New Netflix fantasy series Shadow and Bone plunges viewers into a rich alternate world, full of warring nations with their own distinct cultures and people who all interact over the course of the series.
Created by author Leigh Bardugo in her Grishaverse novels, the countries and map of Shadow and Bone are an iconic part of the source material, and you can see how it all (literally) unfolds in the tweet below – but what are the countries, and how do they factor into the series?
How can you know where you're going if you don't know where you've been?— Netflix (@netflix) April 26, 2021
Go deeper into the world of Shadow and Bone https://t.co/71JqAhSPPC and use this map to help you explore The Grishaverse pic.twitter.com/9xxjZ2jT6b
Check out our guide to the Shadow and Bone map below.
The main setting of the series (and Bardugo’s books), Ravka is a nation loosely based on 19th-century Russia (right down to the language), and is the home of lead characters like Alina, Mal and Nina.
Ravka is a total monarchy ruled over by the King from the capital city of Os Alta, which is also the location of the Little Palace where Alina learns to use her powers during the course of the series.
Two crucial details separate Ravka from its nearest neighbours. Firstly, unlike other nations Grisha aren’t persecuted within Ravka’s borders – instead the element-controlling citizens are conscripted into the “Second Army” where they enjoy a life of luxury whilst fighting to protect their home nation.
Secondly, Ravka has an internal border forced by the presence of the Shadow Fold, or the “Unsea” – a roiling mass of shadows filled with monsters, inflicted on the nation by the Black Heretic generations before. The Fold essentially cuts Ravka in half, leading some in the smaller portion (named West Ravka) to aim for independence, tired of subsidising its trapped half.
Ravkans worship various Saints (styled Sankt or Sankta), and Alina becomes one of their number over the course of the series.
A warrior nation to the north of Ravka, Fjerda appears to be based on various Scandinavian cultures, and is the home of Shadow and Bone characters Matthias Helvar (pictured) and Jarl Brum. While also ruled over by the Grimjer royal family from the impregnable (ish) Ice Court, Fjerda is probably better known for its military practices, which largely revolve around a desire to capture and execute Grisha.
In the religion of Fjerda, the Grisha are considered evil witches and sentenced to death just for existing – and Fjerda’s druskelle warriors don’t stop with those born within their own borders, also venturing into Ravka itself to hunt down any and all Grisha they can find.
Unlike Ravkans the Fjerdans don’t worship Saints, instead bowing down to a tree-God named Djel.
An island nation to the East of Ravka, Kerch is best known for its domination of trade and sea routes, as well as its capital city – the ever-beguiling yet dangerous Ketterdam, home of thieves and criminals like Shadow and Bone’s Kaz Brekker, Inej Ghafa and Jesper Fahey (pictured).
Ruled over by a government of merchants, Kerch is based loosely on the Dutch Republic of the 18th Century, with Ketterdam itself inspired by Amsterdam, New York, Victorian London and Las Vegas.
The Kerch people worship a god called Ghezen, who represents industry and commerce. While only a short-lived setting in the Shadow and Bone TV series, Ketterdam is a major location in Bardugo’s Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom books, suggesting that it could play a more major role in any future seasons.
The Shu Han
Ravka’s southern neighbour the Shu Han is the nation and homeland of the Shu people, and is based on Mongolia and China. In fact, Bardugo named the nation after one of the Chinese States in the Three Kingdoms period.
Ruled over by a matriarchal monarchy in the capital city of Ahmrat Jen, the Shu Han is known for its scientific achievements, though this has often come at the cost of experimenting on Grisha in horrific conditions. While the Shu don’t have the same religious hatred of Grisha, it’s still considered a dangerous place to be one.
A regular enemy and military rival of Ravka, the Shu don’t feature much in Bardugo’s original Shadow and Bone novels beyond the characters Tolya and Tamar (who have yet to appear in the Netflix adaptation). However the nation is included more in the TV series thanks to a new backstory for Alina (pictured), which has her the victim of racist abuse thanks to her half-Shu, half-Ravkan heritage.
A younger country than most of its neighbours, Noyvi Zem is home to the largely peaceful Zemeni, who have been sheltered from many conflicts due to the expanse of the True Sea between them and the other nations.
Bardugo apparently based the country on the American colonies and Australia, and it is seen as a haven for anyone wishing to start a new life – in particularly Grisha, known as zowa locally and who are treated with honour by the Zemeni people. The nation is named for the real Russian archipelago called Novaya Zemlya.
Noyvi Zem has yet to make a major appearance in either the books or the TV show, though it’s the original home of major character Jesper and is a location where Mal and Alina briefly flee to at the start of Bardugo’s second book (currently, it’s unclear if a second season would follow this storyline).
The Wandering Isle
A small nation to the north of Noyvi Zem, the Wandering Isle is the home of the Kaelish people, who are famed for their red hair and pale skin. The Wandering Isle is based fairly explicitly on Ireland – in fact, in the TV series Nina indicates that a modern Irish accent is the usual dialect for the people there – though unlike real-life Irish people, the Kaelish are apparently quite keen on drinking the blood of Grisha.
According to later Grishaverse books the Wandering Isle is ruled over by a marshal or military chief, suggesting that it may be some kind of military dictatorship.
Shadow and Bone is available to stream on Netflix. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best series on Netflix and best movies on Netflix, our Fantasy page or our full TV Guide.