Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and inform the text's major themes.

The Hero’s Journey 

The hero's journey is a common storytelling structure in literature, and Alina's own journey closely relates to it. Alina goes through many recognizable steps of the hero's journey as the novel unfolds. Her call to adventure occurs when it is discovered that she is the Sun Summoner and she is sent to the Little Palace. This sets off a chain of events that takes Alina from an ordinary mapmaker to a figure of mythic proportions to the Ravkan people. Along the way, Alina weathers numerous trials and undergoes a personal metamorphosis, which echo two of the most crucial steps in the classic hero’s journey. Ultimately, Alina’s journey correlates to this structure even up to the moment that she faces her enemy, the Darkling, and secures her freedom at the end of the novel.  


Mirrors are referenced frequently in Shadow and Bone and their presence directly reflects the way that Alina is able to perceive and ultimately embrace her authentic self. Early on, the mirrors she encounters offer poor reflections, but as she grows into her own, the quality of the mirrors increase dramatically and the way she interacts with them changes. For example, in Chapter 4, Alina sees her reflection in the window of the Darkling’s carriage as she begins her journey to the Little Palace and grapples with the revelation that she is Grisha. In this scene, the mirror is not a true mirror, but a mere pane of glass. It is unable to show Alina her true self just as she is unable to admit what her true self really is.

Likewise, Alina catches sight of herself in the little mirror on her dressing table after Zoya demoralizes her in Chapter 11, and she can’t reconcile the image of herself with the room that surrounds her. In this second example, the mirror in question is described by Genya as a “useless sliver of glass” in Chapter 14, so that Alina sees herself in this “useless” mirror as a useless Grisha speaks volumes. Eventually, mirrors become a part of her practice as a Grisha, with Alina using them to spread light and even defend herself. This signals the way that Alina has come into her own and accepted the fact that she is Grisha. She is no longer a subject distorted in the glass, but someone who has mastered the mirror’s reflections. 


One of the most enigmatic motifs in the novel, references to Saints arise periodically throughout the story and are often closely associated with the Grisha. Beyond the references to the Saints that come up during conversations between the characters, the Saints are icons of the people of Ravka, though the underpinnings of the religion that operates in the world is otherwise unknown. Most of what is known about the Saints comes from the cryptic references to them that the Apparat makes when talking to Alina. The Apparat compares the Saints to the Grisha and suggests that the Saints are venerated by the people of Ravka because they suffer where the Grisha do not. This conversation foreshadows the moment Alina witnesses a congregation pray to the Sun Summoner as though she’s a Saint. This comes just as she is on the cusp her greatest personal suffering at the hands of the Darkling.