Shadow and Bone

by

Leigh Bardugo

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Shadow and Bone: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Ivan drags Alina to the Darkling’s black coach, which is surrounded by Etherealki guards. He tells her to get in, but Alina refuses: there’s been a mistake and she doesn’t want to go. Ivan hisses that soon, Fjerdans and Shu Han assassins will know who she is—and they’ll try to kill her. She must get to Os Alta, where she’ll be safe. Ivan shoves Alina into the coach. A Healer, a Corporalnik, and two oprichniki guards enter as well, and then the coach starts to move. The Healer cleans and mends Alina’s wounds, which itches but isn’t painful. When the woman is finished, Ivan tells her to give Alina her kefta and ushers her out of the coach.
Though Alina tries to stand up for herself, Ivan makes it abundantly clear that Alina is too valuable to him, the Darkling, and Ravka’s enemies to let her just do what she wants. Thus begins Alina’s new life, where she has very little control over where she goes and what she does. Getting to wear the Healer’s kefta at this point just makes Alina feel very out of place. Kefta are framed as very important garments, so wearing one feels inappropriate and highlights how out of her element Alina is.
Themes
Identity and Self-Knowledge Theme Icon
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality Theme Icon
Once the Healer is gone, Ivan explains that the kefta is made with Materialki corecloth and is bulletproof. An oprichniki explains that they all wear these kefta when they’re in the field. Alina thinks it doesn’t seem quite fair that Grisha soldiers have so much protection, while regular soldiers are on their own. Blinking back tears and studying the Darkling’s mark etched in the window—two overlapping circles to represent the sun in eclipse—Alina thinks this must be a hallucination. But Ivan and the Corporalnik are still staring at her, and they don’t stop. Alina snaps that she doesn’t do tricks and asks that they take a nap and leave her alone. The Corporalnik laughs and introduces himself as Fedyor.
As Ivan explains, getting to wear the kefta also highlights how valuable Alina is now: hours ago she had only a knife to defend herself, but now she has a bulletproof garment. And immediately, Alina realizes how unfair this system is. Soldiers like her, Alexei, and Mal die all the time because they’re not protected. The Grisha, because they’re considered important, are protected. This begins to illuminate the class differences at play in the novel—as well as who and what Ravka’s ruling class thinks is important.
Themes
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Quotes
Fedyor explains that it’s not safe to be traveling at night, but they must. The Shadow Fold, he explains, has been helping their enemies for years by weakening Ravka. But if Alina is a Sun Summoner, she can open the Fold or maybe destroy it—so Fjerda and the Shu Han will be itching to kill her. Alina just gapes at Fedyor. Ivan asks how Alina hid her power and if she was tested. Alina says she had no idea she had powers and she was tested—but she doesn’t add that nobody really cared about Duke Keramsov’s orphans and her dead parents couldn’t help her. Instead, she says she’s not Grisha. She doesn’t know what happened in the Fold or when the Darkling touched her. He did something when he touched her.
Fedyor continues to try to impress upon Alina just how important she is. As he tells it, she literally has the power to change the world and transform Ravka’s prospects overnight. In part because Alina comes from such humble beginnings, this sounds like total nonsense to her. In her estimation, nobody noticed her power earlier because, as an orphan of the border wars, she’s just one of many poor, faceless children. Nobody would expect one of those kids to be special, so they missed identifying her earlier.
Themes
Identity and Self-Knowledge Theme Icon
Desperation, Leadership, and Corruption Theme Icon
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Ivan explains that the Darkling is a living amplifier. He shows Alina his amplifier, a necklace of Sherborn bear claws. Amplifiers increase a Grisha’s power, and only the Darkling’s most favored Grisha have them—Fedyor, for instance, doesn’t have one. Alina closes her eyes and remembers how she felt before the Darkling touched her: small and clumsy. But when he touched her, it was like a call echoed through her and when she answered, she felt absolutely certain and powerful. Alina tries to recreate the feeling, but she can’t.
