becomes clear that he's ultimately acting in his own interests, while Kaz makes it clear from the start that he's a selfish bastard that scoffs at the idea of dressing up stories and people just to make what actually happens look better (and still finds the time to perform some Pet the Dog moments).
      • Whereas Kirigan tries to convince Alina that they are made for each other and eventually puts her power under his control, Kaz stops trying to kidnap Alina for Inej's sake and even allows her the choice to leave the Crows, even while admitting that he wishes she'd stay.
  • Forgotten First Meeting: Jesper and Wylan had a one-night stand prior to the story, but the former doesn't fully recognize the latter when they meet again in season 2. He remembers quickly enough, however.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Nina is abducted by Drüskelle while in Ravkan territory; later on at the Winter Fete, two diplomats talk about General Zlatan's growing alliance with Fjerda, and how he's allowing raiding parties to carry off Grisha for execution. It gives Kirigan yet another reason to want to eliminate Zlatan.
    • Kaz gets a glimpse of Marie in the fitting room. He realized they were using her as a duplicate for Alina, and told Arken to go there and take her since "he knew his way with Grisha locks". However, Arken is later captured and imprisoned while the Crows run off with the actual Alina.
    • Genya tells Alina to be careful around “powerful men” and that her work on the Queen’s face keeps the King away at least until night. We later find out that the King had taken advantage of her, and that the Darkling has been manipulating Alina to essentially become a Person of Mass Destruction.
    • Kirigan mentions early on that if he enters the Shadow Fold, the volcra will converge on him. We find out why in episode 7 (they were enemy soldiers who he transformed) and in episode 8 they pounce on him when he's distracted..
  • Genre Mashup: The Grisha Trilogy was your standard The Chosen One fantasy plot, while Six of Crows was deliberately written as an antithesis to that. Combining the two plots leads to contrasting storylines and shooting styles, as the Crows' scenes are shot at a fast pace with sharper cuts. It also means we get a gang of criminals planning to abduct the fabled 'Sun Summoner' and essentially sell her on the black market, or Jesper fighting off eldritch monsters or a Military Mage with his gun slinging skills.
  • Genre Roulette: Shadow And Bone falls under the fantasy umbrella as a whole, but switches between different genres/sub-genres depending on whose storyline we're currently following. As mentioned in Genre Mashup above, the lines between them get increasingly blurred as the three main plotlines intersect more; by the end of the first season it's less Roulette and more Mashup.
    • The A-plot involving Alina and Mal is a more typical High Fantasy Coming of Age story; plucky orphan Alina finds out she's The Chosen One, attends magic school and uncovers the dark truth behind the evil that threatens her home, while Mal goes on a quest to find a magical creature and be reunited with Alina.
    • The B-plot about Kaz, Inej and Jesper is more of a Low Fantasy take on The Caper about a group of anti-hero criminal masterminds plotting to kidnap Alina and smuggle her over the border while avoiding the authorities and rival crims.
    • The C-plot about Nina and Mattias is a survival story combined with an "enemies to lovers" romance, with a dash of Paranormal Romance considering Nina's powers; the two start out as sworn enemies until they get shipwrecked and must rely on each other to get back to civilisation, developing feelings for each other along the way.
  • Gorgeous Period Dress: The keftas worn by the Grisha are beautifully embroidered with patterns that denote their individual skills.
  • Gratuitous Russian: The series is set in a fantasy version of Tsarist Russia, but the characters speak the Queen's Ravkan. However, some Russian words make it through, like Kirigan addressing the queen as "moya tsaritsa" and his personal guard being known as the oprichnik.
  • Grim Up North: The series is already based on Russia, but the closer the characters get to the northern country of Fjerda, the more it snows. The Fjerdans also seem to be a hardy folk who look down on Ravkans.
  • Half-Breed Discrimination: Alina is half-Shu and half-Ravkan, which causes friction because her native Ravka is at war with Shu Han. In season 2, she meets Tamar and Tolya, siblings who share her ethnic background, and they bond over not being fully accepted by either nation.
