‘Shadow And Bone’ Season 1 Recap: What Is The Sun Summoner & More Questions Answered

Adapted from Leigh Bardugo’s fantasy novels, the Netflix series “Shadow and Bone” Season 1 was one of the biggest hits of 2022. Audiences across readers and non-readers gave the show much love, and now we’re set for season 2. The Grishaverse consists of a trilogy and two duologies that span a few years. Season 1 of the show combines the “Six of Crows” duology by incorporating the main characters into the story of Alina Starkov. An eternal villain, a young and naive protagonist, a love triangle, a found family that will leave you warm in the core, and much more: let’s talk all things “Shadow and Bone” season 1.


Spoilers Ahead

‘Shadow And Bone’ Season 1: Recap – What Happens In The First Season?

The show begins with a man, who we later find out is the “Darkling,” aka General Kirigan, narrating a story of the past about a man called the Black Heretic who created a “Shadow Fold” centuries ago, which only the powerful ‘Sun Summoner’ can destroy, a kind of Grisha that has never come around. The Heretic could summon shadows, and the ‘Sun Summoner’ would be able to gather the power of the Sun. The Grisha are a kind of people in Ravka who are able to perform magic and have unique sets of powers from birth. Alina Starkov is a cartographer in the first Army of Ravka and is an orphan amongst many others, who lost her parents in ‘the fold.’ She has a best friend (sure, tell yourself that) named Mal, a tracker in the same unit as her. They’ve been apart a little while, and we see them reunite. They grew up in the orphanage together. Along with dividing Ravka itself, the Fold is guarded by the North, who want the Grisha dead, and the south guards its mountains, so the only way to the other side is through the Fold. Mal gets called up to cross the Fold to protect the Grisha, and Alina can’t bear to be separated from him again. She decides to burn some important maps and, unfortunately, gets her whole team onboard the skiff (basically a sand ship) too.


On the other side of Ketterdam, on the island of Kerch, a girl named Inej gives Kaz Brekker insight about a job that is offering a million Kruge (yeah, it’s a lot of money). Kaz owns the Crow club and is seemingly making his money off of odd jobs in a crime ridden city. Inej is from the Menagerie (a brothel), and Kaz is trying to pay her indenture off because her knife skills and stealth are very useful to him. Along with them, there is gunman Jesper, who also happens to be the funny and charming man of the lot. The job that’s paying the million Kruge requires them to cross the Fold as well. This is something that not just anybody can do, so Kaz needs to find a way to take his crew across the Fold to get the job.

Elsewhere, Mal doesn’t like the idea of Alina going on the skiff with them, but before he can manhandle her off it, they close the doors. A Squaler Grisha helps push the skiff across the Fold, and there is only one lantern on board, which doesn’t attract the ‘Volcra.’ The Volcra are flying creatures of the shadow fold who feast on human flesh. When the lantern goes off accidentally, one of the newcomers on board decides to defy the order and lights a lantern. He is immediately picked up by the Volcra, and the ship is in utter mayhem. Everything is chaos. One of the cartographers, Alexi, jumps off the skiff and runs across the Fold. Mal almost gets taken by one of the Volcra, but before it takes him away, Alina manages to shoot it. When she’s checking on Mal, she gets lifted up before everything turns white. Some sort of power obliterates the Volcra and allows the skiff to pass through the Fold even with all the damage caused.


Alexi, on the other hand, crossed on foot and was taken hostage by a man named Dreesen. He is the man who is offering one million Kruge for whatever it is that destroyed the Volcra. Alexi knows what it is but isn’t able to talk because of the trauma of the event. Dreesen needs a Heartrender (Grisha, who can basically play with your heart rate and literally suck the air out of your lungs) to get information out of Alexi. Kaz takes up this opportunity and gets Dreesen the heartrender. She essentially hypnotises Alexi to tell them exactly what he saw, and Alexi claims Alina is the Sun Summoner who saved them all. Dreesen kills Alexi so that the people in the room can remain the only ones who know about Alina on this side of the world. Kaz needs to find a way across the Fold before sunrise, or the job goes to a thug named Pekka Rollins.

