The Tailor: First Impressions and Recap

I’m taking a quick break from my recap of Shadow and Bone to cover Genya’s short story, “The Tailor.” Normally I don’t interrupt recaps like this, but “The Tailor” concerns that favor that Alina asked Genya back in the last chapter. Did Genya find a way to contact Mal? And how is Genya’s life in the royal palace?

You have the choice of following my recap below, or reading the story online here. Or you can do both!

CONTENT WARNING: Rape is mentioned. You’ve been warned.

Last time on Shadow and Bone…

In case you forgot, Alina is worried about not hearing from Mal. His name isn’t on the casualty lists, but that doesn’t mean he’s not dead. What Alina doesn’t know is that none of her correspondence has been sent to Mal! Instead, the servants have delivered all of Alina’s outgoing mail to Genya, who then gives it to the Darkling.

Genya, meanwhile, is surprised that Alina is so open with her emotions. This is not how things go down in the not!Russian court. We also learn that Genya is exceptionally skilled at reading people: she’s able to tell that Alina is embarrassed yet hopeful when she asks Genya to contact Mal.

Afterwards, Genya heads off to the Darkling’s quarters, making a quick detour to watch David the Fabrikator at work and to trade insults with Zoya.


Genya runs into Ivan on her way to see the Darkling. Their little discussion reveals that Zoya has been kicked out of the Little Palace for sending Alina to the infirmary. We also learn that Genya likes Ivan because he treats her like everyone else. Though by that she really means that he thinks everyone is beneath him.

The two eventually reach the banya, where the Darkling is getting dressed after his bath. After Ivan is dismissed, Alina recaps everything that happened in the previous chapter of Shadow and Bone:

  • Alina wants to return to her quarters (the Darkling approves)
  • The Apparat visited Alina last night (the Darkling decides to have a talk with him)
  • Alina wants to contact Mal (the Darkling’s reaction: Him again?)

The Darkling tells Genya to reveal Mal’s current whereabouts to Alina, knowing exactly how she’ll take this information. Genya feels a little guilty about this, since Alina is the closest thing she’s had to a friend in a while. The Darkling also decides to return Alina’s correspondence to Genya so she can do with it as she wishes … despite believing that Alina should just move on already.

Genya disagrees with that sentiment because she believes Alina is suffering without Mal. But the Darkling knows that Genya has been through hell, too.

Later that day…

The Queen has a ball to attend, so you know what that means: Genya has to use her Beautician Mage magic on her. Now we learn that the Queen chooses to wear garish makeup; Genya hates the Queen’s taste, but she knows better than to argue. We also learn that the Queen used to treat Genya kindly, but then her doting eventually turned into emotional abuse.

Thankfully, today is one the Queen’s better days. She only refuses to wear the glass comb that Genya and the Fabrikators once made because it’s out of fashion.

That night…

Genya returns to her quarters and discovers that the Darkling left a black box for her.

After dinner, Genya roots through her closet, which contains her kefta and her Beautician Mage materials. There used to be fancy dresses in there, but the Queen got rid of them when she got bored with Genya. Since that day, Genya was treated as a palace servant, which unfortunately meant that the King was free to rape her whenever he wanted.

And the worst part: the Queen knew about her husband’s actions.

Instead of telling the Queen her feelings, Genya decides to unload them on the Darkling. He gives Genya a choice: quit and be safe, or remain at court and eventually prove that she’s the Greatest Grisha Ever.

After that little flashback…

Genya opens the box and dumps its contents — Alina’s letters to Mal — into the fire. Why? Because she’s a good soldier, goddammit.


Stuff I Forgot to Mention Above:

The oprichniki are a separate order from the Grisha. They don’t mix with the Grisha or the court, and they live by their own code.

For those of you who don’t know: a banya is the Russian version of a sauna.

The Queen snacks on Turkish delight while Genya works her Beautician Mage magic on her. In the Grishaverse, Turkish delight goes by its Turkish name, lokum.

Lantsov is the surname of the not!Russian royal family.

Genya keeps a homemade liqueur, Dekora Nevich, in her closet.

Food Porn!

Featured foodstuffs include:

  • Turkish delight
  • truffled cheese tart
  • wine-braised quail with crispy skin
  • fish poached in butter

Names in Russian:

  • Dekora Nevich — Декора Невич
  • Vasily Lantsov — Василий Ланцов

Translation Time!

  • Декора Невич — fake Russian — ornamental blade (note: Декора means “decoration;” Невич is a surname or the name of a town in Uzbekistan)
  • моя царица — my queen


Next time: And now back to our regularly scheduled Shadow and Bone recap! The Darkling reveals his quest for a McGuffin! Alina researches magic amplifiers and finally figures out how to do magic! And you’re not gonna like the reason why she couldn’t cast spells.



  1. Hey there. I haven’t read this short story yet (nor have I been able to get my friend to look at the site and help with translating the Russian), but yesterday I saw Leigh Bardugo in person at Yallwest. She was participating in a panel on writing villains and antiheroes, so she brought up her later book Six of Crows rather than Shadow and Bone but it was a lot of fun anyway.

      1. She’s very funny and witty, easily talking to her fellow writers about favorite characters in A Song of Ice and Fire and pondering when a villain is totally past redemption (she decided on assaulting women and cruelty to animals). One of her favorite irredeemable villains is Randall Flagg and apparently read a whole lot of Stephen King in her youth. I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of her prose in Smoke and Bone (I do think Six of Crows shows a lot of improvement though), but Leigh herself is great.

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