*Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for the Shadow and Bone trilogy and Netflix series.*
Netflix's new fantasy series Shadow and Bone has recently dropped its first season to favorable reviews, and fans watched as the sprawling fantasy world originally crafted by Leigh Bardugo came to life. The series can sometimes be confusing, especially for those who haven't read the books (which is why we created a guide), but the adaptation effectively brings to life and builds upon the original story created in the Shadow and Bone trilogy.
One significant part of the show that has confused some viewers are the volcra. These dangerous monsters are briefly shown on screen, but aren't explained by the other characters — however, they play a significant role in the Grishaverse.
What are the volcra?
In the Shadow and Bone Netflix series, the volcra make their introduction in the very first episode. They almost kill both Mal and Alina during their attempt to cross the Shadow Fold, but Alina uses her previously suppressed Sun Summoner powers to scare them away. Within the first hour of the series, we learn that these creatures are deadly and hide in the dark, but what exactly are they?
The monsters aren't described in great detail throughout the course of the show, which is where a familiarity with Leigh Bardugo's original trilogy comes in handy. In the novels, it's explained that the volcra came into existence after the Shadow Fold was created by the Dark Heretic. Since the Fold spanned across many towns in Ravka that were actively being inhabited, the people who lived in those towns were mutated by the Dark Heretic's Grisha power into these monstrous beings.
Volcra are described as winged creatures with rows of sharp teeth and dirty claws, who bleed black when they are injured. In the book, they're blind from living in the Shadow Fold (where there is no light), though in the on-screen adaptation, they locate Mal and Alina's unit after one of the crew members lights a lantern.
These creatures are what makes the Shadow Fold so dangerous to cross, and is a primary reason why Alina feels destined to use her powers to destroy it.
The creatures in the final shot of 'Shadow and Bone' are not volcra.
At the very end of the first season, viewers see General Kirigan walk out of the Shadow Fold with shadow-like creatures forming and following behind him. Many have assumed that they are the volcra since they came out of the Fold, but they are entirely different creatures that are just as monstrous.
In the novels, those monsters are the nichevo'ya, an entirely non-human creation made out of the Darkling's own power. They are unnatural beings, and creating them was not supposed to be possible with Grisha powers, but by the beginning of Ruin and Rising, readers learn that by giving Alina the collar, the Darkling became powerful enough to create a "life" of sorts with the nichevo'ya.
This is not explained in Season 1 of Shadow and Bone, though it's presumed that the monsters' origins will be expanded upon more in Season 2. While both the volcra and the nichevo'ya are created out of darkness, only the volcra had human origins.