  • Helpful Hallucination: While locked in a room filled with poisonous gas, Jesper's mother appears to him as a hallucination. She comforts him, and sets him on a path to embracing the grisha abilities he's kept hidden.
  • Holding Hands: A recurring motif for Mal and Alina as a symbol of their longtime love and trust for each other. The important flashback to their childhoods in a meadow has them reaching for each other's hands while laying in the grass, which is juxtaposted as Alina reaches for Mal's hands as she thinks he's dying.
  • Hourglass Plot: Nina and Matthias's subplot. They meet aboard a ship where Matthias's people have taken Nina captive; Nina is justifiably spiteful towards him. When the ship capsizes in a storm the two are thrown together by a need to survive and develop feelings for each other. However, at the end, Nina has claimed that Matthias is a slaver to stop him from being executed by Grisha, and so the two end up on a ship bound for Ketterdam. This time however, it is Nina on the other side of the bars, and Matthias reacts with hatred and anger when he sees her, believing that none of their interactions were real.
  • Hufflepuff House: There are eight sub-factions of Grisha, and all of them are represented to one extent or another throughout the first season — except the Alkemi. Eventually rectified, with an Alkemi appearing as part of a major subplot in Season 2.
  • If It Swims, It Flies: In season 2, Nikolai has engineered a miniature ship that can also fly if driven properly by a Squaller. It's just not too effective in a world where people can hurl fireballs at your sails.
  • Immune to Bullets: Grisha wear Fabricator-manufactured kefta that act like amazingly effective real-world bulletproof vests. Being hit by bullets still hurts, but not even hitting the same spot multiple times can penetrate the fabric. That said, the kefta doesn't cover the whole body, so Grisha are still vulnerable to being shot in the hands, feet or head.
  • Implied Rape: In season 2, it's implied that the King of Ravka sexually assaulted Genya several times but the word "rape" is never uttered.
  • Insistent Terminology: Many characters insist over and over again that the abilities of the Grisha are not magic, but the Small Science. 'Magic' would imply that something is being created out of nothing, while Grisha can only summon or manipulate what already exists. Actual creation, or merzost, is extremely dangerous and apt to go disastrously wrong: exhibit A, Kirigan unwittingly making the Shadow Fold.
  • Infinity +1 Element: Darkness and Light are both extremely rare elements for Grisha; only one known Dark bloodline exists, and Light was purely hypothetical before Alina manifested her power. Not only are they both extremely powerful, but they have the surprising side effect of immortality. Alina deduces, based on some things Mal says about how she's changed, that the more they use their powers the longer they will live.
  • Intimate Healing: Of the "sharing body heat" variety between Nina and Mattias, much to their outward disgust and inward (albeit reluctant) enjoyment.
  • Irony: Neither General Zlatan in the West nor General Kirigan in the East actually wants the Shadow Fold to be destroyed — Zlatan because it would ruin his independence movement, and Kirigan because he wants to weaponize the Fold to protect and control Ravka.
  • I Want Them Alive!: General Kirigan when he learns Alina and Mal are on the run together. In Alina's case it's because he needs her power, in Mal's it's because he knows he'll make for useful leverage against Alina.
  • Land, Sea, Sky: Morozova's three powerful beasts are a stag (land), a sea whip (an icy sea serpent) (sea), and a firebird (sky).
  • Lifesaving Misfortune: Nina is meant to be Arken and the Crows' way into the Little Palace, but she's abducted before she can meet up with them, leaving them to have to find another to infiltrate the palace. Just as well for them, since she's actually a spy for Kirigan and likely would have gotten them all caught and executed.
  • Light/Darkness Juxtaposition: Alina is the Sun Summoner, a light-using Grisha whom many believe can destroy the Shadow Fold. When Alina's ability to summon light first manifests, she saves herself and Mal by driving away the volcra attacking their ship, and General Kirigan at least believes she's capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and liberating Ravka.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Jesper and Inej have a close, loyal, and almost affectionate (as much as two dysfunctional thieves from a Wretched Hive can have) relationship that has none of the romantic and Living Emotional Crutch undertones Inej has with Kaz.
