Netflix’s Shadow and Bone debuted on April 23 to an eager audience. Fans of Leigh Bardugo’s stellar series were overjoyed to learn of a mainstream adaptation, and even newcomers to the story were blown away by the show’s intriguing characters, layered storylines, and compelling magic system.
The first season introduced quite a lot, making a good decision in taking its time in fleshing out characters and story arcs. This wise move lead to a somewhat overstuffed first season, however, with so many new names and faces that some viewers struggled to keep track. For anyone who had a hard time connecting names with faces through the tightly packed episodes, here are all the main characters introduced in season one of Shadow and Bone.
Main Characters in Shadow and Bone
The story in season one of Shadow and Bone is told through two separate groups. There are those with stories that intertwine with Alina Starkov’s journey in Ravka, and those who exist countries away in the money-hungry city of Ketterdam. The first group remains in Ravka for the entire first season, and contains a number of Grisha—or people born with a selection of spectacular abilities.
If you walk away from this article with only one name secured, let it be Alina’s. She is the titular character of the Shadow and Bone series, which—in one of its split story arcs—tells a tale of her coming to terms with a new identity and taking control of her life. Alina is an orphaned Shu girl who grew up ignorant of her Grisha powers, alongside her close childhood friend Malyen. You’ll have to delve into another story for an explanation of what, exactly, Grisha are, but suffice to say that Alina wields a power that has been prophesied in the Shadow and Bone world for generations. Through the first season, she faces bigotry for her Shu roots, roadblocks erected by those seeking to control her power, and fear over the potential her power presents.
Malyen, or Mal, as he is more typically referred to, is Alina Starkov’s closest and most loyal friend. The duo have been together since childhood, growing up together in a Ravkan orphanage before joining the First Army. A talented tracker, Mal manages to secure a solid position in the military at a young age. He is a huge part of Alina’s motivation throughout the first season, even after they are separated, with their bond being a major plot point throughout the season’s eight-episode run. It is Mal’s tracking ability that eventually leads Alina—and Kirigan—to track down Morozova’s Stag.
Ah Zoya. Managing to be lovable despite her generally toxic attitude, Zoya Nazyalensky is one of the more divisive figures in Shadow and Bone. A uniquely powerful Squaller—or a Grisha who can manipulate wind—Zoya quickly cemented herself among General Kirigan’s favored ranks in the Second Army. Her talent as a fighter gradually resulted in her development of a superiority complex, however, which is on full display when she interacts with Alina through much of the first season. A favorite among many fans of the books, Zoya is a complex and layered character who seems poised to undergo a compelling growth over the course of later seasons.
Genya is one of the rare windows Netflix’s Shadow and Bone adaptation gives us into the complex range of Grisha powers that exist in Leigh Bardugo’s world. While Grisha are generally boiled down to three main branches—Corporalki, Etherealki, and Materialki—with two rare side abilities in Alina’s Sun Summoning and Kirigan’s Shadow Summoning, there are actually a wealth of ways with which these powers are individualized. Genya has one such unique ability, as one of the Little Palace’s most talented Tailors. Her ability allows Genya to change the appearances of people around her, and herself, placing her in a unique position within the palace hierarchy. Her friendship with Alina largely defines Genya throughout the first season, as do her ties to Kirigan and the King.
General Kirigan, also known as the Darkling, is one of the more complicated characters on this list. If you’re somehow reading this article without having seen the entire first season of Shadow and Bone, let this be your official spoiler warning. Kirigan is one of the titular characters in the series, supposedly leading the attempt to destroy the Shadow Fold that splits Ravka into two halves. He is presented as a stern but likable soldier with the intriguing ability to manipulate shadow and an unyielding desire to protect Grisha, but there is in fact far more to this character. By the time the show begins, Kirigan has actually been alive for centuries. His attempts, years ago, to create a haven for Grisha eventually became corrupt, leading to the accidental creation of the Shadow Fold. He and the Black Heretic are revealed to be one and the same, after his mother, Baghra, warns Alina about his plans to use her power for his own aims.
On the other side of the world, a gang of brigands and thieves end up embroiled in Ravkan politics after they are hired to steal Alina Starkov from the Little Palace. This group of skilled ne’er-do-wells ultimately make the journey from Kerch to Ravka and back, all in hopes of securing a million Kruge (Kerch currency) payout.