To find out if a child has powers, the Grisha would perform a test on all children around the age of eleven. This test is not conducted on children who are hurt. During the test at the orphanage, Mal had been injured, so Alina ran and hid with him so that they could stay together. Later on, Alina was tested anyway, but she inflicted pain on herself as a ‘cheat code’ that would prevent them from knowing if she were a Grisha or not. Alina never knew she had powers, but she was only ever afraid of being separated from Mal. In the present day, the darkling asks the crew of the skiff what happened, and nobody can answer. Finally, he asks Zoya—who we’ll talk about shortly—to relay the events of the day. She tells him it was Alina who saved them. The general then performs the test on Alina, and it turns out she is, in fact, a ‘Sun Summoner.’ This means that Mal and Alina will now be separated, as Alina will go to the Little Palace, where the Grisha train and live. Alina gets sent off with some other Grisha, but they get ambushed by the Fjerdan people. Now, the Fjerdans are in the icy North and want to kill the Grisha. They dedicate their lives to and worship Djel. They believe the Grisha are unnatural witches who are dangerous. So, they have the drüskelle, special soldiers, to hunt and kill Grisha. Fortunately for Alina, being super important and all, General Kirigan himself saves her life and dictates that she ride with him for safety. Alina is frightened by the general but equally intrigued. Kirigan tells Alina that she could, with training, destroy the fold one day. As a person who is half Shu, Alina has lived all her life in hate and fear. Alina doesn’t want anything to do with the Fold. Mal wants to go save Alina, but if he leaves the troop, he would be regarded as a deserter.


At the Little Palace, Alina has a room of her own for the first time. She has ladies in waiting and a tailor Grisha who is here to fix her up for the king, named Genya. Genya and Alina become friends quite quickly, and although Alina is mostly well-treated at the Little Palace, there are some people who still do not appreciate her being of the Shu race. Genya is almost as rare a type of Grisha as Alina, but of course not remotely as important. In the meantime, in Ketterdam, Kaz and Inej find a way into the little palace through a Grisha named Nina Zenek. As most have discovered, Nina grew up in the Little Palace. If Kaz can find Nina, he has half his task sorted out. Nina is a radical who believes that Grisha should be allowed to choose if they should serve the king or do what they like with their lives. Now, she lives as a free woman, picking up odd jobs to survive.

Unfortunately, Nina gets found by some drüskelle and is kidnapped by them on a ship to face trial in Fjerda. This means Kaz and his crew are now back to square one. This doesn’t stop him from continuing his hunt for a way across the Fold. Kaz is keen on getting the one million Kruge. At the Little Palace, Alina is presented to the King and Queen. General Kirigan holds Alina’s hand to show them her power, and everyone around is impressed and beginning to believe she’s a saint. Kirigan is a human amplifier, and that’s how he can let Alina’s power come through by just holding her hand. Alina had believed there were only animal amplifiers. This means Alina will remain in the Little Palace to train and one day destroy the Fold. The king, though, is in a bit of a hurry because West Ravka wants to be an independent country, and he, of course, wants to reunite the halves just like before the existence of the Fold.


Nina has been taken to sea, and a young drüskelle ties her up in the hull of the ship. She’s angry and scared, trying to talk her way out of the situation, but to no avail. The drüskelle does feel pity for her eventually, giving her some bread, but Nina won’t accept it as they’re sworn enemies. The drüskelle believes there will be a fair trial for the Grisha in his homeland, but the truth is they will just be killed off. This is proven when the ship gets flooded with water and the leader tells the young drüskelle to kill the Grisha. Meanwhile, Alina begins with combat training. Zoya (the squaler from before) doesn’t like Alina very much because she’s taking all of Kirigan’s attention. Alina and Mal write letters to each other on their time apart about how lonely and terrible it feels without the other one there (aww, true best friend behavior).

But the letters aren’t reaching either of them, and Mal finally gets a chance to go meet Alina himself. Alina had made a drawing of a mythical stag, which is one of the amplifiers. Kirigan wants the first army to find this stag, and Mal, as a tracker, signs up for the task. His two friends, Mikhael and Dubrov, won’t let him go alone and join the dangerous mission. They actually manage to find the stag, but they happen to be on the wrong side of the Jordanian border. Unfortunately, they’re caught by Fjerdan soldiers just as Mal sees the stag, and both Mikhael and Dubrov are lost in the fight. Back in the palace, Kirigan tries to cozy up to Alina (yuck! Because he’s like super old) who is starting to stray from her loyalty to Mal. He tells her to call him by his first name, Aleksander. Here we also find out that the Black Heretic was once the king’s right-hand man. Once he grew hungry for power, the king wanted him dead, and so for revenge, the Heretic tried to create an army of his own. He failed and accidentally created the big, dark Fold instead.


