Alina Starkov: A ‘Shadow and Bone’ Character Guide

Alina Starkov

Come together, friends, and listen to the story of Alina Starkov, the main character in Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone series. The book was released nearly a decade ago, but the world it created has grown significantly. With the recent Netflix show, more people are curious about Alina Starkov and the entire series. 

Continue reading to find everything you want to know about Alina Starkov:

Who is Alina Starkov? 

Alina Starkov is the lead figure and storyteller in the “Shadow and Bone” series. We are introduced to her in the first book, where she is a young girl who lost her parents in the Border Wars. As she grows up, she becomes a mapmaker for the First Army. Her closest friend is Malyen “Mal” Oretsev, who also grew up in the same orphanage. 

On a dangerous mission through a wasteland called the Fold, Alina saves Mal by unleashing a powerful light, showing she has special abilities. She is known as a Grisha, someone who can change matter at its core, like controlling natural elements.

People believe Alina is the “Sun Summoner,” a mythical hero meant to destroy the Fold. She is taken to the Little Palace, where the Grisha’s elite forces and their leader, the Darkling, live. The Darkling, who can summon shadows and is the most powerful Grisha, wants to train Alina to use her newfound abilities to get rid of the Fold. Even though some Grisha are envious of her and treat her poorly, Alina starts to fall for the Darkling.

In the second book, “Siege and Storm,” Alina and Mal try to stay unnoticed in a village. However, the Darkling captures them and they find themselves on a ship owned by Sturmhond, a privateer working for the Darkling to find another magical creature. They manage to get away, and Sturmhond reveals he is actually Nikolai Lantsov, the king’s younger son.

Alina decides she wants to lead the Second Army, so she and two others head back to Os Alta, Ravka’s capital. Nikolai suggests he and Alina should marry, but she declines. Soon, the Darkling launches an attack on Os Alta. 

Alina fights him off using a dangerous type of magic called merzost, which turns her hair white and almost kills them both. After the fight, she escapes to the White Cathedral with her friends.

The final book, “Ruin and Rising,” starts two months later. Alina is weak and hiding underground in Ravka with a group that sees her as a holy figure. Mal and some allies rescue her, but they are soon under attack again. Nikolai saves them and brings them to a secret mountain base with other Grisha and army survivors.

Alina meets Baghra once more, who teaches her new abilities and shares secrets about the Darkling’s past. Alina and Mal search for another magical creature, the Firebird, to boost her powers. During the search, Alina discovers that Mal is a magical enhancer. 

The Darkling captures people and threatens to unleash darkness unless Alina gives up. In a final showdown, Mal persuades Alina to use him to gain power. She does, and also ends the Darkling’s life with the same weapon. Mal comes back to life through magic, the darkness is gone, and Alina loses her abilities. She fakes her death, and she and Mal get married and rebuild the orphanage for Grisha children.

What are Alina Starkov’s amplifiers?

An amplifier boosts a Grisha’s magic and can be an animal, a person, or parts of them like bones, scales, or teeth. Usually, only the person who takes the life of the amplifier can use its power. Most Grisha can only use one amplifier, but Alina Starkov and Zoya Nazyalensky are exceptions. Alina’s amplifiers include Morozova’s Collar made from stag antlers, the Sea Whip’s Fetter from a sea creature, and Mal Oretsev, her friend from childhood who later becomes her husband.

Who are Alina Starkov’s romantic interests?

Alina and the Darkling: In the book “Shadow and Storm,” Alina is discovered to have Grisha abilities and is taken to the Little Palace by the Darkling. They share a special bond and are attracted to each other, being the only Grisha with their unique powers. They share a kiss, initiated by the Darkling in the book and by Alina in the show. 

However, Alina learns that he intends to use her to dominate the Fold and the nation, prompting her to escape. Despite his dark intentions, it is believed the Darkling had genuine feelings for Alina. In the end, Alina defeats him in “Ruin and Rising.”

Alina and Nikolai Lantsov: In “Siege and Storm,” Alina and her childhood friend Mal grow distant. Nikolai Lantsov, the king’s younger son, enters the picture. He falls for Alina and even asks her to marry him. 

Although they kiss publicly and Alina considers his proposal, she ultimately rejects him. Nikolai does not end up alone, as he later pairs with Zoya Nazyalensky.


Alina Starkov is not in “King of Scars,” but she returns in the sequel, “Rule of Wolves.” The Darkling is back in a new body and demands to meet Alina and Mal. He needs a drop of blood from his killer and a relative (it turns out Mal is related to him). After the meeting, Alina and Mal go back to their orphanage. 

They later go to Zoya’s crowning, who becomes a queen and a stronger Grisha, able to use multiple enhancers like Alina. In the end, Alina and Mal are content, taking care of their orphanage.

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