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.
Class and Privilege Theme Icon

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 a towering building ornately decorated with mother of pearl and jewels, Alina and her fellow Grisha enjoy luxuries like sugar, year-round fresh fruit, and warm clothing made of the finest materials. Surrounded by all this luxury, Alina begins to suspect that Ravka’s wars aren’t what’s hurting peasants and making them poorer. Rather, it’s the way that royalty and Grisha live so well at the expense of Ravka’s poor people. Put another way, the lower classes are so desperately poor because Ravka’s upper classes have made the choice to take everything they might possibly want, rather than helping everyone in the country.

Alina is also confused and disturbed by what she sees as the wealthy Grisha essentially fetishizing the peasant lifestyle, a lifestyle she’s lived firsthand and knows isn’t something to aspire to. The Darkling insists that Grisha uniforms be modeled after the kinds of clothes peasants wear—but their clothes aren’t peasant clothes at all, and are in fact made of the finest materials. And while Grisha ostensibly eat like peasants (daily breakfast consists of classic peasant fare like pickled fish and bread), Alina observes that there’s way more food on offer than any real peasant would see in their lifetime—and that’s before she takes the sugar (which is rationed for poor people) and fresh fruit into account. The clothing and culinary habits are intended to make the Grisha seem trustworthy and relatable to Ravka’s non-Grisha population, but having grown up poor, Alina knows that trying to emulate the lower classes doesn’t impress people who are actually poor. Rather, it simply makes the Grisha seem even more alien and out of touch with the people they’re ostensibly supposed to serve—and this, in turn, makes class divisions even worse, and increases the animosity the lower classes feel for wealthy Ravkans on the whole and Grisha specifically.

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Class and Privilege ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Class and Privilege appears in each chapter of Shadow and Bone. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Class and Privilege Quotes in Shadow and Bone

Below you will find the important quotes in Shadow and Bone related to the theme of Class and Privilege.
Chapter 1 Quotes

“He’s not natural,” said Eva, another assistant; […] “None of them are.”

Alexei sniffed. “Please spare us your superstition, Eva.”

“It was the Darkling who made the Shadow Fold to begin with.”

“That was hundreds of years ago!” protested Alexei. “And that Darkling was completely mad.”

“This one is just as bad.”

“Peasant,” Alexei said, and dismissed her with a wave. […]

I stayed silent. I was more a peasant than Eva, despite her superstitions.

Related Characters: Eva (speaker), Alexei (speaker), Alina Starkov (speaker), The Darkling
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 4 Quotes

The kefta was far too large. It felt soft and unfamiliar, the fur lining warm against my skin. I chewed my lip. It didn’t seem fair that oprichniki and Grisha wore corecloth while ordinary soldiers went without. Did our officers wear it, too?

Related Characters: Alina Starkov (speaker), Ivan
Related Symbols: Alina’s Kefta
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

Everywhere I looked, I saw marble and gold, soaring walls of white and palest blue, gleaming chandeliers, liveried footmen, polished parquet floors laid out in elaborate geometric designs. It wasn’t without beauty, but there was something exhausting about the extravagance of it all. I’d always assumed that Ravka’s hungry peasants and poorly supplied soldiers were the result of the Shadow Fold. But as we walked by a tree of jade embellished with diamond leaves, I wasn’t so sure.

Related Characters: Alina Starkov (speaker), The King
Page Number: 104
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

“The Darkling is very keen on the idea that we all eat hearty peasant fare. Saints forbid we forget we’re real Ravkans.”

I restrained a snort. The Little Palace was a storybook version of serf life, no more like the real Ravka than the glitter and gilt of the royal court. The Grisha seemed obsessed with emulating serf ways, right down to the clothes we wore beneath our kefta. But there was something a little silly about eating “hearty peasant fare” off porcelain plates, beneath a dome inlaid with real gold. And what peasant wouldn’t pick pastry over pickled fish?

Related Characters: Genya (speaker), Alina Starkov (speaker), The Darkling
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

The horse has speed. The bear has strength. The bird has wings. No creature has all of these gifts, and so the world is held in balance. Amplifiers are part of this balance, not a means of subverting it, and each Grisha would do well to remember this or risk the consequences.”

Another philosopher wrote, “Why can a Grisha possess but one amplifier? I will answer this question instead: What is infinite? The universe and the greed of men.

Related Characters: Alina Starkov, The Darkling
Page Number: 173
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 15 Quotes

“The Fold was no mistake.” Baghra dropped her hands and the swirling darkness around her melted away. “The only mistake was the volcra. He did not anticipate them, did not think to wonder what power of that magnitude might do to mere men.”

My stomach turned. “The volcra were men?”

“Oh yes. Generations ago. Farmers and their wives, their children. I warned him that there would be a price, but he didn’t listen. He was blinded by his hunger for power. Just as he is blinded now.”

Related Characters: Baghra (speaker), Alina Starkov (speaker), The Darkling
Page Number: 237
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 20 Quotes

“He plans to bring us peace.”

“At what price?” I asked desperately. “You know this is madness.”

“Did you know I had two brothers?” Ivan asked abruptly. The familiar smirk was gone from his handsome face. “Of course not. They weren’t born Grisha. They were soldiers, and they both died fighting the King’s wars. So did my father. So did my uncle.”

“I’m sorry.”

“Yes, everyone is sorry. The King is sorry. The Queen is sorry. I’m sorry. But only the Darkling will do something about it.”

Related Characters: Ivan (speaker), Alina Starkov (speaker), The Darkling, The King, The Queen
Page Number: 310
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 22 Quotes

This is the truth of him, I thought as I squinted in the dazzling light. Like calls to like. This was his soul made flesh, the truth of him laid bare in the blazing sun, shorn of mystery and shadow. This was the truth behind the handsome face and the miraculous powers, the truth that was the dead and empty space between the stars, a wasteland peopled by frightened monsters.

Related Characters: Alina Starkov (speaker), The Darkling
Page Number: 338
Explanation and Analysis:

They’re hungry for this, I realized. Even after they’ve seen what he can do, even after watching their own people die. The Darkling wasn’t just offering them an end to war, but an end to weakness. After all these long years of terror and suffering, he would give them something that had seemed permanently beyond their grasp: victory. And despite their fear, they loved him for it.

Related Characters: Alina Starkov (speaker), The Darkling, The King
Page Number: 342
Explanation and Analysis: