Shadow and Bone

by

Leigh Bardugo

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Themes and Colors
Identity and Self-Knowledge Theme Icon
Desperation, Leadership, and Corruption Theme Icon
Class and Privilege Theme Icon
Gender, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Greed vs. Mercy Theme Icon
Conformity vs. Individuality Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Shadow and Bone, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Identity and Self-Knowledge

Shadow and Bone tells the story of Alina, a teenage military mapmaker in the fictional land of Ravka. Alina has never felt like she fits in: she believes she’s not a Grisha (a person who can perform a sort of magic), but she’s also not very good at anything. So, it’s a shock to everyone when it’s revealed that Alina is actually a Grisha with a rare and powerful talent: she’s a Sun Summoner…

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Desperation, Leadership, and Corruption

While Alina’s process of self-discovery takes center stage in Shadow and Bone, the novel also explores the consequences of ineffective, uncaring political leaders—and how such a government can breed apathy, desperation, and political radicalism. Ravka is a country that, hundreds of years before the novel’s present, was divided in two by the Shadow Fold, a desolate area of complete darkness inhabited by nightmarish monsters. This division threatens to permanently divide the country…

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Class and Privilege

The fictional country of Ravka is one with major differences between its lower-class and upper-class residents. Teenaged Alina, the novel’s protagonist, is an orphan who grew up in near poverty. In her experience, peasant life isn’t easy or straightforward: it’s plagued by hunger, cold, and insecurity. It’s a shock for her, then, once she’s identified as Grisha, to be swept away to the Little Palace in Ravka’s capital city, Os Alta. There, in…

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Gender, Sex, and Power

As Alina becomes increasingly attracted to the Darkling during her time at the Little Palace, her friend Genya dispenses a chilling warning: to beware of powerful men. Shadow and Bone plays close attention to how men in positions of power, such as the King and the Darkling, abuse their stations to manipulate women by using either the threat or the promise of love, attention, prestige, or sex. The King, Alina learns within hours of arriving…

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Greed vs. Mercy

In many ways, Shadow and Bone is a classic good versus evil story: protagonist Alina must save her country from the Darkling, an evil villain who, she later discovers, plans to threaten everyone in Ravka with total darkness if they don’t give in to him. As it becomes clear that the Darkling is an antagonist rather than a savior, Shadow and Bone proposes that it’s his greed, ruthlessness, and inability to show respect and…

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Conformity vs. Individuality

Shadow and Bone explores how people handle both the immense pressure to fit in and the desire to stand out and be special. Alina, the novel’s protagonist, has never felt like she fits in anywhere. She’s an orphan, is a weak and uncoordinated soldier, and a poor mapmaker, so she doesn’t feel like she fits in in the army. And when it’s discovered that she’s actually a powerful Grisha (a person who performs a…

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