  • Living Lie Detector: An almost literal case, as Heartrenders can tell when a person is lying by the variations in their pulse and heartbeat, just like a real life polygraph.
  • Lodged Blade Removal: Inej manages to solidly lodge a throwing knife in General Kirigan's chest. But because using merzost has given him a Healing Factor, he is able to pull it out and keep fighting with no issue. Even lampshaded as he yells that it will take more than that to kill him.
  • Logical Weakness:
    • Grisha need to touch their hands together before they can perform the Small Science, so any attackers with foreknowledge of this are quick to incapacitate them and use restraints designed to keep their hands as far apart as possible.
    • General Kirigan's use of the Cut requires him to summon shadows, so Kaz uses a flashbang to deflect the Cut and blind Kirigan for a second so he can escape.
  • Long-Lived: Particularly powerful Grisha like Kirigan and Baghra can live for centuries. Kirigan taunts Alina with the possibility of outliving her loved ones in an attempt to bring her closer to him.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: All Grisha specialize in only one area of magic, with subtypes including but not limited to Healers, Heartrenders, Inferni, Squallers, Tidemakers, and the fabled Sun Summoner.
  • Magical Gesture: Grisha use various types of hand gestures in order to perform the Small Science. Crucially, they need to actually touch their hands together before they can use it; when the Drüskelle come to kidnap Nina, they ambush her and wrap a rope around her hands so she can't use the proper gesture to stop them, and during a fight, Kaz incapacitates an Inferni by stamping on his left arm and breaking his hand.
  • Magic Knight: A number of the grisha fight using both the small science along with mundane weapons like guns, axes or swords (often aided by the former, e.g. Jesper is a Durast who can manipulate metal, so bullets he fires never miss). Many are also skilled at unarmed combat.
  • The Marvelous Deer: A subplot revolves around the search for Morozova's stag, a huge, mythical, all-white deer that roams the northern forests. Its body parts are valued as a Grisha artifact; whoever kills it gets an insane power boost. And Alina must have been dreaming of it since childhood for a reason... It turns out that the last bit about killing it is untrue — the deer chooses Alina, so it's her power that gets amplified and not Kirigan's (who actually killed it).
  • Meadow Run: A recurring flashback from Mal and Alina's childhood: the two of them running together through a meadow and laying in it to escape the Grisha test. It is a symbol of their longtime loyalty and devotion to one another.
  • Medieval Stasis: Averted - apart from the costumes being very much modeled after the 18th and 19th centuries, the impact technological progress has on society and military issues is an intrinsic part of the story. On the other hand, it's also inverted to some extent: In the one scene that takes place centuries earlier, all soldiers carry period-appropriate weaponry (i.e. bows) - but their dresses are basically the same as they are in the present (longcoats inspired by the military of the late Czarist Russia), even though chainmail and the like would have been a lot more appropriate.
  • Military Mage: The only thing that's sustained Ravka from being conquered for this long is not the First Army of ordinary soldiers, but the Second Army that's made up of the supernaturally powered Grisha. All Ravkan children are tested once they reach a certain age, and any that are found to have powers are taken to the Little Palace and effectively conscripted; at least one woman laying low in Ketterdam fled from East Ravka with her daughter because the latter was Grisha and she refused to let her child be made into a weapon.
  • Muggle Power: Fjerdans view Grisha as abominations, and the Drüskelle are specifically tasked with seeking them out and killing them.
  • Muggles Do It Better:
    • Arken Visser the Conductor, without any access to Grisha powers, has developed a method of crossing the Shadow Fold by train and made numerous successful journeys, when surviving three crossings is seen as amazing in the First and Second Armies. Even if the train tracks were likely already built, Arken also devised and placed numerous markers to help with timekeeping and safely navigating the Fold; while it's still a dangerous journey, the main reason he and the Crows run into trouble is because they couldn't bring enough coal to outrun the volcra.
    • When the Crows need to get through a door that can apparently only be opened by a Materialki, Arken breaks out a lodestone (essentially a highly powerful magnet) to manipulate the metal locks.
    • Kaz survives being on the receiving end of Kirigan's use of the Cut by using a phosphorous bomb, creating a massive amount of light that dispels the shadows.
