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Is This the Most Tragic Character in the Entire ‘Shadow and Bone’ Series?

The ways in which he never fails to break my heart

David Kostyk, played by Luke Pasqualino, as he appeared in the first season of Netflix's Shadow and Bone

I have long been a firm believer in the fact that the characters are what make the Grishaverse truly great, ever since I first picked up Shadow and Bone in 2012. Each new installment of the saga has only confirmed this belief—Six of Crows duology, I’m especially looking at you—and the show has reinforced it, even when accounting for all the changes made in adapting Leigh Bardugo’s world for the screen.

This article includes spoilers from both seasons of Shadow and Bone on Netflix and from the entire Grishaverse book series, up to Rule of Wolves.

And it’s not just the main characters—Alina, Nikolai, Kaz, Inej, the Darkling—that are great; it’s the whole cast that revolves around them. You know something is well-written when the secondary characters are just as fleshed out and complex as the ones through which you primarily experience the story.

Among these characters, few stand out on the page and in the hearts of fans like Genya Safin and David Kostyk. Introduced as some of the first Grisha that Alina meets when she arrives at the Little Palace in Shadow and Bone, they become very important in her upcoming quest against the Darkling and in the reconstruction of Ravka after the destruction of the Fold. All the while they suffer, make mistakes, fall in love, and get married.

Still, that doesn’t mean that they get their happy ending. So, let’s break down what happens and truly get into the tragedy of it all. Hope you have some tissues handy.

What we saw in the Shadow and Bone series

The second season of Shadow and Bone merged together the events of the two other books in the Shadow and Bone trilogy—Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising—while also adding the Crows, who shouldn’t actually step onto the scene until “their” duology, which starts with Six of Crows. So the showrunners were considerably pressed for time, rushing some storylines and anticipating some events that don’t happen until much later.

In episode 7 of season 2, “Meet You in the Meadow,” we see the Darkling attacking the forces of Alina and Nikolai—both with the Grisha loyal to him and by expanding the Fold, drenching the Spinning Wheel in darkness, volcra and nichevo’ya.

Among those trapped in the fortress are Genya and David (played respectively by Daisy Head and Luke Pasqualino), who sought refuge there after having abandoned the Darkling, and who had just confessed their feelings to each other like five seconds prior. Together, the two try to escape the monsters that have come with the Fold until they find themselves trapped with no way out.

Genya and David embracing in 'Shadow and Bone'
They are just so beautiful. I love them with all my heart (Netflix)

David helps Genya climb into what looks like a dumbwaiter—she expects him to climb in with her, but instead, he seals her inside with his Durast skills and gives her a chance to survive. The following episode, “No Funerals,” shows Genya going back into that room and seeing a splatter of blood right across the dumbwaiter door that David had sealed.

The show never explicitly states that David was killed by the monsters of the Shadow Fold, and yet this is what we are definitely led to believe, even without ever seeing his corpse. The scene where Genya discovers that David had been designing the ring with which he planned to propose to her is absolutely heartbreaking. 

Sure, there’s always the age-old rule of not believing someone is dead until you see a body, and sometimes not even then. But I think that we can go ahead and consider David sadly out of the story for good—and that’s because of what happens in the books.

So does David die in the books?

David is actually alive at the end of the final book in the Shadow and Bone trilogy, Ruin and Rising. The Grisha triumvirate with which Nikolai works to rebuild Ravka after the destruction of the Shadow Fold is composed of Genya, Zoya, and David; one for each of the three Grisha orders—Corporalki, Etherealki, and Fabrikators, respectively.

Genya and Alina in 'Shadow and Bone'
I love that Alina is a part of the Grisha triumvirate in the show, but the fact that it came “at the cost” of David’s life is Very Hard for me to bear (Netflix)

The people in Ravka step into the background as the Crows deal with their heist and its consequences in their duology, before returning as protagonists for the final duology of the Grishaverse—made up of King of Scars and Rule of Wolves.

And it’s Rule of Wolves that brings about David’s end. While he and Genya were revealed to have been married sometime in the three years that passed between when Ruin and Rising ends and King of Scars picks up, they decide to have a second and more elaborate wedding ceremony and reception at the royal chapel.

The festivities are cut short, however, when Ravka’s enemy nation, Fjerda, bombs the palace. David is among the casualties, and he’s found while still wearing his wedding clothes—as if the whole thing wasn’t already tragic enough.

David peers from behind a corner in 'Shadow and Bone'
Brilliant and brave and forever missed (Netflix)

This is what makes David Kostyk one of the most compelling and incredibly sad characters in the entire series, but also what makes his return for a potential season 3 of Shadow and Bone very unlikely.

(featured image: Netflix)

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Benedetta (she/her) lives in Italy and has been writing about pop culture and entertainment since 2015. She has considered being in fandom a defining character trait since she was in middle school and wasn't old enough to read the fanfiction she was definitely reading and loves dragons, complex magic systems, unhinged female characters, tragic villains and good queer representation. You’ll find her covering everything genre fiction, especially if it’s fantasy-adjacent and even more especially if it’s about ASOIAF. In this Bangtan Sonyeondan sh*t for life.