Malyen Oretsev, commonly known as Mal, is Alina Starkov's childhood best friend, a former soldier of the First Army and a gifted tracker.
Appearance and PersonalityEdit
Mal has brown hair and blue eyes, and is described as handsome. He is a gifted tracker, able to find just about anything with a heartbeat.
Mal has been orphaned by his parents during the Border Wars. He spent most of his childhood in the Orphanage of Keramzin which was led by Duke Keramsov, where he met and befriended Alina Starkov. Mal and Alina have known each other their whole lives and were seemingly inseparable as children having come from the same unnamed village. Since Mal was a child he has shown promise as a tracker, accompanying the men of the Kermazin Orphanage on hunting trips.
After the Grisha's examination which is assumed they did not pass, they end up in the military on a march to Poliznaya.
When their regiment try to cross the Shadow Fold, their boats are attacked by Volcra who try to take Alina and almost kill Mal. He ends up surviving thanks to his friend, but the two are separated after it is discovered that Alina is a Sun Summoner.
Months later, Mal sees Alina at the Little Palace during the display of her powers at the winter fete. After months of worrying about her, Mal thinks that Alina seems to be a completely different person, one charmed by the Darkling's attention. He approaches her later while she's alone; they argue, and ultimately he leaves the Little Palace. However, When he learns that Alina is on the run, he tracks her, effectively committing desertion from the army to help Alina find the stag. While tracking the stag, the two confess their love for each other and grow close again.
The Darkling eventually catches them along with the stag, and using David's abilities as a Durast, succeeds in fixing the stag's antlers about Alina's neck as a collar. He has Mal put in chains as they camp for the night before leaving for Kribirsk.
Mal is locked up in the jail at Kribirsk, and the Darkling allows Alina to visit him the night before he plans to enter the Shadow Fold and execute Mal. However, once inside the Fold, the Darkling's plans fail when Alina breaks free from his control and she escapes with Mal. The book ends with Mal and Alina sailing across the sea together.
They hope to start a new life together, but first they must survive the journey across the unforgiving waters.
Mal and Alina are sailing across the sea, hoping to find somewhere safe to live together, free of the Darkling and the ever-growing fold. Mal makes himself at home on the ship and among the crew, making himself useful whilst also trying to keep Alina safe and her nightmares at bay.
When they arrive in the new country they stay in a hotel, paying for a shared room with money they earn from the small job they have found. However, one day, they both return to their room to discover the Darkling and his Grisha have been waiting for them. They attempt to fight back but are ultimately captured and taken aboard the Darkling's ship.
When kidnapped by the Darkling, Mal is forced to track down another mythological amplifier for the Darkling after many threats against both Mal and Alina. Since Mal doesn't have many options after the Darkling threatens to essentially skin Alina alive, he begins tracking.
They escape and reach the mainland with the handsome privateer Sturmhond, the captain of their ship. When Sturmhond takes them into the Fold on his flying ship Hummingbird, Mal is furious about the deception at first, but then sees the potential in using Alina's power to allow them to hunt the volcra in the Shadow Fold. Though they are successful at first, their situation goes awry when Alina, feeling anguish over killing even volcra, suddenly sees a vision of the Darkling and inadvertently drops the protective light, allowing the volcra to attack the ship. Mal finds Alina to make sure she's all right, and once out of the Fold they brace themselves for impact as the ship crash lands.
After Sturmhond reveals his true identity as Nikolai Lantsov, Prince of Ravka, Nikolai proposes that Alina marry him and help him unite the First and Second Armies. Mal vehemently objects, but eventually agrees to accompany Alina to Os Alta, where she intends to take control of the Second Army.
Their relationship gets rocky at this point because Alina has a lot riding on her shoulders and Mal is scared by her new powers and change in personality as well as insecure about the possibility of a marriage to Nikolai, and wants for them to have a nice life together like they used to, not being in constant danger and the middle of political struggle. Due to their differences along with misunderstandings that take place between Mal and Alina (who is haunted by visions of the Darkling), Mal feels he is no longer as important to Alina. They eventually break up and he later spends much of his time either drinking or joining a Grisha fight club. During one of these fights, Alina catches him kissing Zoya after his victory which leads to another fight between them.
The Darkling attacks Os Alta, and corners Alina and the surviving Grisha in the chapel. Alina tells them all to run and goes to the Darkling; tricking him into letting her get close enough to kiss him, Alina uses his powers to bring down the chapel, and ultimately the both of them. She tries to end the chaos with the Darkling once and for all, rather than submitting and letting him win. At least they'll both be dead then. She almost succeeds, but Mal pulls her from the chapel before she can finish her work. Now she is weak, and nearly dead, but the Darkling recovers faster.
Mal realizes he's been petty and stupid. While Alina is recovering from her fight with the Darkling, he begins training her army and also himself. He apologizes and realizes that all he wants to do is make sure Alina has the support she needs and deserves, no matter who she is and what she decides to do. He is there for her. He even decides to step aside and allow her to marry Nikolai if she wants, if that's what's best for Ravka.
While searching for the last amplifier, Mal and Alina find out the truth. He is descended from Baghra's sister, making him the great whatever-nephew of the Darkling. It also makes him an amplifier. Before their final attack on the Darkling, they have sex. Alina tells him they were always meant to be together.
Mal sacrifices himself to Alina so that they can be rid of the Darkling and save Ravka. She's so broken over the act of killing him, that even though her power breaks, she is able to get Tolya and Tamar to bring him back to life.
They allow the world to believe they are dead, and live a peaceful life together under assumed names.
- "No fainting in the middle of the road," – p. 10
- "I see. I can shove you under a cart if that would help." – p 11
- "It's always just you and me, Alina." ‒ p. 25
- "I'm not afraid to die, Alina," he said in that cold, steady voice that seemed so alien to me. "But I'd like to give us a fighting change. We have to go after the stag." ‒ p. 268
- "I've walked half the length of Ravka for you, and I'd do it again and again and again just to be with you, just to starve with you and freeze with you and hear you complain about hard cheese every day. So don't tell me we don't belong together." ‒ p. 298
- "I'm sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now." ‒ p. 298
- "I don't care if you danced naked on the roof of the Little Palace with him. I love you, Alina, even the part of you that loved him." ‒ p. 331
- "We'll find a way out of this, Alina. We always do." - p. 60
- "I am become a blade."
- "You are all I have ever wanted. You are the whole of my heart."