​​​Alina finds that many of the things she struggled with before have become much easier. She feels physically capable in a way that was never accessible to her before. Alina continues her lessons with Baghra and Botkin and finds success in both. Alina spends a good deal of time with Genya.  

Despite Alina’s improvement, Baghra doesn’t believe that she has what it takes to have an impact on the Shadow Fold. One evening, the Darkling arrives at Baghra’s hut to watch Alina’s training. Baghra and the Darkling argue once again about Alina’s ability, with Baghra insisting that the Darkling provide an amplifier for her. The Darkling refuses to get her anything other than the antlers from Morozova’s stag. Alina leaves Baghra’s hut with him. The Darkling asks if Alina thinks he’s mad for believing in the stag. He kisses her. He looks surprised at having done it, but before he can talk to her, Ivan approaches to tell the Darkling that the Apparat is waiting for him.  

The Darkling is nowhere to be found after their kiss. As the King’s winter fete approaches, Alina continues her training, but is distracted thinking about the Darkling. On the night of the party, Genya helps her get ready while Alina waits for her new kefta to be delivered. To their surprise, the kefta is black and has a golden charm with the Darkling’s symbol at the neck. Genya tells her that all Grisha feel the same pull to the Darkling and warns Alina to be careful with powerful men.  

Alina’s black kefta makes her the center of attention at the fete. The Darkling arrives and together they put on a grand show of light and shadow. After their demonstration, the Darkling leads Alina by the hand to an empty room where they kiss again. Alina feels overwhelmed by the way his power floods through her. He admits that the hates how badly he wants to be with her. Interrupted by the sound of people in the corridor, the Darkling pulls away, saying that Ivan is waiting for him because his men reported spotting the stag. Before he leaves, the Darkling asks if he can come to her rooms later that night, but Alina doesn’t respond.  

Alina returns to the party for a while and then heads back to the Little Palace. She’s shocked to see Mal in the entry hall with a group of soldiers. He speaks with Alina, a grim expression on his face. When Mal tells her that he was summoned by the Darkling, Alina realizes that Mal must be the tracker who found Morozova’s herd. Alina demands to know why Mal hasn’t answered any of her letters, but Mal denies having gotten any. He tells her that he’s been worried about her and is angry that she seems to have been thriving all the while. During their argument, Mal brings up the Darkling several times, calling him Alina’s “master” and insinuating that wearing the black kefta means that he owns her. The two part angrily and Alina cries while thinking of all the time she has spent chasing after him.


The physical change that Alina experiences when she begins to use her power speaks to the kind of toll that self-denial and the suppression of one’s true self can take. On one hand, it is appropriate to read this change as a statement about the way that Alina has been physically exhausting herself by suppressing her powers. On the other hand, this can also be read as a statement about how Alina’s denial of her true nature has shaped her experience of the world. The change she experiences thus highlights the ways she has been forcing herself to suffer because of her self-denial. She no longer feels physically frail, food tastes better to her, and she can finally sleep well. Frailty and sickness were things she bore because it meant she could maintain her connection to Mal. The true tragedy here is that her suffering became so natural to her that she didn’t even question it.  

Alina’s training changes significantly after she uses her power for the first time because she has undergone an important personal transformation often seen in the hero’s journey. One of the most significant and identifiable steps of the hero’s journey, a personal transformation allows the hero to access a new level of power or to reach a new stage of their potential. In this case, Alina’s breakthrough acts as this moment of transformation whereby she can finally freely tap into her Grisha power. The transformation also allows the hero to assume a new role previously inaccessible to them. For Alina, this is her role as the Darkling’s counterpart.  

The new intimacy she experiences with the Darkling is thrilling for Alina, but it also makes her question herself. The first time that Alina and the Darkling kiss is characterized as something almost innocent and accidental. Alina keeps it to herself not because she regrets it happened but because she is uncertain of other peoples’ reactions. The second time that they kiss is much different than the first, which shows a confusing change in the Darkling’s demeanor. It is emotionally charged and driven by a kind of raw desire that pushes them both past their comfort zones. Alina senses anger and hatred in him which destabilizes her, but she is so overwhelmed by the moment that she doesn’t pull away. Afterward, she questions the meaning of it all, but is unable to come to a conclusion.  

The warning that Genya gives Alina about powerful men exposes the way that powerful men of Ravka abuse the women around them and foreshadows the way that Alina will lose her agency to the Darkling. Even though Alina already knew about the rumors of Genya being victimized by the King, this moment is the first time that Genya actually puts voice to it. Genya doesn’t directly admit what happened, saying instead that “the King has his way with lots of servants,” and dances around the details. The event clearly had a significant impact on Genya, which is evidenced by her demeanor during the conversation. While she talks around what happened, her meaning is clear: the King is an abuser who has hurt many servants in the past and she fears that the Darkling may be capable of similar behavior. Genya is afraid of the power that these men possess and what that power allows them to get away with. 

When Mal arrives at the Little Palace, his reaction speaks to the theme of opposing forces of light and dark. Mal is able to discern the way that the Darkling is taking possession of Alina. This leads to an intense argument between Mal and Alina, which shows Mal’s true feelings of mistrust toward the Darkling. While Mal does not know the full extent to which the Darkling plans to use Alina, he is able to understand that at least some of the changes he sees in her are because of the Darkling’s influence. Her black kefta immediately cues Mal into the kind of influence he has over Alina, but his spiteful statement about how the Darkling “owns” her is a telling moment of transparency where Mal’s true fears shine through. They reach an impasse when Alina doesn’t refute that she belongs to the Darkling. Instead, Alina states that the Darkling “owns us all,” including Mal. This opens a rift between the two and threatens to forever change the nature of their relationship. At this point, Alina is still convinced of the Darkling’s desire to do good in Ravka, and doesn’t see the ominous power of his darkness.