Shadow and Bone

by

Leigh Bardugo

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Malyen “Mal” Oretsov Character Analysis

Mal is Alina’s childhood best friend and current love interest. He’s a tracker in the First Army, and Alina believes he’s totally out of reach: he’s handsome, popular, and good at what he does, while she is none of those things. Though Alina believes Mal doesn’t love her, when they’re alone—or in danger—Mal speaks fondly of their childhoods spent together and mentions going to “their meadow,” a place they felt connected and safe as children. Mal and Alina are separated when Alina’s Grisha powers are discovered, and they lose contact for several months. Alina believes Mal doesn’t love her, as he never responds to any of her letters. However, when Alina reconnects with Mal, she learns that he never got them—and that he’s jealous of the Darkling and the Darkling’s relationship with Alina. Mal helps Alina when she escapes from the Little Palace by deserting his unit, which was initially hunting Morozova’s stag and was then tasked with finding Alina. Traveling together, Mal and Alina repair their relationship and ultimately admit their love for each other. Though Mal promises to kill Alina to prevent the Darkling from enslaving her, he ultimately refuses to do so. Nevertheless, Alina manages to rescue Mal, and the two escape together across the True Sea.

Malyen “Mal” Oretsov Quotes in Shadow and Bone

The Shadow and Bone quotes below are all either spoken by Malyen “Mal” Oretsov or refer to Malyen “Mal” Oretsov. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Identity and Self-Knowledge Theme Icon
).
Chapter 3 Quotes

The side of the Darkling’s mouth twitched, as if he were repressing a smile. His eyes slid over me from head to toe and back again. I felt like something strange and shiny, a curiosity that had washed up on a lake shore, that he might kick aside with his boot.

Related Characters: Alina Starkov (speaker), The Darkling, Malyen “Mal” Oretsov
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

I closed my eyes, feeling tears slide down my cheeks, and I reached out to the thing within me that I’d kept hidden for so long. I’m sorry, I whispered to it.

I’m sorry I left you so long in the dark.

I’m sorry, but I’m ready now.

I called and the light answered. […] It surrounded me, blazing with heat, more powerful and more pure than ever before because it was all mine. I wanted to laugh, to sing, to shout. At last, there was something that belonged wholly and completely to me.

Related Characters: Alina Starkov (speaker), Baghra, The Darkling, Malyen “Mal” Oretsov
Page Number: 182
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

Suddenly, lots of things seemed easy. I wasn’t tired all the time or winded when I climbed the stairs. I slept deeply and dreamlessly every night and woke refreshed. Food was a revelation: bowls of porridge heaped with sugar and cream, plates of skate fried in butter, fat plums and hothouse peaches, the clear and bitter taste of kvas. It was as if that moment in Baghra’s cottage was my first full breath and I had awakened into a new life.

Related Characters: Alina Starkov (speaker), Baghra, Malyen “Mal” Oretsov
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

“Just admit it,” he sneered. “He owns you.”

“He owns you, too, Mal,” I lashed back. “He owns us all.”

Related Characters: Malyen “Mal” Oretsov (speaker), Alina Starkov (speaker), The Darkling, The King
Related Symbols: Alina’s Kefta
Page Number: 231
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 18 Quotes

He wasn’t at all shocked to hear of the contempt with which most Grisha regarded the King. Apparently, the trackers had been grumbling more and more loudly amongst themselves about the King’s incompetence.

“The Fjerdans have a breech-loading rifle that can fire twenty-eight rounds per minute. Our soldiers should have them, too. If the King could be bothered to take an interest in the First Army, we wouldn’t be so dependent on the Grisha. But it’ll never happen,” he told me. Then he muttered, “We all know who’s running the country.”

Related Characters: Alina Starkov (speaker), Malyen “Mal” Oretsov (speaker), The Darkling, The King
Page Number: 283
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 21 Quotes

Dimly, I’d been aware that I still had a shard of the blue cup in my hand, that it was digging into my palm, but I didn’t want to let go.

When he finally set me down and ambled off to the kitchen to find his lunch, I had stood there, my palm dripping blood, my head still spinning, knowing that everything had changed.

