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Alina and Mal from Shadow and Bone: What’s their story?

Production still from Shadow and Bone.
Alina and Mal are brought to life by actors Jessie Mei Li and Archie Renaux. Pic credit: Netflix

One of the best qualities of any form of entertainment: television show, movie, book, etc., is the chemistry shown between the characters. This is a major drive for “shipping” — a term that fans use to describe their want for a romantic relationship to occur between characters. The term can be used for pairings that are canonical (meaning it is actually written into the creator’s original story) and noncanonical (fan-derived). 

Shadow and Bone introduces an addictive “ship” between the characters Alina Starkov and Malyen ‘Mal’ Oretsev. This relationship transpired throughout both the original Shadow and Bone novel series by Leigh Bardugo and in the Netflix adaptation.

Here is what we know about Alina and Mal’s friendship in the Netflix television series adaptation of Shadow and Bone. 

How did they meet? 

In the Netflix series, it is revealed that Alina and Mal first met as children. Hiding away at the orphanage they live at, the two always seemed to make the best of their rough situation — being born during wartimes and into a very dysfunctional society. 

They were presumably each other’s first friends and throughout the series, they have the strongest bond amongst all of the friend groups and couples.

The characters are brought to life by actors Jessie Mei Li and Archie Renaux. Li and Renaux bring excellent chemistry to their characters, instantly making them a fan-favorite pairing. 

Why did Alina lie about being Grisha? 

As children, both Alina and Mal were tested to see if they obtained Grisha abilities — to be a “Grisha” is to possess a special, magical power. Alina knew the entire time that she was Grisha; however, she hid her powers from the testers because she didn’t want to be separated from Mal. 

It wasn’t an easy feat, as suppressing her powers caused her to grow fatigued and suffer from loss of appetitive. Due to this, others considered Alina to be sickly and weak.

Hiding her powers also meant another thing: Alina wouldn’t be whisked away to a mansion to live a life of wealth and agility training. Instead, the two were enlisted to join the First Army. But, as she expresses later on in the series, to her, it was worth it if it meant getting to spend her life with Mal. 

Throughout the series, Alina and Mel are separated and reunited numerous times. A large cause of that is the public revelation of Alina’s Grisha abilities and Mal’s military assignment to venture towards the Shadow Fold, a deadly sea that divides the Ravka community.

What have fans said?

The show may be new, but its fans aren’t. Shadow and Bone has such an energetic fanbase because the novel series was already very popular before Netflix announced their adaptation.

Because of this, many fans have already found themselves infatuated by the two characters, tweeting up a storm about their wishes for the pairing and their excitement to see the relationship play out throughout the show.

Tweeting two images of Alina and Mel cozying up to one another in the Shadow and Bone series, one fan wrote, “The way we could never ask for a better Aline and Mel.”

Creator Lady Jenevia passionately added to the conversation.

Sharing that they tend to be critical of romance in television shows, they write, “This is why the Alina/Mal romance in #ShadowAndBone was so awe-inspiring to watch. There is, more or less, always something toxic in a main romance in film/TV that I have to criticize but their pairing was nothing but healthy, wholesome, and deeply romantic.”

However, as fans know, Alina and Mal have huge competition with Alina’s other love interest, the Darkling, a.k.a. Aleksander Morozova. It’s safe to say that no matter how alluring the new guy is, it’s clear that he’ll never be able to replace Mal in Alina’s life.

Shadow and Bone is currently streaming on Netflix.

Raven Brunner


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