Netflix’s latest fantasy adaptation, Shadow and Bone, transports viewers into the magical world of Ravka, a country which has been torn in half by the monster-infested darkness known as the Shadow Fold. In this universe, some people are born with the ability to manipulate matter on the most fundamental level. This “magic,” known as the Small Science, means that the Grisha who possess it can have a variety of powerful abilities, depending on their particular affinity. However, Grisha often find themselves persecuted — by their own Ravkan countrymen, who resent the Grisha who created the Fold centuries ago; the magic-hating Fjerdans to the North, who hunt Grisha down as witches; and the Shu Han to the South, who are interested in discovering the source of Grisha power.
In bringing this rich world to screen, the Netflix blends storylines from Leigh Bardugo’s "Grisha" trilogy, which follows young cartographer Alina (Jessie Mei Li) learning how to harness her newly discovered Grisha power, and the "Six of Crows" duology, which chronicles a crew of thieves from the neighboring country of Kerch attempting to pull off a near-impossible heist. In the books, Six of Crows is set after the events of the original "Grisha" trilogy, so having the characters from the two series interact is an exciting prospect for long-time Grishaverse fans — but it also means double the characters to keep track of for those who are new to this complex world.
Fortunately, since some of us have already explored the Grishaverse thanks to Bardugo’s beloved books, we have some handy insider knowledge and can guide you through who’s who in the Netflix show, what (if any) abilities they have, and how they relate to the novels. And yes, this means that there will be some very minor book teases ahead, so prepare yourself accordingly. Read on for our full Shadow and Bone character guide.
The Grisha Trilogy
All those who primarily appear in the original "Grisha" trilogy, which revolves around Alina’s quest as the Sun Summoner to destroy the Shadow Fold.
Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li)
Alina believes she is nothing more than an orphan peasant serving as a mapmaker in Ravka’s non-Grisha First Army until a trip into the Shadow Fold uncovers her latent Grisha abilities. As Alina learns, she is the first known Sun Summoner, a Grisha with the ability to manipulate light, and therefore, the only one with the power to potentially destroy the Shadow Fold and unify the war-torn Ravka. Whisked off to the Little Palace to train with the Grisha Second Army, Alina finds herself torn from everything she’s known, including her constant companion Mal, and forced to navigate this dangerous new world alone. In the series, Alina is also half-Shu, making her even more of an outsider both in the Little Palace and in Ravka as a whole.
General Kirigan (Ben Barnes)
The leader of the Second Army, Kirigan is both a Shadow Summoner, with the ability to create darkness, and a living amplifier, which allows him to increase another Grisha’s power through contact. Enigmatic, alluring, and just undeniably sexy, Kirigan tells Alina that he is the descendant of the Black Heretic, the Grisha who created the Fold, and that he’s waited all his life for someone like her to help right the wrongs of the past. In the books, this character is known as The Darkling, which is a much cooler name and more befitting of this very cool character.
Malyen Oretsev (Archie Renaux)
Alina’s closest confidant since childhood, Mal was raised at the orphanage with her before joining the First Army together. Though the two have been inseparable all their lives, Mal and Alina have never taken their relationship beyond friendship — even though there’s clearly more than just platonic feelings there. While the novel Shadow and Bone is told solely through Alina’s perspective, the series follows Mal on his own journey, building out this character whose extraordinary tracking skills and deep bond with Alina prove crucial in the fight for Ravka's future.
Genya Safin (Daisy Head)
Genya is a rare type of Grisha, known as a Tailor, who possesses the power to change a person’s physical appearance. (In the books, she is actually the first ever Tailor, so please don't forget to put some respect on Genya's name.) After having been gifted to Ravka’s queen as a child, Genya is a servant at the Little Palace, making her an outsider even among her Grisha peers. Upon Alina’s arrival, Genya is assigned by Kirigan to help her adjust to life as a Grisha and the two develop a strong friendship.
Baghra (Zoë Wanamaker)
The reclusive and ruthless Baghra is given the task of training Alina in the Small Science at the Little Palace. Her methods can tough, but reflect Baghra's willingness to do whatever it takes to hone her students’ skills.
Zoya Nazyalensky (Sujaya Dasgupta)
A rival of Alina’s at the Little Palace, this ambitious and arrogant Grisha is a powerful Squaller, with the ability to manipulate wind. However, there is much more to this driven soldier than cruel barbs and snide remarks. She's definitely one to keep your eye on.