    • The invention of firearms is stated to have successively made muggles equal in power to (most) magic practitioners. Near the end of Season 1, a group of Ketterdam sailors armed with revolvers are able to successfully scare off a cadre of 2nd Army mages.
  • Mutant Draft Board: Revka tests children for seeing whether they're Grisha (people with preternatural abilities) and they conscript any with them. While they live comfortable, privileged lives overall, they're still cannon fodder and must serve in the Second Army as soldiers.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • General Kirigan as The Darkling's new name is taken from Count Kirigin, a completely different character that appears on later books.
    • Also Milo's name is taken from a minor member of The Dregs, Kaz's gang in the books.
  • Named After First Installment: The series takes its name from the very first book in The Grishaverse.
  • Nice Mean And In Between: Out of the three crows, Inej is the nice, Kaz is the mean and Jesper In-Between
  • Oh, My Gods!: People in Ravka usually cry: "Saints!" whenever frightened or frustrated. It doesn't discount a belief in a monotheistic God, but belief in such a deity goes completely unmentioned in the show's world-building.
  • Propaganda Piece: In-Universe. The Ravkan army have a number of posters depicting a scary-looking Shu warrior. On separate occasions, Mal and Alina each have a negative reaction at the sight of it.
  • Punch a Wall: Zoya unleashes a gust of wind when the Darkling rebuffs her, causing the papers and books on his desk to get messed up.
  • Psychic Link: Alina and Kirigan are bonded in season 1 through the amplifier made from Morozova's stag. Alina manages to remove most of the connector in Kirigan's hand but some of it still remains, causing her to see Kirigan in her mind. Baghra sacrifices her life to sever the link by cutting off his hand.
  • The Queen's Latin: Everyone in this Fantasy Counterpart Culture of Tsarist Russia speaks with a British accent.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Himself being the Black Heretic who originally erected the Fold, Aleksander has served countless Ravkan kings over several centuries.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Fedyor is considerably more friendly and amicable than Ivan, who's very cold and blunt.
  • Red Shirt: Alexei dies in the very first episode, shot mere seconds after giving information to Dreesen and the Crows. His death seems to primarily serve as a way to show how ruthless the crime lords of Ketterdam are.
  • Retcon: Nadia is a Tidemaker in Season 1. In Season 2, she is a Squaller, like her book counterpart.
  • Sand Is Water: In order to cross the Shadow Fold, the First Army needs to use land ships that are powered by the summoned winds of Etheralki Squallers.
  • Scenery Porn: The series takes full advantage of the original series being a Fantasy Counterpart Culture to Tsarist Russia.
  • Scars are Forever: In a universe where Healers and Tailors can remove wounds, scars, and tattoos to the point that they are nigh-invisible, scars dealt by merzost are permanent.
  • Scylla and Charybdis: The Shadow Fold runs the length of Ravka, border to border. To the north is Fjerda, who will kill any Grisha they find, to the south is Shu Han, who guard their mountains carefully, and straight through the Fold are the Volcra who will attack and devour anyone they see.
  • "Spread Wings" Frame Shot: The poster for the second season has three of the main characters posed next to animalistic body parts that symbolize the three legendary amplifiers. Mal is posed with a pair of wings appearing to sprout from his back. This represents the Firebird, and foreshadows that the third amplifier is not actually the Firebird, but Mal himself.
  • Squishy Wizard: Discussed in-universe — it used to be claimed that one Grisha was the equivalent of fifty ordinary soldiers, but then Ravka's enemies developed better and more deadly weapons, and now Grisha are just as likely to be killed in the field as non-magical soldiers. Which makes certain members of the First Army ponder whether the Grisha even matter any longer...
  • Stacked Characters Poster: In the first season's official poster, the characters are stacked in decreasing size, with protagonist Alina as the largest, followed by her love interests Kirigan and Mal, and the Crows at the bottom.
