Shadow and Bone


Leigh Bardugo

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Gender, Sex, and Power Theme Analysis

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.
Gender, Sex, and Power Theme Icon

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 at the Little Palace, is someone to avoid: female Grisha are warned to lock their rooms at night, as he’s known for entering rooms and assaulting women. Genya, however, isn’t able to protect herself. She explains that most female servants such as herself have had to submit to the King’s sexual advances. Agreeing to sleep with the King is, in this context, something Genya must put up with in order to keep her job, though she sarcastically acknowledges that she got some pretty jewelry out of the deal. Genya still maintains that she has no choice but to submit to the King—and, potentially, a lot to lose by refusing him.

Rather than raping or assaulting women, the Darkling tricks Alina into falling in love with him, his goal being to take Alina’s power for himself and effectively enslave her. It’s only after Alina escapes the Little Palace that she realizes that every kiss or touch from the Darkling was carefully planned to keep her focused on the possibility of (at the time, wanted) romance and sex, thereby distracting her from asking practical questions that might have helped her see the Darkling’s manipulation for what it was. Ultimately, Shadow and Bone acknowledges that there may be benefits for women who do give in to powerful men’s advances. But those benefits aren’t always as clear-cut as they might seem at first—and indeed, perhaps aren’t benefits at all.

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Gender, Sex, and Power ThemeTracker

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

Below you will find the important quotes in Shadow and Bone related to the theme of Gender, Sex, and Power.
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 4 Quotes

I pulled the kefta tighter around me, feeling suddenly cold. I remembered the surety that had flooded through me with the Darkling’s touch, and that strangely familiar sensation of a call echoing through me, a call that demanded an answer. It had been frightening, but exhilarating, too. In that moment, all my doubt and fear had been replaced by a kind of absolute certainty. I was no one, a refugee from an unnamed village, a scrawny clumsy girl hurtling alone through the gathering dark. But when the Darkling had closed his fingers around my wrist, I’d felt different, like something more.

Related Characters: Alina Starkov (speaker), The Darkling
Related Symbols: Alina’s Kefta
Page Number: 63-64
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

“My great-great-great-grandfather was the Black Heretic, the Darkling who created the Shadow Fold. It was a mistake, an experiment born of his greed, maybe his evil. I don’t know. But every Darkling since has tried to undo the damage he did to our country, and I’m no different.” He turned to me then, his expression serious, the firelight playing over the perfect planes of his features. “I’ve spent my life searching for a way to make things right. You’re the first glimmer of hope I’ve had in a long time.”


Related Characters: The Darkling (speaker), Alina Starkov (speaker), Baghra
Page Number: 81
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

“I…If it would be alright, I’d prefer to have blue robes, Summoners’ blue.”

“Alina!” exclaimed Genya, clearly horrified.

But the Darkling held up a hand to silence her. “Why?” he asked, his expression unreadable.

“I already feel like I don’t belong here. I think it might be easier if I weren’t…singled out.”

“Are you so anxious to be like everyone else?”

My chin lifted. “I just don’t want to be more conspicuous than I already am.”

The Darkling looked at me for a long moment. I wasn’t sure if he was thinking over what I’d said or trying to intimidate me, but I gritted my teeth and returned his gaze.

Abruptly, he nodded. “As you wish,” he said. “Your kefta will be blue.”

Related Characters: Alina Starkov (speaker), Genya (speaker), The Darkling (speaker)
Related Symbols: Alina’s Kefta
Page Number: 110-11
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

“Black,” Genya whispered.

His color. What did it mean?

“Look!” she gasped.

The neckline of the gown was laced with a black velvet ribbon, and from it hung a small golden charm: the sun in eclipse, the Darkling’s symbol.

I bit my lip. This time, the Darkling had chosen to set me apart, and there was nothing I could do about it. I felt a little jab of resentment, but it was drowned by excitement. Had he chosen these colors for me before or after the night by the lake? Would he regret seeing me in them tonight?

I couldn’t think about that now. Unless I wanted to go to the ball naked, I didn’t have a lot of options.

Related Characters: Genya (speaker), Alina Starkov (speaker), The Darkling
Related Symbols: Alina’s Kefta
Page Number: 206
Explanation and Analysis:

“Alina, the Darkling doesn’t notice most of us. We’re moments he’ll forget in his long life. And I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing. Just…be careful.”

I stared at her, baffled. “Of what?”

“Of powerful men.”

“Genya,” I asked before I could lose my nerve, “what happened between you and the King?”

She examined the toes of her satin slippers. “The King has his way with lots of servants,” she said.

Related Characters: Genya (speaker), Alina Starkov (speaker), The Darkling, The King
Related Symbols: Alina’s Kefta
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:

If the Darkling came to my room tonight, what would it mean? The idea of being his sent a little jolt through me. I didn’t think he was in love with me and I had no idea what I felt for him, but he wanted me, and maybe that was enough.

I shook my head, trying to make sense of everything. The Darkling’s men had found the stag. I should be thinking about that, […] but all I could think about was his hands on my hips, his lips on my neck, the lean, hard feel of him in the dark.

Related Characters: Alina Starkov (speaker), The Darkling
Page Number: 225
Explanation and Analysis:

“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

I’d wanted so badly to belong somewhere, anywhere. I’d been so eager to please him, so proud to keep his secrets. But I’d never bothered to question what he might really want, what his true motives might be. I’d been too busy imagining myself by his side, the savior of Ravka, most treasured, most desired, like some kind of queen. I’d made it so easy for him.

Related Characters: Alina Starkov (speaker), Baghra, The Darkling
Page Number: 240
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 22 Quotes

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: