A Guide to the Grishaverse

 

Everything you need to know before diving into Netflix’s ‘Shadow and Bone.’

Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse has never looked so good! With Netflix’s adaptation of Shadow and Bone finally here, there’s a lot that fans — new and returning — have to look forward to. If the trailers are any indicator, the show flourishes with the incredible world Bardugo first introduced fans to in 2012.

Now with 10 books published, there’s a lot to keep track of in the ever-expanding world of the Grishaverse. So here’s everything you need to know. From characters to locations and general questions about the show, this handy guide will help you navigate the incredible Grishaverse as you tune into ‘Shadow and Bone.’


The Basics

Here are the important things you need to know before diving into Leigh Bardugo’s rich world.

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What is the Grishaverse?

The Grishaverse is the fantasy world and brainchild of author Leigh Bardugo. The name refers to the Grisha — individuals with magical powers that allow them to manipulate matter. Bardugo based a lot of the world’s culture and lore around Russian history. That inspiration is often manifest in the world’s architecture, names, language and attire.

Apart from referring to the fictional world itself, the term can also refer to any and all books and related stories that take place in the Grishaverse. At the time of writing, there are 10 books set in the Grishaverse, including novels, novellas and a companion book.

What are the Grisha?

The Grisha are probably the most prominent aspects of the Grishaverse. These individuals have magical abilities — although they wouldn’t use the word “magic” to describe what they do. Instead, they practice the “Small Science,” which is the power to manipulate matter, though always limited by physical laws.

Each Grisha only manipulates a certain type of matter, and they tend to be classified and ranked as follows:

  • Corporalki — These are Grisha with the power to manipulate the human body.
    • Heartrenders: These Grisha can manipulate bodies in violent ways, such as stopping a human heart. They make for great soldiers. [Attire: Red and black keftas]
    • Healers: As their name suggests, these Grisha can heal the human body. [Attire: Red and gray keftas]
  • Etherealki — These Grisha can manipulate the natural elements. This includes Alina Starkov and The Darkling, though they don’t technically fit into any of the three groups below.
    • Inferni: These Grisha summon combustible gases that can then be used to spark fire. [Attire: Blue and red keftas]
    • Squallers: They hold the power to manipulate air, allowing them to create storms and gusts. [Attire: Blue and silver keftas]
    • Tidemakers: Grishas with the ability to manipulate water. [Attire: Blue and light blue keftas]
  • Materialki — These Grisha are gifted with the power to manipulate metal, glass, textiles and other solid materials.

Not every person in the Grishaverse is a Grisha. In fact, in some areas of Bardugo’s world, the Grisha are heavily persecuted. Those who disfavor the Grisha tend to refer to them as witches.

Grishaverse Map

A map of the Grishaverse. Illustrated by Keith Thompson. (Macmillan)

The Grishaverse itself is a vast world filled with fantastic creatures, great countries and beautiful cities. Here are some highlights from the map that you should know.

Ravka

Ravka is the primary setting of the Shadow and Bone trilogy. The country is on the right-side of the map, bordered by the nations of Fjerda and Shu Han to the north and south. The politics around Ravka revolve around a monarchy, led by the Lantsov family.

Here are some notable places in Ravka:

  • Os Alta: This is the capital of Ravka and the largest city in the country. This is the home of Ravka’s elite, including its royal family.
  • The Shadow Fold: Often referred to as “The Unsea.” This is the black scar in that separates west and east Ravka. Learn more about the Shadow Fold below. The Fold itself is a dense darkness filled with terrible monsters called Volcra. It wasn’t always there. According to the story told throughout Ravka, a mysterious figure named the Black Heretic accidentally created the Shadow Fold.
  • Keramzin: This village in south Ravka is where the primary protagonist of Shadow and Bone, Alina Starkov, as well as her best friend Malyen Oretsev grew up together, specifically in the orphanage.

When it comes to the Grisha, Ravka tends to be accepting of them. Grisha and their abilities play a vital role in the country’s military power.

Bardugo’s inspiration for Ravka was Tsarist Russia.

Ketterdam

Ketterdam itself is a city — the capital of the island nation of Kerch, situated in the True Sea.

Ketterdam is primarily a middle man for trade. On its surface, there is a bustling economy of repeatable merchants and a stock trading system that allows anyone to find their fortune. Dig a little deeper, however, and you will find a massive criminal enterprise of smuggling, gambling and expertly run cons. Nothing is truly unavailable in Ketterdam if you are willing to pay.

