Everything You Need to Know About Grishas in the 'Shadow and Bone' Universe


Mar. 20 2023, Published 11:35 a.m. ET

'Shadow and Bone'
Source: Netflix

Like any great fantasy world, the world of Shadow and Bone is filled with nerdy concepts that may make the uninitiated scratch their head or roll their eyes. For those trying to jump into the series now that the second season has hit Netflix, though, it may be helpful to get a bit of a refresher on what exactly Grishas are, and how this foundational concept fits into the universe of Shadow and Bone.

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What is a grisha in 'Shadow and Bone?'

The easiest analog for Grishas in popular culture is something like the mutants in X-Men. These are beings with extraordinary power who inherited that power through their genes.

These powers are really something akin to alchemy, as it's not possible for a Grisha to create something out of nothing. Instead, they manipulate the matter around them so that it takes the shape they desire.

a grisha in 'Shadow and Bone'
Source: Netflix
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Because Grisha themselves aren't complicated enough, there are multiple orders of Grisha, and each order has different categories within it.

The Materialki are at the bottom of the food chain and include Durasts, who work with solid materials to create things like architecture and weapons, and Alkemi, use chemicals to create things like bombs and poisons.

Above the Materialki are the Etheralki. These include Squallers, Inferni, and Tidemakers, who are basically versions of airbenders, firebenders, and waterbenders respectively.

Corporalki are at the top of the food chain, and consist of heartrenders who are capable of slowing down or speeding up heartbeats, and healers, who can heal wounds. All Corporalki are also Tailors, meaning they can change a person's appearance at will.

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To make matters even worse, each of these orders also has something of a nickname that they are sometimes called. Materialki are often called Fabrikators, while Etheralki are called Summoners and Corporalki are called The Order of the Living and the Dead. Confused yet?

Alina, one of the show's central figures, is an exceptionally powerful summoner, or Etheralki.

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Grisha are the entirety of the Second Army.

The king of Ravkan, the land where Shadow and Bone is primarily set, holds two armies under his command. The First Army is composed entirely of regular old humans with no special powers or abilities. The Second Army is, by contrast, composed entirely of Grisha, who are technically serving the king of Ravka but swear their ultimate allegiance to the Darkling, who is himself also a Grisha.

Because of their superiority, many of the Grisha see regular humans, who are known as otkazat’sya, as unworthy of battle. All that tension spills out into the open, and it's part of what makes the universe of Shadow and Bone feels so rich and textured.

Like all great fantasy worlds, things are far from simple in Shadow and Bone. The Grisha are but one interest among many, and they often disagree amongst themselves on what the right steps are. Now that you know more about the Grisha, though, you may find it easier to understand their role within the broader universe.

Shadow and Bone Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.

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