The Crows scowling leader, Kaz Brekker is a brilliant con artist, lock pick, and thief. He is presented as a brash but enigmatic figure in season one, softened by his relationships with Inej and Jesper, but still hard and difficult to please. Kaz’s history is purposefully avoided in season one, so I’ll avoid giving anything away, but greed is a clear motivator for the young gang leader, as is vengeance against the far more powerful Pekka Rollins. He is the mastermind behind most of the Crows plans, and uses his guile—paired with a ruthless desire to come out on top—to successfully get his team into Ravka, the Little Palace, and past Kirigan’s men.
A multi-talented former gymnast, Inej Ghafa is the primary fighter among the Crows. She also serves as the group’s unofficial conscience, as her religion and good heart lead her to be a far more morally upstanding person than many of her fellow gang members. Inej, a Suli girl who was stolen from her family at a young age, ended up in Ketterdam after her indenture was purchased by Tante Heleen. She spent an undetermined amount of time working against her will in the Menagerie, a brothel, before Kaz began buying off her indenture in return for her services as his Wraith. Inej uses her skills as a gymnast to serve as a capable spy and fighter for Kaz, despite her moral issues with many of his motivations, and intends to use her freedom—and newfound skills—to track down her little brother, who was also stolen and sold as a slave.
If any single character in season one of Shadow and Bone can be considered the comedic relief, it is Jesper Feyhe. This half Zemeni sharpshooter lends a number of talents to the Crow’s efforts, not the least of which being his charming and approachable nature. Jesper is also often behind minor blunders made by the Crows, but somehow manages to still be a vital part of their success. His background, like several members of the Crows, is kept mostly secret, but hints at a gambling problem are dropped throughout season one. While it isn’t presented as a debilitating issue, Kaz—along with Jesper’s own actions—hint that this character quirk will likely come back to bite Jesper at some point in the future.
The first season of Shadow and Bone may not have made it seem like Nina is aligned with the Crows, but trust me, their fates will eventually intertwine. In one of the season’s final scenes, Nina boards a ship headed for Ketterdam, where the Crows make their base. A Heartrender trained to use her abilities for combat, Nina is a multifaceted character who uses her guile, heartrending skill, and no small dose of charm and seduction to make her way in the world. The first season barely scratches the surface of all Nina has to offer, but does provide a look into her origins with Matthias Helvar—a drüskelle Grisha hunter—and a glimpse of the grit that makes her such a wonderfully rich character.
The Fjerda drüskelle are a band of holy warriors who specialize in hunting and capturing Grisha. We are introduced to Matthias Helvar, a skilled drüskelle, when he and a band of his fellows capture Nina and load her, along with a handful of other Grisha prisoners, onto a ship headed for Fjerda. Initially a stern and humorless soldier, Matthias eventually shows a softer side after he and Nina end up stranded following a shipwreck. The two consistently rely on one another for survival, gradually shattering Matthias’ idea that all Grisha are monsters. Season one sets the scene for all Matthias will have to offer in later seasons.
Important side characters
These characters may not be considered among the main group, but they all played an important role in Shadow and Bones‘ first season. Whether it be due to their providing motivation, information, or a prime set-up for following seasons, you’ll want to remember these characters’ names.
Pekka Rollins only showed up a few times between the season’s first and second episodes, but his role will almost certainly grow in upcoming seasons. Fans of the book series will know about the contentious background he and Kaz share, a detail that serves as the backbone of Kaz’s motivation. This will surely come to a head eventually, particularly considering how the duo left things in season one. Pekka is the leader of Ketterdam’s largest gang, the Dime Lions. He and the Crows compete for the Sun Summoner job in the season’s early episodes, before Kaz ultimately gets the upper hand. Considering that Pekka threatened to cave Kaz’s head in with his own cane if he went ahead with the job, things should get interesting in season two.
Baghra is a mysterious and compelling character that lingers in the background of much of the first season. Like her son, Baghra is a Shadow Summoner and a living amplifier. This means that she boosts the power of nearby Grisha when she chooses to. She is presented as a stern and demanding teacher in season one of Shadow and Bone, pushing Alina to understand and wield her power independently, without interference or assistance from outside sources. Baghra is ultimately the reason that Alina learns of Kirigan’s true intentions, and is the one who convinces her to flee the Little Palace.
How could we forget Milo? Perhaps the standout character of Shadow and Bones‘ first season, Milo the goat absolutely stole the show. Not only did he lend a wonderful bit of charm—and humor—to several scenes with the Crows, but Milo played a legitimately important role at several points in the season. While it seems unlikely that he will make a return for season two, Milo has carved his name into all of our hearts.