What happened to Mal in “Shadow and Bone”? Did he die?

April 18, 2024
8 mins read

What is “Shadow and Bone”?

The “Shadow and Bone” trilogy, also known as the Grisha trilogy, is a young adult fantasy adventure series written by Leigh Bardugo, with the three books being “Shadow and Bone”, “Siege and Storm”, and “Ruin and Rising”. Leigh has written other books set in the same universe, such as the duologies “King of Scars” and “Six of Crows”, and various short stories.

The trilogy was adapted into a Netflix series, with season one premiering in 2021. The cast is mostly made up of industry newcomers, including Ben Barnes, Archie Renaux and Jessie Mei Li.

Malyen Oretsev – Books

In the book trilogy, Malyen Oretsev is a gifted tracker, former soldier, and the protagonist Alina Starkov’s childhood best friend. He is 18 years old when the “Shadow of Bones” novels begin and aged 21 in the “King of Scars” duology. It’s not known who his parents are, but Malyen is descended from Ilya Morozova, and distantly related to The Darkling and Baghra. Later on, he becomes a teacher at the Keramzin Orphanage, and marries Alina.

Born in a settlement in Dva Stolba, it’s presumed that Mal’s family was lost in the border wars. Most of his childhood was spent in the Keramzin Orphanage, run by Duke Keramsov, where he and Alina struck up a lifelong friendship; they hailed from the same village, and were inseparable during childhood. His tracking prowess was evident from a young age, when he would go on hunting trips with the men at the orphanage.


Mal and Alina end up in the military, and headed towards Poliznaya. However, he almost dies when the regiment tries to cross the Shadow Fold, and Alina’s latent powers are activated. It is then revealed that she is a Sun Summoner, and the pair are separated. In the next few months, Mal and a regiment of men travel to Fjerda and almost all of them are killed, including two close friends. While suffering from survivor’s guilt, Mal also realizes that he loves Alina, and can’t imagine his life without her. Although penning his friend-turned-crush a heartfelt letter, he doesn’t send it.

Finally, Mal and Alina are reunited at the Little Palace during a winter fete, but he’s upset that she didn’t keep in touch with him while he was fighting – unbeknownst to Mal, Alina’s letters to him were intercepted by Genya and others. Following a heated argument, Mal leaves the Little Palace, but tracks Alina when she’s on the run from the dangerous Darkling. Once reunited, they confess their love for each other.

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Eventually, the Darkling catches up to Mal and Alina, and enchains Mal. Despite initially promising Mal’s safety, the Darkling plans to execute him, however, his plans fail thanks to Alina breaking free and escaping with Mal – the two friends then sail across the sea to Novyi Zem. Mal makes friends amongst the ship’s crew, and arrives at Cofton with Alina, where they rent a room with the humble wages earned from working at a factory.

One day, they return to their room to find the Darkling awaiting them. The duo are once again captured and led to the Darkling’s ship; when the Darkling threatens Alina’s life, Mal promises to track down an important object for him. After tracking the object, Mal and Alina again escape the Darkling’s clutches, with Tolya, Tamar and Sturmhond.

Crew members are injured and killed when the ship is attacked by volcra. Mal and the rest of the survivors land in West Ravka, where Sturmhond reveals himself to be Nikolai Lantsov, Prince of Ravka, and proposes to Alina so they can unite the First and Second Armies. Mal objects and threatens the prince; the three then go to Os Alta, where Alina seizes control of the Second Army to save her country.

Mal and Alina once again grow apart when she becomes power-hungry. Os Alta isn’t a happy place for the tracker, with Mal seeing himself as little more than a court jester for the nobles, who use him for his skills. Although Mal wants her to run away, Alina knows that she’s responsible for protecting her country, and refuses, which leads to the star-crossed lovers breaking up; Mal begins drinking heavily and also joins a fight club. Alina catches her rival, Zoya, kissing Mal during one of these fights, which he returns.

The Darkling strikes again shortly afterwards, trapping Alina, Mal and others in a chapel. Alina is injured after the fight, whereas Mal apologizes and gives her his blessing to marry Nikolai if that’s what she wants. Mal later discovers that the Darkling is his great-uncle, and that he himself is an amplifier, which means he must be willing to die for Alina. She, however, asks him not to give his life for her.

Nevertheless, Mal sacrifices himself so that Alina can defeat the Darkling. Alina is left powerless after using the amplifier, but Tolya and Tamar miraculously bring Mal back to life with their skills, which is only possible because amplifiers have two lives. In this second life, Mal has lost his tracking skills.


Following the Darkling’s death, Mal and Alina are also presumed dead. They change names and marry before returning to the Keramzin Orphanage and rebuilding it with some help. The rest of their lives are spent running the orphanage under fake names, although a few close friends are aware of their true identities.

In the books, Mal is a flawed but confident and deeply loyal character willing to do practically anything for Alina. Despite being selfish at first, he matures in later books, and was even willing to step aside so that Alina and Nikolai could marry and join forces. Described as being brown-haired and blue-eyed, Mal is tall, handsome, and well-built thanks to his stint in the army. He also has a compass tattoo on his back.

Malyen Oretsev – Netflix

In the Netflix adaption, Malyen has brown eyes and black hair, but is a First Army soldier and gifted tracker, as in the books. The TV series is largely based on the fictional trilogy, with some minor changes.

Season one begins with Mal, who is stationed at a campsite, joining a fight club for some extra cash. When the Grisha and Second Army arrive, the soldiers disperse. Mal catches up with Alina, and is told by his commander that he’ll be stationed to Novokribirsk while crossing the Shadow Fold.