Interestingly, as Alina thinks about how she felt when the Darkling touched her, she doesn’t acknowledge how terrified she was of him. Instead, she focuses on how powerful he made her feel. The feeling of certainty she experienced suggests that Alina finally felt comfortable and sure of herself—something she’s never felt before, given her weakness and her perceived unattractiveness. So, the Darkling might be frightening, but perhaps Alina’s fear is worth facing if he can also make her feel so good.
Themes
Identity and Self-Knowledge Theme Icon
Gender, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Quotes
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The coach travels for days, day and night. Once, Alina wakes up to Fedyor watching her—and he asks who Mal is. Realizing she must’ve been talking in her sleep, Alina says Mal is the tracker who saved her on the Shadow Fold. Fedyor points out that Alina saved his life too, as well as many others’ lives. Alina is shocked, especially when Fedyor—a Heartrender, a killer—says that saving lives is an honor. He explains that he decided to become a Heartrender rather than a Healer because he thought he could save more lives that way.
That Alina is talking about Mal in her sleep reaffirms how much she loves and relies on him; in a stressful situation like this, she can’t ignore that he makes her feel safe. Fedyor’s willingness to speak openly with Alina may reflect his lower status among the Grisha. Recall that he doesn’t have an amplifier, which is a sign of a Grisha’s high standing with the Darkling.
Themes
Identity and Self-Knowledge Theme Icon
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Just then, Fedyor elbows Ivan—and a soldier opens the door to share that there’s a fallen tree ahead. Before the soldier can finish, someone shoots him in the back. Fedyor mutters that it’s the Fjerdans. He gives Alina a knife and leads everyone out of the coach to defend it. Terrified, Alina curls up on the floor of the coach—until two men with  yellow beards enter the coach, and one pulls Alina out. Alina races into the hills away from the man and the battle, but the man tackles her halfway up. Just as the man pins Alina, the Darkling and some of his soldiers ride up on horseback. The Darkling claps his hand, sending tendrils of darkness to blind the attackers; Grisha take the opportunity to kill the men.
Alina sees firsthand how much danger she’s in, now that her power has been discovered. When the Darkling rides up at just the right moment, it’s convenient—but it also suggests that the Darkling has been watching, waiting, and expecting something like this to happen. This establishes him as someone who more or less skillfully makes plans and then is able to execute them. He also works well with the other Grisha, helping them do their jobs—something that makes him look like a team player.
Themes
Desperation, Leadership, and Corruption Theme Icon
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Alina shouts and the Darkling turns toward her. Her Fjerdan attacker, though blinded, says he can still kill Alina. The Darkling attempts to bargain with the man, but just as the man brings his knife down toward Alina, Alina hears a huge cracking sound. She opens her eyes and can’t even scream: the man has been cut in half. Crawling backwards, Alina screams until the Darkling helps her up and walks her to his horse. He tells Ivan that he’s taking 20 riders, and Alina will ride with him.
This is an extremely traumatic experience for Alina. Not only did she almost lose her life; she also witnessed the Darkling brutally murder her would-be assassin. The Darkling looks simultaneously terrifying and like a savior. He expresses no emotion or thought at all about the fact that he just killed someone—so despite having saved Alina’s life, he also looks scary and intimidating himself.
Themes
Gender, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
As the coach rolls away—a decoy—Alina observes that the Darkling does make mistakes. Smiling, he admits he infrequently makes mistakes. As he helps Alina onto the horse in front of him, he observes that she’s shaking. Alina offers that she’s not used to assassination attempts, and she can’t tell if the Darkling is joking when he says he hardly notices anymore. She’s also extremely disturbed by what he did to the Fjerdan. But he takes off a glove and puts a hand on the back of her neck, filling her with that feeling of power and certainty. Alina falls asleep.
Alina is afraid and intimidated. The Darkling just killed someone right in front of her, and at this point, that weighs more heavily on her than the fact that he also saved her. So it reads as somewhat uncomfortable when, rather than give her space, he invades her space and touches her with his bare hand to calm her down. Falling asleep and getting to escape is a welcome change for Alina, though, so she doesn’t necessarily read this as a violation.
Themes
Gender, Sex, and Power Theme Icon