Shadow and Bone, Chapter 1: I’ve Got a Bad Feeling About This

Last time on Shadow and Bone, our Protagonist and one of her future Love Interests were about to take a Magic Aptitude Test. Did they pass? Find out after the cut.

Many Years Later!

I guess Alina and Mal didn’t pass their Magic Aptitude Test, because they’re in the army now. Their company is heading for an encampment at Kribirsk, a port town at the edge of a dark blight with the wonderfully ominous name of Shadow Fold. This blight suddenly appeared in a pastoral valley a long time ago, cutting off the nation of not!Russia Ravka from the sea. Now the army and the Grisha risk their lives to help escort ships across the Fold.

Alina has a bad feeling about her new assignment at Polizanaya. I don’t blame her: would you want to be stationed in a port town at the edge of a blight populated by giant blind bat-humanoid monsters? Mal does his best to reassure her, and succeeds just in time … because that’s when the Grisha show up in their Pimped-Out Coaches. The Grisha are led by the Darkling, who has the most pimped-out coach of them all. That’s how you know he’s important.

Afterwards, Mikhael and Dubrov — members of Mal’s scout unit — catch up to our party and teasingly congratulate Mal for catching the eye of one of the Grisha girls. They don’t stick around for long.

Alina eventually arrives at Kribirsk, a port town with the kind of shops you’d usually find in an RPG: weapons, armor, supplies, an inn, a church, and a brothel. (Hey, I didn’t say this was a child-friendly RPG.) She joins the other surveyors at the Documents Tent, where she works on landscape sketches and gossips about the Darkling with fellow cartographer Alexei.

The gossip continues at dinner, where the cartographers discuss all sorts of fun things, like how a Darkling created the Shadow Fold centuries ago, and how Alina met Mal. After dinner, they check out the Grisha encampment, then turn in for the night.

Alina has a hard time sleeping, though, because she’s preoccupied with thoughts about tomorrow’s voyage across the Fold. Lucky for her, Mal and his scout buddies come to help get her mind off things. And by “get her mind off things,” I mean “reminiscing about their childhood at the Duke’s residence” and “Mal’s friends get drunk while Mal does most of the work.”

Eventually Mal and his friends leave, presumably to hit on hot not!Russian sorcerers. Alina is left thinking about how Mal has grown more handsome while she hasn’t changed much. Will they remain friends? Or will they grow apart over time? I guess we’ll find out later.


Stuff I Forgot to Mention Above:

Mal seems to attract every single female in this chapter. All the other girls in the army are jealous of Alina because of her close relationship with him.

Alina has a scar on her right hand. This seems to be Significant.

Alina mentions that Mikhael tried to hit on her while drunk on kvass. Um … I’d love to know what’s exactly in the kvass in the Grishaverse, because real life kvass is barely 1% alcoholic. Good luck getting drunk on that.

Alina and Mal joined the army a year before this chapter begins. They lived at the Duke’s residence for 10 years before that.

Names in Russian!

Now with locations and important terms! (Also, if you have better Russian translations for some of these, please send them my way.)

  • Alexei: Алексей
  • Corporalki: Корпоралки
  • Eva: Ева
  • Dubrov: Дубров
  • Kribirsk: Крибирск
  • Mikhael: Михаил
  • Os Alta: Ос Алта
  • Os Kervo: Ос Керво
  • Poliznaya: Полизная
  • Ravka: Равка
  • Shadow Fold: Темная Складка (Temnaya Skladka)
  • tsifil: цифил
  • Tula Valley: Тула Долина (Tula Dolina)
  • volcra: волкра
  • Vy: Вы

Translation Time!

  • Corporalki (Корпоралки) — fake Russian — from English corporeal (appropriate for the sorcerer division that focuses on healing and harming humans)
  • Poliznaya (Полизная) — possibly from Russian poleznaya (полезная) — useful (a rather utilitarian name for a city)
  • tsifil (цифил) — fake Russian — syphilis (to compare, the actual word in Russian is сифилис)
  • Vy (Вы) — you (not the best name for a major road)


Next time: Alina and Mal’s Tutorial Quest doesn’t go quite as planned.


  1. I’m not sure I like Alina much yet; snarking that a flirty woman would give men syphilis doesn’t put her on my good side. In fact, she presently feels like the kind of female protagonist who can’t stand other women and are “one of the guys” that appear far too often in fantasy (especially urban fantasy; probably a reason I like Avalon: Web of Magic a lot is that it has three girls working together).

    Giant blind bat-humanoid monsters that eat people are pretty cool though. I like that Alina mentions the local church is in great shape, what with the people so terrified of the Shadow Fold. It does raise questions on if the church is Christian even though this is presumably another world.

    1. Be prepared for Alina’s reaction to her rival (to be introduced in an upcoming recap), who is the definition of ultra-feminine, uber-perfect, and catty-as-hell.

      I’m not sure if the church in this series is Russian Orthodox or some other type of Christian, but it certainly has all the trappings. We get the onion-domed church in this chapter; later chapters introduce a priest and saints.

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