Alina is numb when Ivan takes her back to her tent the next morning. Genya helps her get dressed. Alina boards a sandskiff along with a representative of the Ravkan King and dignitaries from Fjerda, Shu Han, and Kerch. Alina realizes that the dignitaries are there to witness what the Darkling is about to do.  

Once in the Fold, the Darkling has Inferni lure volcra to their location. As volcra begin to descend on the skiff, the Darkling takes hold of Alina’s power and forces her to fill the Fold with a bright light. He pushes her power so the light spreads further than ever before. A path between Kribirsk and Novokribirsk, the village on the other side of the Fold, is illuminated. The Darkling uses his power to close the Shadow Fold back up and though Alina tries desperately, she is unable to stop the Darkling from spreading the Fold until it consumes Novokribirsk. The people on the skiff are horrified. The King’s envoy sputters that the Darkling murdered Ravkans but he’s silenced when the Darkling threatens to spread the Fold to Os Alta. The other ambassadors understand that this threat extends to them as well. The Darkling commands them to tell the story of what they saw for it is the beginning of a new age.  

Ivan pushes Mal over the railing. Alina feels the Darkling’s power overwhelm her, commanding her to close the circle of light. Alina fights against the Darkling, but the dark starts to encroach on Mal. Alina thinks of the stag and has an epiphany about her dreams. She realizes that because she spared the stag’s life, she has just as much power over the amplifier as the Darkling. She feels herself gain control over her power once again and she floods the area with light just in time to save Mal from a volcra.  

Alina uses the Cut to sever the masts of the sandskiff. She pleads with the others to turn away from the Darkling, but no one moves against him. Alina throws herself off the side of the ship and runs to Mal, letting the light go out behind her. The Darkling’s men fire on them and the Darkling tries to reason with her. She uses the Cut once more to cleave the sandskiff in two.  

Mal and Alina emerge from the Fold. They push west toward the True Sea. Mal sells the golden pins that Genya put into Alina’s hair to get them new clothing when they reach Os Kervo. Mal assures Alina that they’ll find a way to remove the amplifier but Alina knows that it’s the only way that the world will ever be free of the Shadow Fold. They burn the black kefta

Alina and Mal board a ship heading west. The ship’s crew refer to them as “fentomen,” the Kerch word for “ghosts,” for their pale skin and the way they watch the water behind them like phantoms. They wait to see if the Darkling’s ships pursue them. News has spread about the destruction of Novokribirsk, though the truth of it is still unknown amongst the common people. They hear nothing about whether the Darkling died. Alina is haunted by nightmares about that terrible day, but the pair remain steadfast as they cross the ocean. 


The climax of the novel is triggered when Alina finally understands the true meaning of her mercy and regains control over her powers. In what can best be described as an epiphany, Alina understands that the dreams that have been haunting her since the stag’s death have been trying to show her the power she has over the antlers. She realizes that by sparing the stag’s life, the power belongs to her as much as it belongs to the Darkling, and she is able to take her power back from the Darkling. Alina then demonstrates her mercy again when she tries to convince the people on the sandskiff, especially the Grisha that are there, to turn against the Darkling. When none agree to help her defeat the Darkling, she realizes that her only chance to save Ravka is to leave the Fold before the Darkling can get control over her again.  

The Darkling’s plan for taking over is a simple but effective and is in line with his use of fear as a means of controlling others. Once he proves to the people he has gathered on the skiff that he can move the Fold, and by extension the volcra, without putting himself in harm’s way, he can use the threat of it to make people do whatever he wants. In this way, the Darkling uses the power that he has stolen from Alina to manipulate the ambassadors into handing over their own power. This tactic reinforces some of what we know about the Darkling in that he chooses a grand show of power instead of gaining control over the other countries in some other way. Rather than playing a long game with the centuries he has at his disposal that would have found him in the King’s seat, the Darkling chose to bide his time until the moment he could use brute force to make the world bow at his feet. This is a testament to how much he invests in his own power and how much he trusts his ability to keep people in line using fear.  

Alina sheds herself of the clothing and jewelry she got from the Grisha and symbolically frees herself from the Darkling’s control after she exits the Shadow Fold. Because the Grisha invest so much in the outward symbols of their station, the black kefta that the Darkling forces Alina to wear when they enter the Fold is a statement of the way he has taken control of her life. One of her first acts on leaving the Fold is to burn the kefta, effectively purging herself not only of the reminder of the Darkling but also the symbol of his control over her. Similarly, she and Mal sell the golden pins that Genya put into her hair to buy passage west and get supplies and clothing. One reading of the nature of these pins is that Genya gave them to Alina much like she was given jewels after being assaulted by the King so the jewels and the pins are both representations of the women having been victimized by powerful men. But that Alina uses them to fund her escape is a powerful statement about her exerting her own agency and taking back control of her life.  

“After” changes from first person narration to third, which sets it apart from the chapters that precede it and closes out the narrative frame established in the prologue. These two sections mirror one another in several key ways, including the way the characters are referred to as “ghosts” by the people around them and the way they are depicted as sharing a private world all their own. The sameness of the two chapters underpins that these two characters are the same people that were introduced in the prologue, but the true power of “After” is in the way that it asserts how they are different now than their younger selves. Where the prologue had a dreamlike quality to it, “After” speaks of nightmares and how the events at the Shadow Fold haunt Alina and Mal while they cross the sea. This dichotomy of dreams versus nightmares illustrates how the events of the previous months have come to change and traumatize them, shattering the innocence that characterized their lives back at the orphanage. The escapism they enjoyed as children playing in the meadow is held in stark relief against the reality of having to escape from a dangerous, terrible situation.