The Darkling slumped back in his chair. "Fine," he said with a weary shrug. "Make me your villain."

In Chapter 21, the Darkling says this to Alina on the night they spend in Kribirsk before they enter the Shadow Fold together. The two are in his tent and are talking for the first time since the night he killed Morozova’s stag and took hold of her powers. Even though he quite literally holds all of the power in that moment, he draws Alina into a conversation about his motivations for using her as a pawn to expand the Shadow Fold. The Darkling deploys numerous rhetorical moves to advance his argument that taking over Ravka is the right thing to do. This line is a powerful example of how the Darkling uses language to manipulate and destabilize other people. By phrasing it precisely as he does, the Darkling employs a double meaning with the word “make,” whereby he is accusing Alina of not only considering him a villain, but that she is compelling him to be one. This secondary meaning shifts the blame off the Darkling and onto Alina herself. The other key word that the Darkling uses here is “your” rather than “the,” implying that the Darkling’s actions are only villainous to Alina and not the world at large.