Netflix’s adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels, Shadow and Bone, has taken the world by storm. However, for those unfamiliar with this rich fantasy world, understanding its cultures and geography can be quite overwhelming to learn. That’s why we’re here to provide a comprehensive breakdown of the key settings in this Russian-inspired fantasy realm.
Where is Shadow and Bone set?
The author of the Grishaverse novels, Leigh Bardugo, drew inspiration from real-world cultures and regions to craft her fictional world. Here’s what we know so far:
- Tsarist Russia serves as the foundation for Ravka,
- Fjerda finds loose inspiration from Scandinavia.
- Shu Han’s cultural elements draw from China and Mongolia.
- Kerch, the primary setting for Six of Crows, is inspired by the Dutch Republic of the 18th century, reflected in its capital city, Ketterdam, named after Amsterdam.
The majority of the first season’s action centers around Ravka, a kingdom involved in a war on two fronts. To the north, we have the nation of Fjerda, a hostile neighbor of Ravka, while to the south, it faces Shu Han, another formidable enemy of the kingdom.
Ravka is further plagued by its own internal strife—the Shadow Fold, a dangerous path that is surrounded by darkness, also known as the Unsea. The Shadow Fold obstructs Ravka’s access to the sea, creating a stark division between West Ravka and the rest of the nation.
Ravka’s capital, Os Alta, houses the Grand Palace, where most of the monarchy resides, and The Little Palace, where General Kirigan trains the Grisha.
Ravka provides a haven for Grisha, who are known to possess magical abilities and are often persecuted in other nations. In this kingdom, they form the Second Army, while the First Army comprises non-Grisha soldiers.
The northernmost peaks of the Sikurzoi mountain range are known as Elbjen, roughly translated as “the elbows.” These formidable mountains stretch across much of Ravka’s border with Shu Han. Among these peaks, you’ll discover the Spinning Wheel, a long-abandoned pilgrimage site, and observatory that is carved into the hollowed top of a mountain. Now it serves as a base for Nikolai Lanstov, the former King of Ravka.
The Bone Road
Bone Road is a deadly path in which iceberg-strewn waters connect the True Sea and the Isenvee. This dangerous passage is rumored that the legendary ice dragon, Rusalye, known as the Sea Whip, lurks beneath the sea’s surface. Countless ships have sunk among the nameless islands that materialize and vanish within the mist. Only the most seasoned Fjerdan fishermen and hunters dare to navigate these perilous waters. It is whispered that Sankt Nikolai, the patron saint of sailors and lost causes, endured his trials along this treacherous route.
Located west of the Shadow Fold and isolated from Os Alta and Ravkan rule, West Ravka has a close eye on secession. Novokribirsk, a coastal city on the True Sea, grants West Ravka a strategic advantage.
North of Ravka lies Fjerda, a nation that is in conflict with Ravka. Separated from its southern neighbor by dense forests and permafrost, Fjerda is renowned for its advancements in military technology, it is also home to the drüskelle, a warrior that was ordered to mercilessly hunt and kill Grisha, considering them as evil witches. In Shadow and Bone, Matthias, a drüskelle, undergoes a transformative journey as he encounters Grisha Heartrender Nina. Their path leads them to Tsibeya, a frigid tundra bordering Fjerda in the northeastern region of Ravka.
Fjerda’s faith centers on Djel, the Wellspring, and the belief that all elements of the world are interconnected through His waters—seas, ice, rivers, rain, and storms. Everything feeds Djel, and in return, is nourished by him.
Djerholm, the capital city, stands as one of the few places accessible from Fjerda’s western coast by sea. The other is the port settlement of Elling, situated at the confluence of the Stelge River and the Isvenee.
While Fjerdans primarily speak Fjerdan, the Hedjut people of the north possess a distinct dialect from the common tongue.
Djerholm serves as the capital of Fjerda, housing the legendary Ice Court—an impregnable fortress that protects the Grimjer monarchy’s seat, along with Fjerda’s most precious treasures and sacred religious relics. Beyond the Ice Court, Djerholm’s streets exude order and vibrancy, adorned with colorful homes, bustling warehouses, and vibrant religious festivals like Hringkälla and Vinetkälla.
The Ice Court overlooks Djerholm’s harbor, an enduring symbol of the drüskelle’s training grounds. It stands as a testament to the fortress’s invincibility.
Kerch may be small in size, but it wields immense economic influence as an island nation renowned for its robust trade routes, safeguarded by a formidable navy. Despite the illegality, Kerch frequently binds Grisha and others as indentured servants, which is basically human slavery.
Kerchites worship Ghezen, the god of industry and commerce, viewing prosperity as a divine blessing. The prominent place of worship in Ketterdam is the Church of Barter, a grand edifice shaped in the likeness of Ghezen’s hand. Instead of a monarchy, Kerch is governed by the Merchant Council, an assembly of merchants representing the oldest and wealthiest families in the nation.
A bustling hub of trade, Ketterdam stands as the thriving capital of Kerch. It is home to the Exchange, where merchants engage in transactions under the motto “Enjent, Voorhent, Almhent” (Industry, Integrity, Prosperity). It mostly centered around cultures and a thriving hub for the criminal underworld. Travelers from around the world flock to Ketterdam, drawn by the allure of the Barrel—a district where everything is available for a price. Here, you’ll encounter the Dregs, a notorious gang led by the infamous Kaz Brekker.
Built on low-lying terrain, Ketterdam employs canals alongside streets for transportation between its diverse neighborhoods. Despite its bustling vibrancy, the city is susceptible to fires and disease outbreaks, with a siren exclusively reserved to signal quarantines.
Visitors to Ketterdam can explore popular tourist attractions, such as Boeksplein, Geldrenner Hotel, and the Church of the Barter, while the daring venture into the Barrel—a district where every desire comes at a price.
Shielded by the imposing Sikurzoi mountain range to the north, Shu Han is governed by the Taban queens, a matriarchal monarchy tracing its lineage back centuries. These regal rulers reside in Ahmrat Jen, the capital city. They are guarded by the Tavgharad, an elite force of female warriors.
Shu Han’s religion centers on the Six Soldiers, with temples dedicated to their veneration found throughout the capital city, including that of Sankta Neyar, the patron saint of blacksmiths.
While Shu Han boasts a formidable land army and renowned mercenaries. Within Shu Han’s borders, Grisha often become subjects of capture and experimentation as authorities seek to uncover the source of their unique powers—a practice officially denied by their government.
Although Season 1 does not transport us to Shu Han, it offers glimpses of this southern land. Alina’s mixed heritage, with her Shu ancestry, is a victim of racial discrimination.
Shadow and Bone has a diverse culture with rich geography, making it a captivating world to explore. Whether you’re a devoted fan or new to the Grishaverse, this guide unlocks the secrets of this enchanting realm, inviting you to immerse yourself in its wonder.