While in the Fold, Mal and the rest are attacked by volcra, and he sustains almost fatal injuries, but Alina helps save him. When she herself is attacked by a volcra, an explosion of light emerges from her body; in the second episode, Alina is revealed to be the legendary Sun Summoner and is taken away to the Little Palace.

Now a Grisha, Alina is commanded by the Second Army, and the commander of the First Army is unconcerned when Mal insists that they follow her. Mal plans to follow her himself, but his friends Mikhael and Dubrov talk him out of it, claiming that Alina is safer in the Little Palace. If Mal left the army, he would also be considered a deserter and harshly punished, so he decides to stay.

Weeks pass, and the letters Mal writes Alina receive no reply. The tracker’s unit is now stationed at Chernast, so with his friends, he volunteers to lead a tracking party in exchange for a visit to the Little Palace. As in the books, several members of the tracking party including Mikhael and Dubrov are killed in an attack. Mal is shot in the shoulder and survives, but is unable to save his friends.

Now on the way to Little Palace, Mal is ambushed by one of the guards. He manages to subdue her and flee the scene, but months pass before he sees Alina again. When he manages to track her down in Ryevost, she accuses him of not replying to her letters, but Mal insists that he did. Mal also questions how long Alina knew she was a Grisha; she claims she cheated during the Grisha examiner test, for fear of them being separated if they passed.


The friends find refuge in a cave that evening, when Mal confesses to Alina that he’s in love with her. The next morning, she treats his wound and tracks down a mythical stag to use against General Kirigan. The duo finds the stag, but Alina decides not to kill it, as she can claim its power without doing so. However, General Kirigan and his men arrive and wound the stag with an arrow. Mal also suffers an arrow to the abdomen and Alina is presented with an ultimatum by the General: she kills the stag and lets Mal die, or she lets him kill the stag and heals Mal. Alina chooses to let the General kill the stag.

The General then chains Mal up at the First Army’s camp, after healing his arrow wound. Mal promises the General that he’ll kill him as soon as he can, and the General confesses that he read the letters Mal and Alina sent each other. The next day, Mal frees himself from his shackles, escapes the camp, and sneaks onto a skiff headed to Novokribirsk.


In the last episode of season one, Mal hides below the skiff’s deck. He’s found by Inej Ghafa, and reveals that he plans to kill the General and save Alina. Mal and Inej make their move and shoot some of the General’s guards but are stopped by Ivan, who is working for the Darkling to keep Mal alive. Alina then stabs General Kirigan and Mal tackles him overboard, distracting him long enough for the latter to be attacked by volcra.

Upon returning to the skiff, Mal finds Alina unconscious, having been attacked by Ivan; she eventually wakes up, and the duo escape the Fold with a few others. Mal assures Alina that they’ll return and destroy the Fold one day, and they board a ship travelling to Ketterdam, thus marking the end of season one. Mal is still alive and will appear in season two.

In the Netflix adaptation of the series, Mal is nowhere near as selfish or cocky; he’s a much more compliant and mature character who obeys orders, despite being scared at times.

Archie Renaux

Born in November 1998 in Kingston-upon-Thames, England, Archie is the show’s male protagonist, and worked as a model before his acting breakthrough. He has Anglo-Indian heritage on his mother’s side and was brought up alongside two sisters and a brother.

After studying at Richard Challoner School, Archie trained at the Unseen drama school in London, and quit his day job to pursue his acting career. His modelling gigs include shooting for Moss Bros, Topman, Nasir Mazhar and Gay Times Magazine; he was also a regular at Men’s Fashion Week.

Archie’s first acting credit came in 2017, with a role in the dystopian movie “Zero”. His TV debut was in “Hanna”, an Amazon Prime series, and he had a leading role in the BBC One series “Gold Digger”. Other roles include his portrayal of Alex in “Voyagers”, and as Bobby in “Morbius”. In October 2019, his starring role in “Shadow and Bones” was announced by Netflix. After wrapping up season one, he had a role in the Amazon Prime comedy movie “Catherine Called Birdy”, and the Vietnam war film“The Greatest Beer Run Ever”. He’s set to appear in “Upgraded”, “The Other Zoey”, and other productions.


In June 2020, Archie and his girlfriend Annie announced on Instagram that they were expecting, and their daughter was born in October, but both parents do their best to bring her up in private without exposing her to their thousands of social media followers.

Fans of Benjamin Francis Leftwich and Liv Dawson may also recognize the handsome actor, as he appeared in their music videos in 2016 and 2017 respectively.

Martha Clifford

As an Author at Net Worth Post, I guide a dedicated team in the art of revealing the stories behind the world's most influential personalities. Fueled by a relentless curiosity and a knack for uncovering hidden stories, I immerse myself in the intricacies of our subjects' lives, weaving together accurate data and compelling narratives. My involvement spans the entire editorial process, from the seed of research to the final flourish of publication, ensuring that every article not only educates but also captivates and motivates our audience.

At Net Worth Post, we are committed to providing thorough investigations into the net worth and life achievements of innovators across diverse sectors such as technology, culture, and social entrepreneurship. My method merges meticulous research with eloquent storytelling, designed to bridge the gap between our readers and the remarkable individuals who redefine our tomorrow. Through spotlighting their journeys to success, the hurdles they've surmounted, and their contributions to society, we aim to give our readers a deep and inspiring insight into the luminaries who are paving the way for progress and ingenuity in the modern era.

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