Shadow and Bone isn’t a traditional adaptation of a fantasy novel the way shows like Outlander and His Dark Materials are. Instead of pulling directly from once piece of source material, it’s a mashup of multiple Grishaverse books, different series all set within the same universe created by author Leigh Bardugo. That means numerous characters appear in Shadow and Bone who weren’t in the trilogy it’s named for, like Kaz, Jesper, and Inej. But there’s one other name floating about that’s not from the books: General Kirigan. So, who is General Kirigan in Shadow and Bone, and why isn’t he in the novels?
Warning: Spoilers for Netflix’s Shadow and Bone Season 1 and the Shadow and Bone trilogy of novels follow. For those who haven’t read the books, this question might seem odd. Who is General Kirigan? Why, he’s the leading male role in the show, the guy in the show everyone recognizes from Marvel’s The Punisher and Westworld (Ben Barnes). But in the books, Barnes’ character is never actually called "General Kirigan." People talk about his rank ("The General") all the time, but no one calls him that directly. They all call him by his type of Grisha: The Darkling.
Much like Alina is a Sun Summoner, the General is a Shadow Summoner, known as a "Darkling". There’s only one Grisha with his ability alive at any one time. This stems back centuries, to the creation of the Fold by the Black Heretic, the original Darkling. Every Darkling since the Black Heretic who possesses this ability has tried and failed to undo what he did.
The story’s big reveal is that there hasn’t actually been a parade of men who have possessed this power like everyone thought. There’s only the Black Heretic: Aleksander Morozova, the man who created the Fold, the son of Baghra Morozova and the grandson of Ilya Morozova, Sankt Ilya in Chains, who created the amplifier creatures known as Morozova’s beasts. Aleksander has lived many lives, faked his death, and came back as a new man with a high-ranking title over and over, posing as a new generation of Shadow Summoner each time.
That’s why every Darkling since the Black Heretic has failed to undo the Fold. He wasn’t trying to destroy his creation; he wanted to protect and expand it. Morozova has been waiting all this time for the fabled Sun Summoner to arrive. His ultimate goal was to make sure his creation lives forever.
But for adaptation purposes, it seems the Netflix series’ creators decided just calling this nameless General "The Darkling" as a title would be too confusing for viewers. Instead, he got one of those false highborn names he’s taken over the generations to hide who he is: Kirigan. As Bardugo pointed out on Twitter, this is absolutely in keeping with her story. As she tweeted when Ben Barnes was introduced as General Kirigan, "The Darkling has had many names." Now fans actually know one of them.
Shadow and Bone Season 1 is on Netflix now.
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