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 Personality
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 was born in a settlement in Dva Stolba along the southern border with Shu Han and likely lost his family to 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 tries to cross the Shadow Fold, their boats are attacked by Volcra who tries 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 is angered by the 'new' Alina he finds there. When they get a moment alone they argue, and ultimately he leaves the Little Palace. However, hen he learns that Alina is on the run, he tracks her, in order 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.
Mal and Alina are sailing across the sea, hoping to escape the threat of the Darkling and the Fold. On board the ship, Mal thrives and makes himself at home and forms friends among the crew, meanwhile, Alina is becoming sickly and weak because of having to hide her powers.
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. There Mal agrees to track down another mythological amplifier for the Darkling after the Darkling makes threats.
After Mal finds it, 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.
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 and threatens Nikolai. Nikolai, Alina and Mal go to Os Alta, where Alina takes control of the Second Army in order to save her people and country.
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. He wants her to run away from this new life so that they can go back to their old lives, but Alina recognizes her responsibility to fight and protect her country and declines. Due to their differences in priorities they 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 (Alina's then-rival) after his victory which leads to Alina breaking down and crying and 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, and the Darkling recovers faster.
Mal realizes he has 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. Later, Alina tells him they were always meant to be together.
Mal sacrifices himself to Alina so that she can defeat the Darkling. However, after Mal dies, Alina breaks and lets go of her power, ultimately giving her power to her soldiers and is left powerless against the Darkling. The Darkling then realises that with Alina no longer having her power, he has no equal. Alina then takes the moment of distraction to kill him with her knife. Mal then comes back to life because being an amplifier, he had two lives. With one taken he was left with the life that he was meant to have.
After rebuilding their childhood orphanage, with a bit of help from King Nikolai, they go on to live under aliases and running the orphanage. They are visited during winter by Genya, David and Zoya and Alina is given a blue kefta with a note that reads 'you will always be one of us'.
- "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
- "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
- "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."