  • Starcrossed Lovers: Nina and Matthias's obvious mutual attraction is complicated by the fact that he's a Fjerdan soldier whose job is to hunt Ravkan Grisha like Nina. At one point Nina floats the idea of traveling elsewhere together; Matthias points out that if he does that he'll be court-martialed as a deserter. And that's before she deserts the Second Army herself and claims Matthias is a slaver so that he'll be hauled off to Ketterdam and not killed by the Grisha who have found her, which stops any romantic progress dead in its tracks.
  • Tainted Veins: Using merzost causes one's veins to run black.
  • Take a Third Option: After learning how difficult it is to get around or through the Shadow Fold, Jesper wonders why Ravka hasn't just tried building a tunnel under it. Kaz retorts that it's been tried more than a hundred years before, and presumably didn't end well since "Something...heard them digging."
  • Those Two Girls: Marie and Nadia for Alina. They are always accompanying her and commenting on her affairs, until the former gets killed when she acts as a Body Double for Alina.
  • Third Line, Some Waiting:
    • In addition to the Mal/Alina/General Kirigan plot and the Kaz/Inej/Jesper plot, the later episodes introduce a subplot starring Nina (a Ravkan Heartrender) and Matthias (a Fjerdan Drüskelle) after Nina is kidnapped by Fjerdans. This subplot is geographically divorced from the main story and is only tangentially related to the other characters (Nina answers to Kirigan but was supposed to meet up with the Crows before getting captured).
    • Season two splits time between Alina and her circle, Kirigan and his circle, and Kaz and his circle until all three plotlines converge by the end. Matthias' scenes, all the way in Hellgate, gets very little intersection with the other characters'.
  • Twice Shy:
    • Mal and Alina's mutual feelings are obvious to everyone around them (Marie and Nadia, who have never met Mal, can tell Alina is attracted to him by the way she talks about him), but both are too busy considering the other to be their best friend to act on it.
    • Implied to be the case with Genya and David. Genya is too concerned with propriety to pursue a relationship with the very socially awkward David, whom she obviously likes. But judging from the glances they give at the fete when the other isn't looking, Genya's feelings are reciprocated.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: In the first few episodes, the plot bounces between Alina and Mal reacting to the discovery of Alina's Sun Summoner abilities in East Ravka, and the Crows scheming all the way in Ketterdam. These plotlines eventually converge in the fifth episode.
  • Vanity Is Feminine: Subverted. Jesper and General Kirigan (both male) are the characters most likely to stop in front of a mirror and take a moment to admire themselves.
    • Played straight with Genya, who suffers a Heroic BSoD when her face is permanently scarred.
  • Waistcoat of Style: Sported by most of the male characters in the series, though most noticeably by Kaz and Jesper.
  • Was Once a Man: The nightmarish volcra who haunt the Shadow Fold were humans who were in the area when the Fold was created.
  • Weapon of X-Slaying: In the back half of the second season, the Crows are tasked with retrieving the Neshyenyer, a legendary weapon forged by a Saint, because the heroes believe it to be the only thing capable of slaying Kirigan's shadow creatures. They assumed correctly.
  • Witch Hunt: The Fjerdan Drüskelle hunt down Grisha in Ravka as well as their own country, and drag them off for trial and execution.
  • Wretched Hive: Ketterdam is crammed with ruthless criminals and grifters, its brothels are supplied by the slave trade, and the most powerful denizens of the underworld can easily pay off the resident police force. Kaz is something of a minor crime lord; the first few episodes of Season One show the audience the city's dark underbelly as the Crows try to outsmart bigger fish and find a way across the Fold.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It: Morozova's creatures are allegedly the most powerful amplifiers known, and any Grisha who kills them will have their powers amplified to an insane extent. The hunt for Morozova's stag, one such creature, is a subplot. Subverted. Power is not gained from the animal's death, but to whom it chooses to bequeath its power. Kirigan thinks it's the former, but is proven wrong when Alina realizes it's the latter and unleashes her Sun Summoner abilities.


Video Example(s):


Jesper's Sharpshooting Skills

Jesper proves his skill with a gun when he shoots a card in Inej's mouth in half...from behind, while she's dangling upside-down from the ceiling.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / WilliamTelling

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