'Shadow and Bone': Does Mal Die?

Netflix's new fantasy epic Shadow and Bone centers mainly around the duo Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei [...]

Netflix's new fantasy epic Shadow and Bone centers mainly around the duo Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) and Malyen "Mal" Oretsev (Archie Renaux), and at the beginning of the series, you might mistake it for a tragedy. It's clear that there's tension between Alina and Mal, but also tension between Alina and "The Darkling" General Kirigan (Ben Barnes), leaving Mal's fate uncertain. Warning, there are spoilers for Shadow and Bone ahead!

The story arc begins by introducing the audience to Alina, Mal and "the Grishaverse" — a fictional world where "Grisha" have the power to control and manipulate some natural elements. It then follows Alina's journey from discovering that she is a rare type of Grisha, being trained and groomed for her role, and leaving behind the life she knew before — including Mal. If you haven't made it all the way through the show yet, you might find yourself biting your nails over Mal's fate as Alina gets closer and closer to Kirigan. For those that would rather get the spoilers upfront, rest assured: Mal does not die in Shadow and Bone Season 1.

In fact, the TV series does a lot for Mal that couldn't have worked in the books written by author Leigh Bardugo. The books employ a third-person limited perspective, so the reader only has the information and perceptions Alina herself has. The show uses more of a third-person omniscient perspective, which helps to make the story and the world-building feel bigger and grander.

It also gives the reader greater access to the events that happen outside of Alina's view, including much of Mal's journey this season. In the book, the reader sticks with Alina through her training and trials at the Little Palace, agonizing over Mal's fate and wondering why he hasn't returned her letters. In the show, the viewer knows the whole time that Mal is just as worried as her. In some ways, this reduces the dramatic tension, but "Malina" shippers likely won't mind.

Fans also get a much more vivid depiction of Mal honing his skills as a tracker to find Morozova's Stag. In the books, this trip is only relayed to Alina after the fact — and only in the context of an argument, as both she and Mal think the other has been ignoring them. Their time on the run is much longer and much more lonesome in the books, however, since Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter) and the rest of the Six of Crows gang are not in the trilogy.

The big finale is actually a bit more violent in the book than in the show, although the end result is similar. The Darkling has Mal thrown overboard into the Shadow Fold, and Alina realizes that she can wrestle control of her amplifier away from The Darkling. In the book, she dives overboard to after Mal, rescues him with her light, and then uses "the cut" to shatter the sand skiff in a burst of light. This presumably kills everyone onboard. The decision to have Kirigan and Mal face off in the shadows instead may be one of the show's most contentious changes to the source material.

All of this is worth seeing for yourself in one form or another. Bardugo's books — the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology — are available now in print, digital and audiobook formats. The Shadow and Bone TV series is streaming now on Netflix.