Ana Kuya had scolded me for getting blood on the clean kitchen floor. She’d bandaged my hand and told me it would heal. But I knew it would just go on hurting.

Related Characters: Alina Starkov (speaker), Malyen “Mal” Oretsov, Ana Kuya, The Darkling
Page Number: 332
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 22 Quotes

I’d thought the stag was haunting me, a reminder of my failure and the price my weakness would exact. But I was wrong.

The stag had been showing me my strength—not just the price of mercy but the power it bestowed. And mercy was something the Darkling would never understand.

I had spared the stag’s life. The power of that life belonged to me as surely as it belonged to the man who had taken it.

Related Characters: Alina Starkov (speaker), The Darkling, Malyen “Mal” Oretsov
Page Number: 338
Explanation and Analysis:

I fumbled with the tiny black buttons of the kefta. There seemed to be a thousand of them. When the silk finally slid over my shoulders and pooled at my feet, I felt a great burden lift from me.

Related Characters: Alina Starkov (speaker), Malyen “Mal” Oretsov, The Darkling
Related Symbols: Alina’s Kefta
Page Number: 351
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Shadow and Bone LitChart as a printable PDF.
Shadow and Bone PDF

Malyen “Mal” Oretsov Character Timeline in Shadow and Bone

The timeline below shows where the character Malyen “Mal” Oretsov appears in Shadow and Bone. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Before
Desperation, Leadership, and Corruption Theme Icon
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
...man in purple, however, says the children are listening—so Ana Kuya calls for Alina and Mal to come downstairs. When asked, Mal blurts that he thinks the examiners are witches. Angry,... (full context)
Identity and Self-Knowledge Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality Theme Icon
The man in purple kneels before Alina and Mal. He explains that they’re here to test the children to see whether they can master... (full context)
Chapter 1
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As Alina tries to tell herself crossing the Fold will be fine, Mal whispers in her ear that she can’t faint in the road. Alina says she has... (full context)
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...Alina than just fear of crossing the Fold. She used to be able to tell Mal anything, but she can’t anymore, so she says nothing about how uneasy she is. He... (full context)
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Suddenly, Mal snatches Alina and jerks her out of the road—a big black coach rushes past. The... (full context)
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...this. Alina says nothing; she’s more of a peasant than Eva, but neither she nor Mal talk about their youth in an orphanage. (full context)
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Across the hall, Mal is entertaining his fellow trackers. When Alexei shakes his head at the idea that Mal... (full context)
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As they watch Dubrov and Mikhael drink, Alina asks Mal what he’s doing here—he used to visit her all the time, but he hasn’t in... (full context)
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Mikhael ends the moment by shouting for Mal. As Mal jogs away, he asks for luck. Alina wishes him luck, but she wishes... (full context)
Chapter 2
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...two Grisha Etherealki at the front; they control winds and will fill the sandskiff’s sails. Mal and the trackers are on the other side of the skiff, armed with rifles. At... (full context)
Identity and Self-Knowledge Theme Icon
Desperation, Leadership, and Corruption Theme Icon
...and carries him away. Alina screams for him, which just attracts another volcra to her. Mal shoots at it, but the volcra rushes at Mal and Alina. Alina stabs a knife... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...at the sky—the skiff is clearly leaving the Fold. Remembering the attack and afraid for Mal, she sits up and comes face to face with a rifle barrel. The soldier tells... (full context)
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...In the gathering crowd, Alina catches sight of the pretty Grisha girl who stared at Mal. The girl is clearly whispering about Alina, so Alina gives her a dirty look. (full context)
Identity and Self-Knowledge Theme Icon
...Raevsky’s word, the survivors from the sandskiff enter the tent—including the Senior Cartographer, Mikhael, and Mal. Alina wants to run to him, suddenly elated. But then, the Darkling looks at Alina... (full context)
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...volcra carry Alexei off. When he says he saw the volcra go for Alina and Mal, Alina angrily interjects and asks why the Senior Cartographer didn’t step in to help—Alexei might... (full context)
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...the aisle, ignoring her protests that she’s just a mapmaker. Alina looks back and meets Mal’s eyes. She wants to run to him, but she can’t. (full context)
Chapter 4
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 5
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...They’ll probably kill her, and she didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye to Mal. As she imagines saying goodbye to Mal and apologizing for falling in love with him,... (full context)
