Symbols are objects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent abstract ideas or concepts.


Bones represent the augmentation of Grisha power. While amplifiers can be made of many animal-derived substances, the most prominent ones featured in the book are all made out of bone. The most important of these amplifiers is made from the antlers of Morozova’s stag and is used by the Darkling to control Alina’s power. As a result, bones are directly correlated with the amplification of Grisha powers. Moreover, bone is mentioned in two more key instances in the book, both have to do with the ways that Grisha power can be amplified. When the Darkling explains the nature of amplifiers to Alina in Chapter 5, he notes that his bones or teeth could be used to create an incredibly powerful one. The only other known living amplifier is Baghra, who is described as having “skeletal” hands and a skull-like face in Chapter 8. It’s only at Baghra’s “skeletal” hands that Alina is able to use her power for the majority of her time in the Little Palace.  


Color is a symbol of personal standing in Shadow and Bone. Each color occupies its own role in the novel, especially among the Grisha. The rich coloration of the Grisha uniforms make them stand out when compared with the green and brown of First Army uniforms. The Grisha’s keftas are color-coded so that each order wears just one to project where they stand and what they are able to do with their powers. Red is for Corporalki, blue for Etherealki, and purple for Materialnik. The secondary colors of the embroidery on the sleeves of keftas further specifies a Grisha’s standing because each of the thread colors used indicates a different specialty. Only three Grisha wear colors other than these, Genya in white, the Darkling in black, and Baghra in a color that Alina can’t discern (as she observes in Chapter 8). Most significant of all the colors represented in the book is black, which is correlated throughout with the Darkling. Where black is featured, the Darkling follows.  

The Stag 

Perhaps the most recognizable symbol in Shadow and Bone, Morozova’s stag is an immensely powerful creature widely considered a legend in Ravka. The stag itself is elusive and possessed of an ancient magic that sets it apart so far from the normal operations of the world that its very existence has become mythologized. While its first mention comes late in the novel, the stag is emblematic of the Darkling’s hunt for power. The Darkling’s pursuit of the stag also becomes a key conflict in the story as soon as he decides to use it to make an amplifier to control Alina. The mere threat of him getting close to locating it is enough for Baghra to urge Alina to flee from the Little Palace. Ultimately, the stag finds Alina and Mal in the clearing they are camping in rather than the other way around despite the pair having hunted for it for weeks. This suggests that the stag was fated to be part of Alina’s life, much like the Darkling suggests when he first mentions the subject of using its antlers to Baghra