‘Shadow and Bone’ Finally Gave Us the Character We’ve Been Waiting For
I love all my characters the same, Nikolais and non-Nikolais.
I’ve been a Grishaverse fan for a hot minute now, and while the story told throughout the seven main novels in Leigh Bardugo’s series are uniquely intriguing and fascinating, I do maintain that the characters are what really draw people in—and then make them stay, clutching their faves close to their hearts.
Among those faves, there are most likely more than a few Crows. The five (plus one—a kiss to the stars for Matthias in his Hellgate cell) members of one of Ketterdam’s most feared gangs are so popular among Grishaverse fans, which is likely why they were included from the get-go in the Netflix adaptation (even though they don’t show up at any point during the first three novels detailing Alina’s story).
This article contains spoilers for the entire second season of Shadow and Bone.
Still, there is one other character who could give the Crows a run for their kruge—and it’s the one character that I had been waiting for the show to introduce. Sturmhond. Sobachka. Prince Nikolai Lantsov. If you hear someone screaming, it’s definitely me.
Who exactly is Nikolai Lantsov?
Nikolai Lantsov—Major of the Twenty-Second Regiment, Soldier of the King’s Army, Grand Duke of Udova, and second son to His Most Royal Majesty, King Alexander the Third, Ruler of the Double Eagle Throne—is definitely one of my favorite characters in the entire saga.
As his lengthy list of titles—with which he reveals himself to Alina and Mal in Siege and Storm—proclaims, he’s the youngest son of the King and Queen of Ravka and has served in the infantry of the country’s First Army.
He appears as your stereotypical charming prince—smug and self-assured—but it becomes very clear very soon that Nikolai might be the only one in his family who actually cares about what happens to Ravka (even though it’s revealed in the season 2 finale that he’s not actually a Lantsov by blood). He plans to do everything he can to give his country and its people a better future by putting his considerable abilities as a brilliant engineer and inventor, among other things, to good use.
The fact that there’s more to Nikolai than meets the eye is actually very clear from the way we are introduced to him in both the books and the show. And that’s where Sturmhond comes in.
So who is Sturmhond in Shadow and Bone?
Sturmhond is a fearsome privateer who sails the True Sea aboard his ship, the Volkovny, which translates to “Wolf of the Waves.” It’s also Nikolai’s alias since, as he says himself, “on the seas, Nikolai Lantsov is more valuable as a hostage than as a captain. Hard to command a ship when you’re constantly worrying about being bashed on the head late at night and then ransomed to your royal papa”.
In the books, Nikolai explains how his parents think he’s studying at the university at Ketterdam—where someone is being handsomely paid to take his place—while he’s actually roaming the True Sea picking up pirates and working on his inventions, like the flying craft he’s dubbed the Hummingbird. While it’s never stated in the show, we can assume that things are pretty much the same.
Another pretty significant change from book to show is that Sturmhond in the books has been Tailored to have a face different from Nikolai’s by none other than Tolya, a Heartrender and one of the most esteemed members of his crew.
Still, it makes sense that this wasn’t included in the show. Patrick Gibson, who plays Nikolai, was already a new face in the cast and giving him an almost completely different look to play Sturmhond would have only made things more confusing.
Besides, everything that makes Nikolai Nikolai is there: the charm, the heart, the lines lifted directly from the books. He’s all I could have ever hoped for and more. And since the premise of the King of Scars duology—the final installment of the Grishaverse, in which Nikolai is the main character—was most definitely laid down in the season 2 finale of Shadow and Bone, I can only hope that we’ll get more of Gibson’s Nikolai in the future.
(featured image: Netflix)
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