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The party reaches Os Alta two days later. Alina and Mal trained for the military nearby, but they never visited. As they ride through the first... (full context)
Chapter 6
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Alina dreams that she’s in Keramzin, looking for Mal. When she opens a bedroom, there’s blood everywhere—and a volcra with the Darkling’s gray eyes.... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...if this is a dream. Maybe she’ll wake up tomorrow and be able to tell Mal about it. (full context)
Chapter 8
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...shabby, which makes Alina feel bad. She wonders if she can have guests and if Mal could maybe visit, but Genya drags her along. Genya hurries Alina past the Corporalki practice... (full context)
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...didn’t discover her talent years ago—the Shadow Fold might already be destroyed, and she and Mal probably would’ve forgotten each other. When the kids finish their education, Genya explains, they join... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...that she got the scar in Keramzin. Out of nowhere, the Darkling asks if the tracker—Mal—is also an orphan, and if he’s any good. Alina says, truthfully, that the joke at... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...book in a bottom drawer and thinks about the Documents Tent—and how much she misses Mal. She’s been writing him weekly, but he hasn’t responded. (full context)
Chapter 11
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...worse, but they do, on the day that the black-haired Grisha who seemed interested in Mal arrives. Marie groans and mutters that her name is Zoya; she’s a year older and... (full context)
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...Alina’s dark circles, but Alina refuses and asks if Genya could try to track down Mal with her Grand Palace connections (he’s not dead, since he’s not on the casualty lists).... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...the new kefta, a servant appears and gives her a note. It’s Genya’s update on Mal: he’s in Tsibeya and is fine, so Alina can write to his regiment. Alina is... (full context)
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...has the opportunity to be the Darkling’s “pet.” Alina flushes, but she won’t bring up Mal. Instead, she stands up and spits that this is a waste of time. Baghra insists... (full context)
Identity and Self-Knowledge Theme Icon
...she just spoke the truth—and she remembers what happened with the Grisha Examiners. She remembers Mal calling for her as the woman in red, an amplifier herself, gripped Alina’s wrist. Alina... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...might be illegitimate—and Alina assures Genya that David will come around soon. Alina never mentions Mal to Genya. (full context)
Chapter 14
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Alina grabs a champagne flute and leans against a pillar. She’s hot, upset, and misses Mal. People stare as Genya floats across the room to Alina to say that it’s time... (full context)
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...wanting to see the Darkling. But soldiers come out the doors—and one of them is Mal. Alina races to him and throws her arms around him, and he tells the soldiers... (full context)
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Mal pulls Alina’s arms away and says he came to report to Alina’s “master”; he’s the... (full context)
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Mal asks if Alina is happy here, with the Darkling—it’s clear to him that the Darkling... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...room. She rubs the scar on her palm and whispers “come back,” but she knows Mal won’t. After a while, Alina realizes someone is at the door. She opens it to... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...the most powerful man in Ravka, and everyone from the First Army to trackers like Mal will be after her. And what will she do in a strange land where she... (full context)
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...Alina knows Baghra is right, and she knows she spoke the truth when she told Mal that the Darkling owns all of them. But part of her wants to belong to... (full context)
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...this must be a trick. But when Alina turns, she realizes there’s someone behind her: Mal. (full context)
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Silently, Mal leads Alina back through the stream and then deeper into the woods. Alina wants to... (full context)
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In a hard tone, Mal asks why Alina ran from the Little Palace and the Darkling. Alina doesn’t know where... (full context)
Chapter 17
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Mal lets Alina sleep all night. In the morning, he gives her dried meat and tells... (full context)
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Greed vs. Mercy Theme Icon
That evening, Mal says they’re going north to Tsibeya: they’re going to catch the stag before the Darkling... (full context)
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Alina and Mal need new supplies before they head further north, so they approach a small village. Mal... (full context)
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Mal drags Alina into an alley and says they can’t take risks, but Alina is too... (full context)
