Small Science is the art of manipulating matter at its most basic form. Those who practice the Small Science are called Grisha.
All matter in the world can be broken down to the same essential parts. Grisha have the ability to manipulate matter at this fundamental level, giving the appearance of magic to what is actually a precise, deliberate science that abides by physical laws, as must anything else in nature.
As an example, an Inferni does not create fire from nothing, but rather summons combustible elements from the air; she can summon existing matter, but still requires a catalyst (i.e. heat) to start the chain reaction that will produce a flame. Thus Inferni will commonly carry a flint that can be used to ignite a spark.
A guiding principle in Grisha theory is that "like calls to like," meaning that some quality in the Grisha gives them an affinity for a certain kind of matter. That quality attracts them to other things sharing that quality. Ravkan philosophy uses the terms odinakovost ("thisness") and etovost ("thatness") to further explain this phenomenon. Odinakovost refers to the essence that all things share, while etovost refers to what makes a thing unique, and unlike anything else. Grisha must understand both in order to manipulate matter, but it is their command of etovost in particular that sets Grisha apart from non-Grisha.
The Small Science is predicated on the notion that matter cannot be created, only manipulated or changed. But Grisha of great power and skill can push the limits of science by attempting merzost, a Ravkan word meaning both "abomination" and "magic". Merzost is the power of creation, of life over death; a corruption of "the making at the heart of the world." It requires the sacrifice of something essential from the person attempting it, and consequently the act of performing merzost drains vitality from the person. The power can be unwieldy in the extreme, and is likely to produce unexpected or unintended results to a devastating degree.
Only three Grisha are known to have dabbled in merzost: Ilya Morozova, who created three amplifiers using merzost; the Darkling, whose use of merzost inadvertently created the volcra in the Shadow Fold and later allowed him to manifest deadly shadow creatures called nichevo'ya; and Alina Starkov, whose connection to the Darkling through Morozova's Collar allowed her to use the Darkling's power to create and command her own nichevo'ya.
- Main article: Amplifier
An amplifier increases a Grisha's power and is very rare. The amplifier cannot simply be taken, it must be earned; for instance, slaying a powerful animal can gain a Grisha the use of an amplifier made from the animal's remains.
Because nature demands balance, a Grisha is limited to one amplifier; to use more than one is to risk grave consequences and thus is rarely attempted. However, Morozova performed experiments in search of a way to successfully use more than one amplifier, and ultimately created three to be used together: the white stag, the sea dragon known as Rusalye, and his own otkazat'sya daughter, though he had originally intended to hunt and use the firebird as the third.
- Main article: Jurda
Use of the experimental stimulant jurda parem does not enhance the Grisha's power, like an Amplifier, but rather their ability; it allows them to manipulate matter to an infinitely finer degree than a normal Grisha can. Derived from the jurda plant, parem enhances a Grisha's perception, sharpening their senses to the point that impossible feats like flight and mind control can become a reality.
The side effects are dire, however; parem is highly addictive, and a Grisha under its influence usually dies while suffering symptoms of withdrawal. The only known survivor was Nina Zenik, whose powers seemed to change irrevocably from those typical of a Heartrender to something quite different – the ability to manipulate decaying human cells.
- The Small Science is like a magical version of molecular chemistry.