David Kostyk (Luke Pasqualino)
David is a shy but brilliant Fabrikator whose particular skillset lies in manipulating metal. David rarely notices anything outside of his work — including the fact that he’s caught Genya’s eye.
Marie (Jasmine Backborow) and Nadia (Gabrielle Brooks)
Two of the Grisha at the Little Palace who befriend Alina. Marie is an Inferni, who has the ability to manipulate fire, while Nadia is a Squaller, who can manipulate wind. In the novels, Nadia also has a younger brother Adrik, who has a minor supporting role in the second two "Grisha" trilogy books.
The Apparat (Kevin Eldon)
A strange and unsettling spiritual advisor to the King of Ravka, The Apparat is the Grishaverse’s spin on Rasputin. Though he takes a strong interest in Alina once she arrives at the Little Palace, The Apparat’s motives are difficult to decipher, raising questions about whether he is friend, foe, or something in between.
The Six of Crows Duology
All those who primarily appear in the "Six of Crows" duology. But rather than adapt the book storyline — in which a gang of charismatic criminals are hired to break a scientist out of a Fjerdan prison — the Netflix series features an original plot, in which the thieves journey into Ravka on an equally difficult job.
Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter)
Kaz is the leader a Ketterdam gang, the Crows (known as the Dregs in the books), that he shepherded to power under his cold-hearted and business-minded guidance. The Crows is only one of many gangs in the capital of Kerch, and Kaz has a deep-rooted hatred of rival gang leader Pekka Rollins. After a past leg injury never fully healed, Kaz walks with a limp and the aid of a crow’s head cane. Kaz is also never seen without his gloves on, a habit which has spawned many myths and rumors among the criminal underworld.
Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman)
Inej comes from a Suli family of acrobats, but was kidnapped and sold into slavery as a teen. She was purchased by Tante Heleen, a brothel owner in Ketterdam, but Kaz bought out her contract in exchange for her joining the Crows. Known as the Wraith, Inej is a skilled spy and knife fighter, but she is also extremely pious. Her strong moral code and religious faith often conflict with her work — which is far bloodier in the books — but she’s willing to do almost anything to earn back her freedom and reunite with her family.
Jesper Fahey (Kit Young)
Jesper is a bisexual sharpshooter from Novyi Zem, a farming country across the sea from Ravka. After moving to Ketterdam, Jesper developed a gambling addiction and joined the Crows. Good-natured but impulsive, Jesper can never seem to walk away from a bad hand and is always chasing the next adrenaline rush.
Nina Zenik (Danielle Galligan)
Nina is a bold and vibrant Heartrender who can manipulate a person’s body, organs, and moods. A soldier in the Second Army, Nina gets captured by the Drüskelle, Fjerden witch hunters, while on a mission. But after the ship she’s being transported on gets shipwrecked, she must team up with one of her captors, Matthias Helvar, to survive. In "Six of Crows", the origin of Nina and Matthias’ relationship is depicted solely in flashbacks, with Nina having already begun working with Kaz’s gang the Crows.
Matthias Helvar (Calahan Skogman)
Matthias is a skilled Drüskelle, one of the Fjerdan order of holy witch hunters who believe Grisha are demonic and should be exterminated. Matthias is one of the Drüskelle who captures Nina Zenik, but the Heartrender winds up challenging his beliefs after the two are forced to rely on one another to survive.
Arken (Howard Charles)
An original character to the show, Arken is a Ketterdam smuggler who knows a way to cross the Shadow Fold. Also known as the Conductor, Arken is recruited by Kaz to work with the Crows on their latest job, which requires them to travel through the Fold and into the heart of Western Ravka.
Tante Heleen (Deirdre Mullins)
The owner of The Menagerie, Tante Heleen is a sadistic madam who makes it impossible for her indentured servants to ever work off their contract. Ever snce Kaz bought out Inej’s contract so that she could join the Crows, Tante Heleen has nurtured a malicious grudge against both gang members. Though she only makes a small appearance in Shadow and Bone, she is an important figure in the "Six of Crows" duology.
Pekka Rollins (Dean Lennox Kelly)
Another character who only makes a minor appearance in the show but has a big part to play in Six of Crows, Pekka Rollins is the leader of Ketterdam gang the Dime Lions. Pekka is Kaz’s biggest rival in Ketterdam, but the hatred between these two men is far more personal for Kaz.
Get the latest updates, reviews and unmissable series to watch and more!
Thank you for signing up to Whattowatch. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.