February 22, 2024

Editor’s Note: The following contains full Shadow and Bone Season 2 spoilers.There are many intricacies of the magical system in the world Shadow and Bone. They call their magic “Little Science” and can use it to perform many great and small miracles. Grishas are ordered by their affiliations, but throughout history some Grishas have sought to transcend the boundaries of their realm. One of these Grishas was Morozova, the Grisha who unleashed the most powerful amplifiers in the world and dedicated her life to testing the rules of Little Science. One of his most powerful and controversial inventions was the merzost, which is believed to be the thing that caused him to be chained in iron and drowned in a river.

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What is Merzost?

Darkling creates The Shadow Fold in Shadow and Bone Season 1
Image via Netflix

Merzost is not really a thing in itself, it is like an energy. Merzost Grisha is a tour de force, sort of an alternative to Small Science. This is a creative power that allows the wielder to transcend the rules of life and death. Grisha is considered a perversion of power. It requires great sacrifice from the user to use it and uses their life force as a source of energy every time they use the merzost. Basically, using merzost means using your life force to perform tasks that go against nature. It is a power that can bring people back from the dead, as in the case of Morozova’s daughter and Mal (Archie Renaux) or to create tools of incredible power like Kirigan’s shadow monsters or Morozova’s three amplifiers.

What is Merzost used for?

Alina Morozova with chard in Shadow and Bone Season 1
Image via Netflix

As far as we know, both in the show and in the books, only three people have ever handled merzost. First and foremost was its creator, Morosova, who used merzost to craft her three legendary amplifiers: the Morozova Collar (the horns of a white worm), the Seawhip Chain (the scales of a sea monster), and the Firebird (whose powers are passed down through a bloodline ). . Each amp would be capable of giving Grisha an uncountable amount of power and combined, they are powerful enough to bring down the Fold.

The second creature we know of using Merzost was the Darkling (Ben Barnes), General Kirigan. He has used merzost on a much larger scale. The Darkling used dark power when he created the Fold, an almost impenetrable land of shadow and smoke that cuts the country of Ravka in half. And the Volcra, giant winged beasts that will tear through anyone they see, were also the result of the merzost used to create the Fold. He used it again to create shadow monsters, nichevo’ya, who protects As he uses this power more we see how it weakens him and makes him sick. In the show, she gives him symptoms like a severe cough and splitting headaches. However, he uses nichevo’ya continuously and also infects Nikolai Lantsov (Patrick Gibson) when he turns nichevo’ya with merzost in Alina’s (Jessie Mei Li) allies.

The only other person we know of in the Grishaverse so far who has used merzost is Alina Starkov.

Alina’s Tristaldia with Merzost

Archie Renaux as Mal Oretsev in Merzost's returning Shadow and Bone Season 2
Image via Netflix

When Alina used Merzost to resurrect Mal, she became the third known person to use the taboo power. How he uses it in the show is very different from how he uses it in the source material, though. In the show, Nina (Danielle Galligan) tries to revive Mal and fails, Alina steps in and directs her power at him, using merzost to bring him back. We see the fear this creates in Nina, who is aware that her attempts were unsuccessful, but the long-term changes or consequences of this choice remain to be seen. In the book, however, Alina uses merzost through her still-active connection with the Darkling to create her own nichevo’ya. (Shadow monsters used by Darkness) to fight him at the end of the second novel. As a result of using a power that turns his hair permanently white.

The show takes Merzost in a different direction. Morozova used merzost directly to revive her daughter, making it the third amplifier that would be passed down through the generations. And this correct use of revival is mirrored by Alina when she uses the power to revive Mal. In the books, nichevo’ya is shown only as a tool of incredible creation being the most obvious result of using merzost in the story, except of course The Fold which cuts Ravka in half.

The After Effects

Nikolai as Nichevo'ya in Shadow and Bone Season 2
Image via Netflix

After using Merzost, similar to using the drug Jurda parem, the user is forever changed. In the book, Alina lost her hair color and her powers weakened. For Darkling, we see that he takes a lot of damage in health and even with all his power his nichevo’ya sometimes he acts out of control. Despite being the creator of the Fold and a product of his merzost, the bolkras were still against Kirigan. Nikolai’s infection with merzost is an unintended consequence of the Darkling’s use of him and will take months or years to truly understand. The things created by Merzost are unwieldy and what he touches is forever changed. Morozova’s daughter’s bloodline carried the power of amplification forever, Nikolai will forever bear the scars of his infection, and the land touched by the Fold will forever be scarred and barren from its effects. While Merzost’s magic can sometimes be undone, its effects cannot be erased so easily.

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Can Merzost be used for good?

Ben Barnes as The Darkling in Shadow and Bone Season 2
Image via Netflix

So far the merzost has been used for two revivals and a massive abomination to divide the country, so the route isn’t great. But Merzost has not disappeared. We have seen the Darkling and his nichevo’ya power Nikolai lives like an infection. And Alina, unlike her book counterpart, still has her powers and is still Saint to the public. As these two work together, you might see them both learn more about the merzost and that maybe it doesn’t always have to be a risk. If only the series would last long enough to show how Nikolai copes with it and maybe even learn to channel his shadow monster powers, we can understand what merzost really is.

For most of the time in the Grishaverse, merzost has been the stuff of heretics. A terrible tool at a terrible cost. And maybe it will stay that way. But now that two of our main characters have used it firsthand, perhaps we can understand it in more than philosophical terms. Hopefully, in the same way that we understand the effects of the drug Jurda parem, we will understand how it affects its subjects. What else can merzost do? And how will Alina and Nikolai deal with its effects on them? As both lead Ravka into the future, we’ll have to wait and see if we get Season 3.

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