As a shadow summoner, Aleksander has done many things to change the work of his predecessor, but only Alina can truly make a difference. He appeals to her “I am very different” mindset by telling her these things about his past. An old woman named Baghra is training Alina to use her powers rigorously. Essentially, Baghra uses Alina’s love for Mal as a weapon against her, asking her questions like “where is he now?” or “why hasn’t she written.” This finally pushes Alina to her limits, and she’s able to summon the power of the Sun. She finally chooses to erase the mark on her hand that was a symbol of togetherness for her and Mal when she reaches her full potential. Aleksander had given Nina a mission, but she went missing on it, so now he asks one of his men to track her. David the durast (a fabrikator Grisha whose power allows them to create with materials such as glass, metal, etc.) makes gloves for Alina per the request of the general to help her during the fete, where she will be presenting her powers in front of delegations from across the world. Alina doesn’t require the gloves, but thanks anyway, David. Genya and David seem to have romantic feelings for each other.

Kaz and his crew figure out a way into the little palace by stealing a map, but it doesn’t help them in any way. Inej’s owner, Tante Heleen (owner of the Menagerie), calls her for a job. She tells Inej that if she kills a man for her, she will be set free from her. Inej cannot kill anybody because she believes in the saints, but she requests Jesper do it for her. Unfortunately, Kaz interrupts their conversation, and Jesper is called to work with Kaz. Inej is able to get to the man, who is supposed to be a human trafficker. Inej almost manages to kill him, but Kaz makes it in time to tell her that he is their ticket across the Fold, and Heleen just wants to kill him so Kaz wouldn’t be able to get the job. Pekka Rollins also warns Kaz off the job, but that doesn’t stop him in any way. The trafficker is known as the ‘conductor’ and has a way across the Fold for them. Kaz takes him on board their mission, and now the 1 million Kruge will be split into four.


Alina and Aleksander have been getting closer through her training period; he tells her she means a lot to him, and they kiss. In the meantime, Mal got back to the first army, told them they had found the stag, and chose to go tell the general where it was. Alina presents herself in front of the delegates, and Kaz and his crew have managed to cross the border on a train. Jesper made friends with a little goat on the train that helped him calm down and kill a bunch of Volcra, so he says goodbye to it with a bullet as a parting gift (quite literally, as a pendant). Mal meets Kirigan and tells him he knows where the stag is, but he will only tell him if he gets to meet Alina first. Kirigan makes promises, but Baghra has other plans. She has a woman trying to kill Mal, but Mal survives.

One of Alina’s friends, Marie, was also disguised as Alina in the fete, so there was no threat to the real ‘Sun Summoner’. Kaz has already figured all of this out and is trying to use this as an opportunity to sneak the real Alina out and kidnap her. They’re interrupted by Kirigan, though, who has his own secret plans for Alina (stay away, you pervert). As they’re about to get intimate, they’re interrupted because someone has attacked and killed fake Alina. That someone being the conductor—Arken Visser. After crossing the Fold, he made a deal with General Zlatan of West Ravka, who wanted an independent country. This means the Fold is beneficial to him, so he wants to kill the Sun Summoner. Baghra gets Alina from Kirigan’s room when he goes away to see what all the fuss is about and reveals that Aleksander is actually the Black Heretic. He is eternal because of the shadow power and wants to use Alina’s power to expand the Fold, not destroy it. Baghra is his mother. Aleksander has had many noble names and served a dozen kings in search of Alina. Mal also manages to learn that Aleksander is the monster man and realizes that Alina is on the run.


Jesper was on carriage duty when Inej and Kaz were doing their thing inside the palace, and to his surprise, Alina herself got into the back of their carriage to escape. Kaz and Inej come out defeated, but Jesper just plays with his words, knowing exactly where Alina is. Before their exit, Kaz almost got caught by one of the Inferni Grisha, who happened to be a twin. Inej killed a man to save Kaz, and so she’s terribly upset. Alina then jumps out of the carriage, tells the crew she doesn’t want to be anybody else’s captive, and escapes. Nina and the drüskelle end up working together to save each other from drowning. They find land, and Nina keeps him warm with her heartrending powers, proving to him that she’s not evil. We understand that the Fjerdans are very conservative people with certain notions about women; Nina is nothing like that, so the man calls her lewd and can’t tolerate her ‘provocative’ nature. Finally, he admits he likes her, but she could be making him feel that way with her power. Nina pretends to be a seductress but accidentally breaks the ice; the drüskelle saves her and finally introduces himself to her as Matthias Helvar. Alina and Mal reunite, and their misunderstandings vanish into thin air. Kirigan comes in search of Alina and realizes that she’s with Mal, going after the stag.