Ketterdam acts as an important setting in the Six of Crows duology.

The nation of Kerch was heavily inspired by the Dutch Republic of 1700s, according to Bardugo. Kerch also draws inspiration from New York, Las Vegas, Victorian London and Germany.

Fjerda

Fjerda is a mountainous nation in the northern portion of the map. They’re political enemies to Ravka, especially due to their treatment of Grisha. Fjerdan soliders — Drüskelle — are trained to hunt and kill Grisha. Because of this, there many who flee Fjerda to escape persecution.

Bardugo’s inspiration for Fjerda was Scandinavia.

Shu Han

Shu Han is the nation south of Ravka. A vast mountain range separates the two countries, offering the Shu a sense of protection from its northern neighbors. This country focuses heavily on scientific advancement, though often at the cost of the Grisha.

In 2013, Bardugo noted that Shu Han was influenced by China and Mongolia.

The Books: Grishaverse reading order

If you’re considering diving into the Grishaverse — do it! Do it now! The books are fun and filled with interesting concepts and characters. In YA circles, you’ll often hear talk about how the later books are better than the earlier ones. Some choose to start with the Six of Crows duology rather than the Shadow and Bone trilogy, which includes Bardugo’s debut novel. There isn’t a wrong way to approach it, though starting from the first book will always give you more context. However you choose to read the books, you’re probably better off starting with either Shadow and Bone or Six of Crows.

If you’re looking to read the Grishaverse books in the order they were written, this is the way to go:

  • The Shadow and Bone Trilogy — The books that started them all
    • Shadow and Bone (2012)
    • Siege and Storm (2013)
    • Ruin and Rising (2013)
  • Six of Crows Duology — The spinoffs that introduce the iconic Kaz Brekker
  • King of Scars Duology — The spinoffs about fan-favorite Nikolai Lantsov
  • Companion Books — Some of these came in between the books listed above, but we’ve included them at the bottom of the list as they’re not integral to the main story
    • The Demon in the Wood (2015) — A short story about The Darkling
    • The Language of Thorns (2017) — A collection of short stories set in the Grishaverse
    • The Lives of Saints (2020)

Shadow and Bone Character Guide

Netflix’s ‘Shadow and Bone’ pulls characters from both the Shadow and Bone Trilogy as well as the Six of Crows Duology. Here are some of the big names you should know if you’re going to be participating in fan circles.

Related: Who’s playing who? Take a look at the ‘Shadow and Bone’ cast members

Alina Starkov

JESSIE MEI LI as ALINA STARKOV in SHADOW AND BONE (DAVID APPLEBY/NETFLIX © 2021)

Alina Starkov is the primary protagonist of Shadow and Bone. Alina grew up in south Ravka as an orphan. When we meet her as a teenager, she’s about to set sail into the Shadow Fold. Once there, she displays the miraculous power of summoning light, thus earning her the title of Sun Summoner.

Being the Sun Summoner makes Alina a valuable asset when it comes to destroying the Fold. It also places a huge target on her head.

In the Netflix show, the writers made Alina more diverse than she was in the books. Alina is half Shu — which is often called out by racist Ravkans. She faces discrimination because of her ethnicity.

Alina is played by actress Jessie Mei Li in Netflix’s adaptation.

The Darkling

JESSIE MEI LI as ALINA STARKOV and BEN BARNES as THE DARKLING / GENERAL KIRIGAN in SHADOW AND BONE (DAVID APPLEBY/NETFLIX © 2021)

General Kirigan holds the title of The Darkling. He’s a powerful Grisha who takes an interest in Alina after she showcases her power for the first time.

Actor Ben Barnes is taking on the role of The Darkling in the show.

Malyen Oretsev

ARCHIE RENAUX as MALYEN ORETSEV in SHADOW AND BONE (COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021)

Malyen — or more commonly referred to as Mal — is Alina’s childhood friend. The pair met in the orphanage at Keramzin. Unlike Alina, Mal doesn’t display any spectacular powers, but he is a skilled tracker who can hunt down just about anything. In the books, Mal is noted for being incredibly handsome and he often catches the attention of many young women.

Actor Archie Renaux plays Mal in Netflix’s ‘Shadow and Bone.’

Who are The Dregs?

