Into the fold

Shadow and Bone: what is the Fold? Netflix series’ dark twist, explained

All about the darkness dividing the kingdom of Ravka.

Netflix’s Shadow and Bone opens with young cartographer Alina Starkov being brought to a camp at the edge of the Shadow Fold in the kingdom of Ravka. But what exactly is this Fold? It runs through the center of the kingdom and forms the backbone of the series, but details of just exactly what it’s made of are murky.

Here’s everything we know about the Fold, from Alina’s history with it to its shocking origins.

Warning! Shadow and Bone spoilers ahead.

What is the Fold?

The Shadow Fold in all its foreboding majesty.Netflix

“When I was young, I was scared of the dark. When I grew older, I learned darkness was a place.”

These are the first words of Shadow and Bone, and the first Alina tells us of the Fold. Soon after, we flashback to Alina’s childhood, where her mapmaking skills started. She touches the Fold on a map and asks her teacher why those in Ravka simply don’t go around.

The answer is more political than logistical. North of the Fold is Fjerda, where the people are prejudiced against the element-controlling Grisha. South of the Fold are the Shu-Han, who have closed off their borders altogether to “protect their mountains.” Alina is then told her parents were eaten by the Fold, which is why she’s in an orphanage.

It’s quite a lot of info for the first five minutes of the series. But the “darkness was a place” theme captures the intent of the Fold quite well.

Author Leigh Bardugo told Entertainment Weekly her inspiration came from this idea, saying, “In most fantasy, darkness is metaphorical; it’s just a way of talking about evil. I wanted to take something figurative and make it literal.” The Fold is the manifestation of the evil in Ravka that’s been around so long, everyone gets used to it.

How the Fold plays out in Shadow and Bone

General Kirigan on a sandskiff.Netflix

As Shadow and Bone demonstrates, crossing the Fold is difficult, and dangerous.

It’s only really possible through “sandskiffs” (effectively sleds) with protective Grisha to keep the wind strong and light fires if necessary. Alternately, you can take an experimental train, like the Crows do. It’s not exactly recommended. Just like any terrifying dark place, there are monsters lurking around every corner — in this case, pterodactyl-like creatures called the volcra. It’s the volcra that capture Mal, triggering Alina’s Sun Summoner powers.

So who created the Fold? It’s existed for centuries, so hardly anyone remembers. But it’s revealed later the Fold was created by the Darkling, aka General Kirigan, played by Ben Barnes. He’s been living among the Grisha while secretly hiding his identity as the centuries-old villain. Just like the Fold, he’s a form of evil who has been around so long, everyone is now used to him.

So what’s next for the Shadow Fold? With General Kirigan thought to be dead, Alina and Mal are leaving Ravka until Alina is strong enough to destroy the Fold altogether with her Sun Summoner powers. However, General Kirigan is very much alive, so the Fold may be around for a while longer. Hopefully, a second season will explain more about this dark mystery in the center of this show.

Shadow and Bone is now streaming on Netflix.