The Darkling, also known as Aleksander Morozova, is the mysterious Grisha leader.
The Darkling is described as a tall handsome young man, appearing not much older than Alina despite his ancient age. He has ink black hair, quartz gray eyes and sharp, beautiful features.
As later revealed, The Darkling is an extremely dark and manipulative person. He is power hungry and had created the Fold in order to use it against his enemies, but in the process created the Volcra which prevented him from expanding it . He is also ambitious. He wants the Grisha to be free from slavery and oppression and planned to use the fold as leverage against those people who built the pyre (where they burn Grishas), and not only against his own enemies. He was so obsessed with Alina because she had the capacity to be like him.
The Darkling was born many years ago and he is currently around 500 years old, if his claims are true. He is the child of Baghra and an unknown Heartrender. His mother was the one who raised him, giving him ambitions and pride. The Darkling's greed resulted in the creation of the Shadow Fold, in the period when he was still known as the Black Heretic. The Darkling served many kings over the years and faked his death many times. He planned to expand the Fold and gain power over Ravka, but needed a Sun Summoner to destroy the Volcra and carry out his ambitions.
Alina Starkov was brought before the Darkling after a failed attempt to cross the Shadow Fold resulted in a mysterious light saving her and her friend Malyen Oretsev. After witnesses shared what they saw on the skiff, the Darkling did not believe that Alina was a Sun Summoner and decided to conduct a test. After covering the room in darkness, he tried to call out to the magic inside her, but she actively resisted. Instead of falling for her trick, the Darkling decided to use physical force, cutting her arm with a knife, and the pain triggered a response in Alina: a blazing white light that shattered the darkness he conjured.
Later it is revealed that the Darkling is also a living amplifier, a person who can increase a Grisha's powers. There are also inanimate objects that are used as amplifiers but only the Darkling's most favored Grisha are allowed to have them. The Darkling did not interact much with Alina again while at the palace, but he appeared one day at Baghra's hut and told Alina that he might be able to get her the most powerful amplifier ever.
After Alina finally accepted her powers, the Darkling visited her again during a training session. He had still not found the stag whose antlers he had promised her but he asked that she have faith in him, and then he kissed her to both of their surprise. After the King and Queen's winter fete, Alina learned that Baghra was the Darkling's mother, He was the Black Heretic who created the Shadow Fold, and that his plan was to use Alina to fend off the volcra that kept him from using the Fold.
When he caught Alina and Mal after they ran away, he used the stag's antlers to bind her to him, and then he revealed that he planned on having Mal killed by the volcra. He used Alina's powers to show his own powers over the Fold and easily scared the ambassadors and envoys that came along for the demonstration into submission. When he ordered for Mal to be thrown overboard, Alina broke free from his control and left the people on the boat to fend off the volcra themselves.
By the end of the book, it was not known whether or not the Darkling survived the volcra attack, but he has survived for so long that it would not be easy for him to be killed.
After Alina Starkov and Malyen Oretsev escape, the Darkling relentlessly works towards their capture. A trail of payments that Alina made using her golden hair pins, leads the Darkling to them. He discovers that the pair have fled to Novyi Zem and have checked into a boardinghouse using one of the remaining hair pins. When Alina and Mal return to their home, the Darkling is seen seated casually upon a rickety chair as if he himself were royalty; surrounding him were his supporters who appears to be frightened by his presence. He commands Ivan to hold Mal hostage as he repeatedly expresses his "gratitude" to Alina for helping his further expand his power. However, surviving the Fold came with a cost. The Darkling now sports scars across his face from the volcra as a reminder of the origin of his new power and Alina observes that when the Darkling uses his power, it seems to be feeding off him, taking a toll on his physical health. He reveals to Alina that his ability to manipulate darkness evolved into manifesting abominations/ volcra-like creatures that cannot be destroyed by light (except for the Cut). The Darkling then brings both Mal and Alina on board the Verrhader, a stolen ship that belongs to an infamous pirateer named 'Sturmhond.'
After Alina and the other Grisha are ”captured” by the Apparat and stay underground in the White Cathedral, the Darkling rules Ravka aboveground. Alina visits the Darkling through the bond they’ve developed and he misleads her, claiming he’s going to plant an attack on West Ravka. Alina tells Nikolai and the twelve Grisha she traveled with. Just as Alina and Nikolai are about to leave, the Darkling attacks them instead. As revenge for Nikolai stealing Alina, the Darkling fills his lungs with merzost, which turns him into a volcra-like creature.
At the beginning of the trilogy, the Darkling is an implied love interest of Alina, both being intensely drawn to one another. Before Alina left the Little Palace, the Darkling kissed her abruptly by the lake, after he told her about the stag he was hunting. He then kisses and touches her at the Winter Fete, before they are interrupted. His betrayal and deceit is revealed not long after, leaving whether his feelings for her were genuine or not a mystery. It later becomes obvious that if not love, a deep physical and mental attraction to her remains throughout the series, making it known that it wasn't all a lie. Throughout Siege and Storm, it was apparent that their connection was deeper and more complex as the Darkling can visit Alina at will in a tangible and accurate form: Alina was of course, disturbed by their encounters and asked him why he won't leave her alone, his reply clearly implied that he sees Alina as his only companion and solace in the dark. Another proof of their unfathomable relationship was at the Chapel, in which Alina and the Darkling were able to manipulate each other's abilities through a particular bond.
In Ruin and Rising, Alina paid him a visit by the tether shared between them. He asked her why, only to say that she in fact, wanted to see him. He offered her the throne sitting beside his, despite of the fact that she attempted to kill him. His patience, would appear, is a manifestation of the affections he harbored for her.
He told her his real name, that earned him a lighthearted laugh from Alina saying how common his name is, her laugh, was then--returned with a genuine smile from the Darkling.
Shadow and BoneEdit
- "The problem with wanting is that it makes us weak." ‒ p.221
- "I've given you power beyond all dreaming, and you can't wait to run off and keep house for your tracker." ‒ p. 324
- "Fine, make me your villain." - p. 325
- "There are no Ravkans, no Fjerdans, no Kerch, no Shu Han. There are no more borders, and there will be no more wars. From now on, there is only the land inside the Fold and outside of it, and there will be peace." ‒ p. 341
- "Did you tell him Alina? Does the boy know how willing you were to give yourself to me? Did you tell him what I showed you in the dark?" - p.302
Siege and StormEdit
- "I'll be certain you hear it when I make her scream." ‒ p.57
- "We are alike, as no one else is, as no one else ever will be." -p.418
Ruin and RisingEdit
- "I will strip away all that you know, all that you love, until you have no other shelter but me." (Darkling to Alina)
- "Don't let me be alone."
- The Darkling is the only Grisha allowed to wear black.
- Leigh mentioned in an interview that there were a lot of uncertainties at the end of Ruin and Rising, as well as certain deaths that are not necessarily forever.
- In When Water Sang Fire, there is a scholar around whom "the shadows seemed to shift as he passed, pulled along by him like a tide." This is definitely the Darkling because of all the Morozova references made such as the Sea Whip and the worn leather bound journal he carries. The physical descriptions also match up perfectly with the Darkling’s. Bardugo has also mentioned that "one of the characters you've met from the Grishaverse does make a brief appearance" in the Language of Thorns collection.