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The man hits Mal in the head with his knife handle, causing Mal to bleed. Alina shoots light into... (full context)
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Suddenly grim, Mal says the Darkling is smart—and now he’ll know Alina didn’t head straight for the Fold.... (full context)
Chapter 18
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The further north Mal and Alina travel, the less it looks like spring. But Mal and Alina’s relationship is... (full context)
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As they get closer to an outpost, Mal gets more anxious, as he sees signs of other people. Then, one morning, he wakes... (full context)
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Alina summons some warm light in her hands, arguing with Mal that nobody will see them and they’re both freezing. Mal puts his fingers in the... (full context)
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...Could the Darkling use the Fold to end the border wars that orphaned Alina and Mal in the first place? Would that make Ravka safe? But Alina reminds herself that the... (full context)
Chapter 19
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Alina and Mal stay awake all night, bundled in furs and warmed by Alina’s light. Everything is white... (full context)
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Mal apologizes for what he said at the Little Palace and for “everything else.” He explains... (full context)
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...sees movement in the corner of her eye—Morozova’s herd. The stag is staring at Alina. Mal pulls out his bow but tells Alina she’ll have to kill it, but Alina asks... (full context)
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...other deer flee as oprichniki and Grisha appear out of the trees—along with the Darkling. Mal tries to shoot the stag, but a Squaller sends wind to knock the arrow off... (full context)
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Alina knows what has to happen: she tells Mal that it’s time. But though Mal picks up his knife, he says he can’t do... (full context)
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...and like she’s drowning. Finally, the Darkling releases Alina and tells the oprichniki to put Mal in chains. They’ll leave for the Fold in the morning, where they’ll meet the Apparat.... (full context)
Chapter 20
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The Darkling and his Grisha force Alina and Mal to march an hour, until they reach a campsite. Mal’s guards shove him into a... (full context)
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...When Alina wakes, a Heartrender marches her to the Darkling and the horses. Oprichniki bring Mal a minute later. Ivan suggests they drag Mal, but the Darkling says ominously that he... (full context)
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...with Ivan. Though Ivan threatens to make her pass out if she keeps asking about Mal, Alina doesn’t stop asking. Every night, Alina dreams of staring into the stag’s eyes. His... (full context)
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Alina trembles—is Mal actually still alive, or is the Darkling just manipulating her? She looks out the window... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...he even wants her to talk, since he won’t listen anyway. The Darkling brings up Mal, and Alina knows the Darkling will use Mal to gain power over her. But knowing... (full context)
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...of betraying him, says he knows she’s not sorry, and tells her to beg for Mal’s life. (full context)
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Desperately, Alina says that she’ll try to kill herself if the Darkling doesn’t show Mal mercy. The Darkling kisses Alina and she lets him—she hates the kiss and the Darkling,... (full context)
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...and the guard allows Ivan and Alina to enter. At the bottom of rickety stairs, Mal is in a cell. Ivan says Alina has the night and leaves them. Alina tells... (full context)
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Alina tells Mal about how, one day when she was 15, she’d been mending a cup in the... (full context)
Chapter 22
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Then, at the Darkling’s signal, Ivan throws Mal over the skiff’s railing. Alina screams and punches Ivan, stunning him. The Darkling’s power tells... (full context)
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...idea of mercy. Alina waves her hand, splitting the skiff in half. Then she grabs Mal and they race for West Ravka in a dome of light. They hide in an... (full context)
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Mal plucks a gold hairpin from Alina’s hair; he’ll use it to buy clothes. Alina’s heart... (full context)
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Mal pulls out a scarf to cover Morozova’s collar. He says they’ll figure out how to... (full context)
After
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Alina and Mal stand at the railing of the ship every day. The Kerch crew calls them fentomen,... (full context)
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Mal holds Alina tight every night, as she constantly has nightmares—she can hear the screaming people... (full context)