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Shadow And Bone Season 2's Shadow Monsters (Nichevo'ya) Explained

Contains spoilers for Season 2 of "Shadow and Bone."

Magic and mystery abound in the world of Netflix's "Shadow and Bone." Based on the "Grishaverse" books from author Leigh Bardugo, "Shadow and Bone" explores various schools of magic across multiple countries. Typically, the magic of this world is known as "The Small Science," and those blessed with this gift are able to manipulate certain elements and mediums to dizzying degrees. This means that some can change metal and glass, while others may be able to cause the classical elements like fire and water to dance at their beck and call. However, one of the most important facets of magic in the world of "Shadow and Bone" is that it generally observes the scientific laws of physics in that matter is neither created nor destroyed — most of the time, that is.

The shadow monsters present in Season 2 are known as the Nichevo'ya, and they are exceptionally rare. Just see the description of the Nichevo'ya from Bardugo's book "Siege and Storm": "It was a creature wrought from shadow, its face blank and devoid of features. Its body seemed to tremble and blur, then form again: arms, legs, hands ending in the dim suggestion of claws, a broad back crested by wings that roiled and shifted as they unfurled like a black stain. It was almost like a volcra, but its shape was more human. And it did not fear the light."

That all sounds terrifying enough, but it's just the beginning.

The Nichevo'ya are created through a rare form of magic

Although most of the Small Sciences in "Shadow and Bone" behave according to physical laws of reality, there are some individuals who are able to blur this distinction, like Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) and the grimly intelligent General Aleksander Kirigan (Ben Barnes). Alina and General Kirigan, better known as the Darkling, are essentially two sides of the same coin — Alina is able to summon and manipulate pure light, while the Darkling is able to control darkness and shadow. It's the Darkling who is able to create the Nichevo'ya through a Small Science known as "merzost," which is a word that means both magic and abomination.

The Nichevo'ya do not exist of their own free will, and are created and dispatched by the Darkling in order to achieve his goals. They make effective soldiers for the Darkling, because they are able to disperse themselves when confronted by normal weapons like firearms and swords. Meanwhile, the bites from their lamprey-like mouths inflict lasting pain, and the wounds they inflict don't heal normally. However, there are some limitations on the Nichevo'ya, both for the creatures themselves and the Darkling who utilizes them.

The Nichevo'ya have some limitations, and creating them drains one's lifeforce

As mentioned earlier, the Nichevo'ya are created through the mysterious and frowned-upon art of merzost, which is considered a creation magic. Since magic in the world of "Shadow and Bone" tries to observe the conservation of mass and energy, merzost is something of a perversion of its own world's natural law, which is why it's often considered an abomination. 

When the Darkling creates Nichevo'ya, the process is physically draining, and some of his own life is used in order to summon the fiends. This means that the Nichevo'ya are incapable of acting on their own, and they are limited by proximity to the Darkling. If one should spot a Nichevo'ya, they can be certain that the Darkling isn't too far away.

Besides the Darkling's ability to create Nichevo'ya, he is also able to transform normal people into them, which is a terrifying prospect for many who would rightly fear being converted into a shadow monster that dances to the Darkling's tune. Surprisingly, the name Nichevo'ya actually means "nothing" in the Rakvan language, and it's a title chosen by the Darkling to highlight what he thinks of them. Needless to say, the Nichevo'ya are deadly combatants and foot soldiers in the Darkling's grand schemes, but they are not without their own limitations.