Kit Young as JESPER FAHEY, Amita Suman as INEJ GHAFA and Freddy Carter as KAZ BREKKER in ‘Shadow and Bone.’ (Netflix)

The Dregs are a gang of Ketterdam, a city devoted to the art of the con. In the world of the books, we are not introduced to the Dregs until Six of Crows, which chronologically, occurs after the end of the Shadow and Bone Trilogy. So, while we don’t know exactly what these characters will be up to in the show, we can tell you a bit more about the main players.

Kaz Brekker

KIT YOUNG as JESPER FAHEY, AMITA SUMAN as INEJ GHAFA and FREDDY CARTER as KAZ BREKKER in SHADOW AND BONE (COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021)

A leader among the Dregs, Kaz is a skilled thief. Nothing is beyond his grasp. No trap is too tight for him to figure his way out.

He walks with a limp and uses a cane to assist him, but don’t let that fool you. He is far from helpless and can be brutal when the need arises. He is the brains behind the operation, and always has several backup plans to get what he wants. An air of mystery surrounds his origin and that is just how he likes it.

Actor Freddy Carter is taking on the highly-anticipated role of Kaz Brekker.

Inej Ghafa

Inej Ghafa, played by Amita Suman, in Netflix’s ‘Shadow and Bone.’ (Netflix)

Kidnapped from her home and sold into bondage, Inej works with the Dregs in order to pay off her debt. Her acrobatic skills give her the ability to slip through Ketterdam unnoticed, making her the perfect spy. Kaz saw her potential immediately and took her under his wing, training her to be his right hand.

She is also incredibly talented with knives, and while she does not enjoy the kill, she can always be counted on to get the job done. Almost all of Kaz’s schemes rely heavily on Inej’s impressive set of skills.

Actress Amita Suman is portraying Inej in Netflix’s show.

Jesper Fahey

KIT YOUNG as JESPER FAHEY in ‘SHADOW AND BONE’ (ATTILA SZVACSEK/NETFLIX © 2021)

You might think he’s the comic relief, but Jesper knows how to handle himself in a fight. He is the sharpshooter of the group, with his twin pistols at his side, he is an impeccable shot. Quick-witted and constantly on the move, Jesper enjoys working with Kaz, especially when the pay helps to fuel his gambling debt. However, sometimes his inability to stay quiet gets him into more trouble than he can shoot his way out of.

Actor Kit Young is playing Jesper in the show.

Is Wylan Van Eck in Netflix’s ‘Shadow and Bone’?

As far as we know, Wylan isn’t in Netflix’s ‘Shadow and Bone’ yet, but he is a massive fan favorite, not to mention a major player in Six of Crows, so chances are we will be seeing him sooner or later. Can’t hurt to know a bit more about him.

The son of one of Ketterdam’s wealthiest merchants, it is a bit surprising to find Wylan mixed up with the Dregs. However, his skill with demolition is promising enough for Kaz to include him on his crew. He is far less experienced than the others, but his underdog status and his enthusiasm for the mission make you root for him. And when you learn why he left home, you will want nothing more than to give that poor kid a hug.

Here’s hoping we get to meet Wylan on screen as soon as possible!

Is Nikolai Lantsov in Netflix’s ‘Shadow and Bone’?

Unfortunately, Nikolai will not be in Season One of ‘Shadow and Bone,’ according to Leigh Bardugo.

In the books, Nikolai plays a vital role in the story. He’s one of the royal princes of Ravka. He’s the king’s second son, younger to his brother Vasily. The young prince is extremely charming and charismatic, making him a favorite among Grishaverse fans. Like Wylan, we hope to see him on screen soon.


The Show

Show-specific bits of info that might be useful to you.

Episode Guide

There a total of eight episodes in Netflix’s ‘Shadow and Bone’ series. The eight episodes are:

  1. A Searing Burst of Light
  2. We’re All Someone’s Monster
  3. The Making at the Heart of the World
  4. Otkazat’sya
  5. Show Me Who You Are
  6. The Heart Is An Arrow
  7. The Unsea
  8. No Mourners

Does Leigh Bardugo make a cameo in ‘Shadow and Bone’?

Yes, at least according to the rumors. Bardugo is expected to show up in a Materialki kafta in one of the episodes.

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Saul Marquez founded Bookstacked in 2014 and serves as the site's Editor-in-Chief. He primarily covers news for Bookstacked. He also co-hosts Bookmarked: A YA Book Podcast.
Chelsea still can't believe that she lives in NYC and works to make movies happen. You can find her checking out way too many books from the library or getting lost in an audio book on a long walk.

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