Shadow and Bone, Prologue: A Long Time Ago, in a not!Russia Far, Far Away

Follow me after the cut for our introduction to the Protagonist and one of her Love Interests!

But First … Let’s Discuss How Russian Names Work

There’s a reason I’m doing this: we’re going to run into some Russian Name Fail in this chapter.

Russian names take the form of First Name – Patronymic – Surname. So in the case of former Soviet goalie Vladislav Tretiak, his first name is “Vladislav,” his patronymic is “Aleksandrovich” (that’s Dad’s Name + “-ovich”), and his surname is “Tretiak”. Female names use the suffix “-ovna” in the patronymic, and the surname is feminized (I guess that’s self-explanatory). You can read this massive article on the subject on Wikipedia if you want more details, but for our purposes this is all you need to know.

And now, back to your regularly scheduled recap.

Once upon a time…

There was a Protagonist and a Future Love Interest, who were orphaned during some Vague Conflict and adopted by a local duke. They became fast friends and spent their days eavesdropping on the maids.

But then the Grisha examiners came to test Protagonist (Alina) and Future Love Interest (Malyen) in magic, and possibly whisk them away to a School of Magic! Will the test end up separating these friends before the story even begins? Well … we’ll just have to find out next time.


Stuff I Forgot to Mention Above:

I’ll be using lots of Russian hockey player names when I discuss Russian stuff. Just letting you know.

“Grisha” is a hilarious name for an army of sorcerers. Check out my translation notes below to see why.

Alina’s talent is drawing, while Malyen specializes in outdoor activities. Keep this in mind for the next chapter, when we see what happens to them when they grow up.

Character Names in Russian!

  • Alina: Алина Старкова
  • Malyen: Малень Орецев

Russian Fail!

Alina’s full name is Alina Starkov. This is obviously incorrect Russian, because her surname isn’t feminized! It should be Alina Starkova, like how I’ve written it in Russian above.

Translation Time!

(For those of you who can’t read Russian, I’ll be posting all translations with romanizations. I’m nice like that.)

  • malenchkiy (маленчкий) — possibly from malen’kiy (маленький) — little
  • kvas (квас) kvass (an Eastern European fermented drink)
  • Grisha (Гриша) — diminutive of Gregory (Грегори)

So in Case You Didn’t Figure It Out…

The army of sorcerers in this series is called “Greg”. WTF.


Next time: A time skip!



  1. So I got a copy of Shadow and Bone from a library as to follow along. There’s also a reread going on at if you haven’t seen that yet. I plan to start reading Heart of Avalon soon too in order to read the recap of it too.

    Not much to go on here. This feels like it could have been cut and nothing of importance would have been lost. I guess it adds a little mystery though.

    Well, now I really wonder why the name Grisha was picked. Is that important or did Bardugo settle on that name before thinking of the rest?

    1. Thanks for the link to the Tor read-along! They’ve already progressed father than my recap, and they go into more detail re: character motivations. I’ve noticed that my recap has already devolved into recap action >> complain about Protagonist’s obsession with her Love Interest >> translate Russian stuff >> maybe mention a Russian goalie. Let’s face it, I’m not that great at literary analysis. (But I’m great at translating!)

      I’m not the biggest fan of the prologue, but I thought that it (and the epilogue) add a sort of fairy-tale feel to the story. The companion folktales (which I’ve decided not to recap, since they’re only tangentially related to the series and rather inexpensive on Amazon) are written in a similar style.

      I’m not sure why Grisha was chosen as the sorcerers’ title. Someone on Tor’s recap suggested that it’s a reference to Rasputin (his first name was Grigori). I forget if there’s an in-universe reason for the name.

      1. You’re welcome. Their recaps a pretty exhaustive, so I don’t dare look closely at the Grisha one yet to avoid spoilers. Your Russian knowledge is definitely appreciated and your translation notes will be one of my favorite aspects of your recaps!

        Well in that case, the prologue/epilogue are more forgivable.

        Something to ask the author if you ever get a chance then. I wonder if she gets asked a lot about the title?

        So, did you ever stop by Once Upon a Time?

        1. Thanks! But to be honest, all the Russian I know is related to hockey, so I have to do extra research to get all the translations right. Which is why I’ve been slow with recaps recently.

          (I will apologize in advance: one of my translation notes does devolve into ranting about romanization and gushing over a cute Russian goalie. So you’ve got that to look forward to. Which is nice. I guess.)

          I never got a chance to stop by the bookstore. It was raining the entire time I was in LA, and my family had a lot of stuff planned for the few days I was there. I’ll probably be back down sometime next month, so maybe I’ll check it out then.

          1. Hey, romanization is very important to me, and the romanization of Russian is a topic I’m rather interested in (I remember long ago buying a Russian dictionary but not having a romanization system provided, so I made one up based on how I thought each letter sounded). I’m so looking forward to reaching your rant on it.

            Too bad about not seeing the bookstore. I hope you get there eventually.

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