The Darkling’s Past

Finally, we are shown exactly what happened with the Black Heretic all those years ago. He had a healer Grisha, whom he loved very much. When the soldiers came to get him, they didn’t spare the healer, and so, in a fit of rage, the darkling killed all the soldiers in one sweeping motion. Later, he told Baghra that he wanted to create an army of his own with dangerous power. Baghra forbids it, but he goes after it anyway. Finally, the army submits to him, but the darkling decides to make them his own army by using the power and instead creates the Fold. All the people in the Fold turned into Volcra.


Alina and Mal finally find the stag. Alina realizes that she doesn’t have to kill it to gain its powers. She touches the stag, and it looks like it is amplifying her power, but before she can figure things out, Kirigan is already there. Mal gets seriously wounded, and Alina tries desperately to save both him and the stag. She chooses Mal, and the stag is immediately killed by Kirigan. According to the books, if a Grisha kills an amplifier, it becomes theirs. Kirigan chooses to let Mal live because he’s of some use to him. Kirigan makes David attach the antlers of the stag to Alina’s shoulder blades and use a piece of its bone in his own hand so he can basically do whatever he likes with Alina’s powers. It turns out that Genya, Alina’s only friend at the palace, was the one who didn’t send Mal’s letters because she was a spy for Kirigan. Genya’s not bad, but she’s a product of her sad circumstances.

Nina and Matthias realize they have to eventually part ways because of their people’s animosity. At the moment though, they’re at an inn and head down to have some waffles (what? They’re Nina’s favorites.) The people sent by the general to find Nina met them at the inn. Because they would kill Matthias, Nina chooses to call him a slaver, and they are taken to Kirch instead. Matthias loses his trust in Nina again and is ready to strangle her for being a witch. Nina tries desperately to tell him that she just wants to save his life. Kaz, Inej, and Jesper decide to take the same skiff as Alina. Inej believes in Alina’s higher power, so she doesn’t want to kidnap her, and Kaz agrees because he wants Inej on his side always (our Kanez hearts!). They happen to find Mal in the same ‘boat’ as them, i.e., which is against Kirigan. Alina is trapped on the skiff and can’t leave her station. Kirigan tells all the delegations that they need to tell their countries what they see in the Fold. That is the power he wields. He demonstrates how Alina can save the skiff from the Volcra and take them across, but as they reach the end of the Fold, he expands the Fold even further.


A lot of fighting happens; Inej saves Zoya, Kaz saves Jesper, who saves Mal, and all seems okay until Inej manages to put a knife through the darkling’s heart. He takes it out and yells at everyone that it would take more than a mere knife in his chest to kill him. Alina sees the stag when she’s trying to save Mal and gets the guidance she needs. She takes Inej’s knife and puts it through Kirigan’s hand, severing their ties of ‘stag bone’. Alina and Mal fight him together until Mal pushes the darkling off the skiff onto the land. They have a fistfight where the darkling has the upper hand, but finally Mal tells him that he should be destroyed by his own creatures as a Volcra comes to attack him. See, the stag chose Alina, so Kirigan never had the right to it.

All our favorite characters make it across safely and part ways. The trio of Ketterdam chose to go back and have Alina and Mal figure out their plan. Zoya has to figure out her path, which is not with either of the two groups. Nina shows up on the same ship as Kaz and his crew, who happen to need a heartrender for their next mission. We’re definitely going to see them join forces in season 2 (book fans will know why), and finally, the darkling is obviously still alive, because if he didn’t die in front of you then, he didn’t die at all. He’s seen walking out of the Fold, screaming for something to follow him. The shadow creatures follow him as he plots what to destroy next.


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Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika Bhat
Ruchika, or "Ru," is a fashion designer and stylist by day and a serial binge-watcher by night. She dabbles in writing when she has the chance and loves to entertain herself with reading, K-pop dancing, and the occasional hangout with friends.

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