'Shadow and Bone' Explained: What Is the Fold, Who Are the Shu and All Your Other Questions Answered

Shadow and Bone is Netflix's latest big fantasy series, based on the books of Leigh Bardugo. The show introduces much of the lore from the novels, but there are so many unfamiliar terms used in the first few episodes that it can be difficult to understand all the details.

We have taken some of the most common questions viewers have asked and answered them below. Read on for everything you need to know about the Fold, the Grisha, the Shu, the Sun Summoner and more.

What is the Fold in 'Shadow and Bone'?

Known in the book as the Shadow Fold or the Unsea, the Fold is a strip of darkness that divides the country of Ravka, which is based on Tsarist Russia. Created by the Darkling many years before the events of the show, the Fold is inhabited by monsters such as the flesh-eating Volcra.

Bardugo told Entertainment Weekly: "In most fantasy, darkness is metaphorical; it's just a way of talking about evil. I wanted to take something figurative and make it literal."

In the show, we see characters try to cross the Fold—and discover that Alina's Sun Summoner powers may be the key to destroying it once and for all.

What is a Sun Summoner?

Alina realises that she has powers in the first episode, when she emits a burst of light that wards off the Volcra during a supply run across the Fold.

Her light-bringing abilities are the opposite of the Darkling's Shadow Summoner powers, which created the Fold. As such, she may have the power to destroy it and reunite the two sides of Ravka.

In Bardugo's later books, Alina becomes much more powerful and comes to be seen as the savior of Ravka. Her abilities increase thanks to the use of objects known as amplifiers. We have seen one of these in the show so far—the antlers that are melded into her body.

Who is the Darkling?

darkling shadow and bone
Ben Barnes as the Darkling in 'Shadow and Bone.' Netflix

In one of the major twists of the first season of Shadow and Bone, we learn the true identity of General Kirigan. At first, he tells Aline that he is descended from the Darkling, or Dark Heretic, the man who created the Fold.

However, he later reveals that he is in fact the Darkling. Centuries ago in the lore of the show, he helped the king of Ravka win a war. This made the king wary of the power of his people, the Grisha, which led him to order a purge of them.

To fight back, the Darkling found a spell to make the soldiers submit to him, but it went badly wrong. It created the Fold and turned everyone who lived there into Volcra.

It is his powerful magic that has kept him young all these centuries—the more powerful a Grisha is, the longer they live.

Who are the Grisha?

The Grisha are a group of people with the ability to control and manipulate matter—a power known as Small Science. This is in contrast to Merzost, a much more dangerous magic that creates something from nothing. It is Merzost that allowed the Darkling to create the Fold. In the show, the Grisha's abilities lead some to call them witches.

Who are the Shu?

One thing that might confuse people new to the world of Shadow and Bone is why the people of Ravka do not just go around the Fold rather than taking the dangerous route through it. Part of the reason is the Shu.

The country of Shu Han is to the south of Ravka and is modeled on China and Mongolia. Its people are called the Shu and are known for their golden eyes and black hair, and for living in a country with perpetual summer.

The Shu have been at war with Ravka for centuries and have a particular hatred of people like the Grisha who have powers. As a result, the border between them is closed, meaning Ravkans cannot pass the Fold to the south.

The Shadow and Bone show makes a significant change from the books related to the Shu. In the Netflix series, Alina is born of a Shu mother and a Ravkan father, suggesting she might be the person to bring peace to the two enemies.

Is Mal a Grisha?

Some viewers think there is more to the tracker Malyen Oretsev, Alina's childhood friend. Although we do not see him use Small Science, the question of whether or not he is a Grisha is never answered.

Most people in the orphanage where Mal and Alina grew up were tested for their abilities, but the two friends avoided it so they would not be separated.

The first episode drops hints that he might be a Grisha. Alina is holding his hand when her powers first manifest, and they fade as soon as she lets go. This suggests he could have amplification powers. This is confirmed in the books, but could play out differently in a potential Season 2 of the show.

Shadow and Bone is streaming now on Netflix.