Tuesday, October 4

Exploring the Language and Locations of ‘Shadow and Bone’

One of the most anticipated series this spring, shadow and bone, it’s here! The new Netflix show is based on Leigh Bardugo’s “Grishaverse” books, specifically the shadow and bone trilogy and Six of Crows Duology.

Throughout the series, viewers see an elaborately constructed world filled with unique locations and diverse languages. So, for fans of the books looking to brush up, or for those just immersing themselves in the magical world of the Grishaverse, consider this your handy *spoiler-free* reference guide to the languages ​​and locations of Shadow and Bone.


Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) y el general Kirigan (Ben Barnes) en “Shadow and Bone” – David Appleby/Netflix

The world of shadow and bone it is made up of several culturally distinct lands. However, the one viewers will become most familiar with is Ravka. Ravka is home to several main characters from the show, along with the Shadow Fold. Also known as “The Unsea,” the Fold is a large, extended band of physical darkness that divides Ravka in two. Hideous within the Shadow Fold stretch are hideous creatures known as Volcra. These creatures and treacherous journey into physical darkness have kept outsiders from East Ravka and kept East Ravka from the world.

Speaking of East Ravka, it is home to the capital city of Os Alta and is home to the Grand Palace and the Small Palace. The Grand Palace is the winter residence of the Ravkan royal family and where the Winter Festival is held every year. The Little Palace, possibly the more important building of the two, houses and trains Grisha for military service. Once a child is found to be Grisha, they are separated from their families and sent to the Little Palace. Think of it as Ravka’s school for gifted youngsters. Once their training is complete, the Grisha are sent to serve.

Meanwhile, beyond West Ravka is the small island nation of Kerch and the capital city, Ketterdam. This city is best known for its trade and subsequent criminal underbelly. Within Ketterdam is the Barrel, where many of the city’s gangs reside in their clubs, pleasure houses, and saloons. One of these most notable establishments is the Crow Club, the headquarters of The Dregs. Other notable locations include Fjerda, the nation bordering Ravka to the north, and Shu Han, the country bordering the mountains to the south of Ravka. Across the True Sea is the nation of Novyi Zem and the Wandering Isle.


Genya Safin (Daisy Head) y Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) en “Shadow and Bone” – David Appleby/Netflix

Like any excellent fantasy setting, shadow and bone features many unique words and traditions that help shape your world. One of the essential words viewers will hear throughout the show, even making up the universe of the books, is Grisha. Grisha are humans who practice the Little Science. This is the art of manipulating matter in its most basic form, although many still see it as “magic”. Once a person is determined to be a Grisha, they are placed into one of three orders.

  • Corporalki – The Corporalki are Grisha whose powers are centered on the human body. Within the Corporalki order, Grisha can be Heartrenders, Healers, or Tailors. Heartrenders can manipulate the human body and cause damage to their enemies by controlling pulses and ultimately stopping hearts. Meanwhile, healers can heal wounds on human bodies. Tailors, as their name implies, are Grisha who can manipulate a person’s appearance.
  • Etherealki – These Grisha have power over various natural elements and are often given the title of Summoners. The three most common Etherealki are Squallers, Inferni, and Tidemakers. The Squallers summon and manipulate air pressure to create gusts of wind and even storms. The Inferni control and light the fire. And the Tidemakers wield the water as they please. There have been rare summoners that have appeared over time outside of these three orders, including The Darkling (who manipulates darkness) and the Sun Summoner (who summons light).
  • Materialki – The Materialki are the Order of Fabricators and can manipulate synthesized matter. While they are commonly known simply as Fabrikators, there are two distinct types of Materialki. The Durast handle and use solids (steel, cloth, glass, etc.), and the Alkemi work with potions and gunpowder.
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Each Grisha order is identified by a specific colored Kefta, a coat-like garment worn by the Grisha. The Corporalki wear red, the Etherealki wear blue, and the Materialki wear purple. These keftas are then embroidered with unique colors on the hem and cuffs to indicate which abilities that Grisha has. For example, a Grisha in a red Kefta with black embroidery means that he is a Heatrender. By comparison, a red Kefta with silver embroidery signifies a Healer. These trained Grisha make up the Ravkan Second Army only, while regular individuals make up the First Army. Both groups distrust each other, causing divisions not only on the battlefield but in Ravka as well.

