Alina’s oldest friend and love interest, Malyen "Mal" Orestev is a handsome young tracker who is at the forefront of Alina’s struggle to overcome the Darkling. At the beginning of the book, Mal is playful and outgoing but he undergoes a great deal of change through the course of the story. This change is arguably the most significant of any character. By the end of the book, his carefree nature has transformed into a seriousness that wasn’t present before his separation from Alina. Like her, Mal is driven by a nearly unshakeable loyalty to their relationship. Mal even agrees to work for the Darkling to track Morozova’s herd in an effort to see her again. 

Mal is the kind of person to feel personally responsible for other people’s actions if there are negative outcomes. When his friends Mikhael and Dubrov are killed by Fjerdans while they’re tracking the stag, he blames himself for what happens to them. Moreover, he sees their deaths as a direct result of his foolishness and his ambition to see Alina again. Mal grows jealous of the Darkling when he sees him with Alina. The two are never truly in competition with one another, but both men bristle at the thought of the other being a part of Alina’s life. When confronted with Alina’s blossoming relationship with the Darkling, Mal is able to see through the Darkling's façade and recognize his sinister intentions to control and change Alina. This could be for one of two reasons: Mal’s keen understanding of people and their motives, or his deep knowledge of Alina, gained throughout their years of friendship.

The strength of Mal’s character is defined by how he acts in crisis. He’s savvy enough to realize that Alina has run away from the Darkling and loyal enough to rush to her aid even though they had recently been in conflict. Mal is also incredibly brave, which is exemplified more than once by his willingness to face death unflinchingly in the Fold.