And what fantasy scenario is it without fantasy money? A currency that occupies a central place in shadow on bone it is Kruge, the currency of Kerch. Money is what makes or breaks you in Ketterdam, and for some of our main characters, a million Kruge is just the incentive to send them on a dangerous mission to Ravka.


Nina Zenik and Matthias Helvar rest on their trip through Fjerda
Nina Zenik (Danielle Galligan) and Matthias Helvar (Calahan Skogman) in “Shadow and Bone” – Attila Szvacsek / Netflix

One of the most exciting additions to the shadow and bone The adaptation consists of listening to the languages ​​of the different nations throughout the series. While all of the main characters speak English, you’ll hear some people on the show speak Ravkan and Fjerdan, and you may even see some written Kerch if you’re looking closely enough.

I spoke with David J. Peterson, the creator of the show’s language. Chances are you’ve heard of David’s work in other fantasy and science fiction media, including the languages ​​spoken by the characters in Game of Thrones, The 100, Thor: The Dark World, The Witcher, Ray And The Last Dragon, and more.

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However, unlike most cases, working on the languages ​​of the new Netflix series was not actually Peterson’s first interaction with shadow and bone or the Grishaverse itself. In fact, he befriended Leigh Bardugo years before and even helped build the Fjerdan language which can be found in various passages in Six of Crows Y crooked kingdom. So it made sense for him to be hired to help develop the spoken and written languages ​​heard and seen throughout the Netflix adaptation.

Ravkan is possibly the most established language in the books, thanks to Leigh’s colorful words throughout the trilogy. Regarding the development of the full spoken language for the show, Peterson noted, “There was a lot more text to come out of, so I wanted to make sure I fit everything together in the best possible way. I think Ravakan was a bit easier. I knew everything that was going on there, and I was just completing the backend in a way that I thought worked well.”

Peterson then elaborated on his story developing Fjerdan for the books, and later the series, recalling: “With Fierden, when I was working with it, there were some [established] words and names, so I was really just trying to match the aesthetic that Leigh was going for. This kind of toughness, German meets Norwegian and Icelandic [feel] – very North Germanic kind of thing. When I went to develop the full language for the show, I worked with another language creator on that, specifically someone who I thought would bring the right element to help Fjerdan come off right. His name is Christian Thalmann.”

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When it came time to collaborate with Thalmann, Peterson explained, “We worked together with what I had created in the books, and also everything else that Leigh had invented. And I showed him this and I said, ‘Okay, what do you get out of this? How do you feel about this?’ He came up with a lot of really amazing and interesting ideas. For example, something that was totally out of place and I never would have thought of: we don’t have a singular plural distinction at all in Fjerdan. I was looking at everything he was looking at and I said, ‘It makes sense. You know what? Not only does it make sense, but it works better than if there were a singular-plural distinction. And then we just dive in and start building from there. It was fun”.


Jesper Fahey, Inej Ghafa and Kaz Brekker at a meeting in Ketterdam
Jesper Fahey (Kit Young), Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman) and Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter) in “Shadow and Bone” – Courtesy of Netflix

The spoken languages ​​of Ravkan and Fjeran were not all that Peterson helped develop. He also participated in the construction of the written versions of Ravkan and Kerch. Peterson commented, “So with Ravkan, my main theme was ‘Fantasy Cyrillic.’ That was really what I wanted to do: just create something that gave you the feeling of Cyrillic and at the same time, totally fantastic and suitable for the Ravkan language itself. So I followed my gut there, and Leigh really liked it. I was very surprised by what I did for Kerch. For Kerch, I just had this idea, like, ‘If steampunk was a writing system.’ I was trying to imagine what that would look like, and that’s what I leaned into for Kerch, and I thought it came out pretty well.”

When asked if he was a Grisha and what kind of power he would like to have, Peterson replied, “The easiest thing to say is that I would like to be a Sum Summoner. But the coolest are obviously the Inferni. But on the other hand, there are also the Squallers. I change my mind, I’ll go with Squaller.

When a series, whether it’s a book or a TV show, dives deep into its world-building, that’s when you know you’re in for something good. While the language and lore of a new series can sometimes seem overwhelming when you first dive in, we hope this article helps you feel informed while watching this fantastic show.

You can also explore more about shadow and bone on the Grishaverse wiki of Juice Mobile!


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