I'm having the horrible realization that Aleksander never actually did any serious wooing of Alina in the books. It's all just Alina her self being horny attracted to him. But this is supposedly???? His grand scheme???? Of manipulation???? Implications! It seems like the girls in these books wasn't the only one slut shamed. I'm- ☠
Leigh wrote a man sexy and captivating and said "it's his fault, actually, that Alina got a crush on him. He shouldn't of.... uh.." Flips through papers. "Ah, had such pretty eyes."
Okay! 👀Yes, we are finally doing this!
I'm flipping through my copy of Shadow & Bone and noting down all the interactions between the Darkling and Alina which I've put in chronological order beneath the cut.
First of all, the Darkling and Alina are only alone together in about a handful of scenes. Most of the time, the are surrounded by other Grisha or Baghra or are in a public place. A lot of the Darkling's actions and words are clouded by Alina's own insecurities. She constantly voices how she feels like she's not good enough, not pretty enough, not strong enough and he takes it in stride and gently encourages and placates her. There are a few lies he does tell her (that the Black Heretic was his ancestor, that he wants to destroy the Fold, and he doesn't know what Baghra's power is, etc) but if we extrapolate the trajectory of her ill-fated romance arc, I think even book!Darkling would have told Alina about his real plans if she seemed like she'd accept them.
A lot of speculation has been made about the Darkling's seduction of Alina and honestly???? Aleksander literally just exists and Alina is thirsting for him because she's desperately looking for validation and re-assurance. I initially head-canoned his first kiss by the lake as being pure calculation and the kiss at the Winter Fete being 100% accidental (because Dark Lord Sasha played himself lmao) but on this re-read, I don't even know anymore. He already came close to almost kissing her after they have a tender moment, catches himself and then immediately leaves before he can catch feelings. Then when they share another tender moment at the lake, he kisses her and then is surprised by it and before he can really process it, Ivan comes by to cockblock.
Like, even Leigh (as much as she has shit on this ship) said at one point that the Darkling has strong feelings for Alina, even if he may not necessarily quantify them as love. So looking back, I don't read anything the Darkling did as manipulative seduction. He obviously lied about some stuff and wasn't transparent about his real plans for the Fold, but as a military commander who sees Alina as an opportunity for a coup, it makes sense that he'd play that a little close to the chest---especially when Alina has proved to be wary of his powers and has a very black-and-white sense of morality. If anything, this is less "the Darkling seduced Alina to manipulate her into being used!!11" and more "local dark lord tried to encourage his protege and accidentally caught feelings and it was a mASSIVE FUCKING INCONVENIENCE TO HIS EVIL PLANS"
But you know who does slut-shame Alina a lot? Baghra. Seriously, Baghra makes Alina feel like shit for her crush on the Darkling numerous times. She has all these lines:
"You want to be [his pet]...Don’t bother lying to me. You’re like all the rest. I saw the way you looked at him."
"Dreaming of dancing with your dark prince?"
"Foolish girl." (After Alina shamefully admits the Darkling might come to her that night)
At one point Baghra creeps on Alina and the Darkling's interactions and even though literally nothing happens between them and when the Darkling leaves, Alina catches Baghra giving her a snooty look. ("For no reason at all, I blushed")
She is determined to shame Alina for her feelings and make her feel like a lovesick idiot for daring to crush on him and this is in addition to all the slut-shaming Mal does. The narrative revealing the Darkling is the bad guy all along while leaving Alina no compelling arc to discover this on her own feels very much like Leigh hitting us all with Baghra's stick, like "Foolish girls! You thought he cared about Alina just because he has a sexy jawline??? HAHA HE LIED YOU SLUTS"
Scenes with Alina and the Darkling in Book 1
Their first scene together is in the Grisha tent. Based on Alina's description of him, she already thinks he's hot as barely any other character in this godforsaken series gets so many descriptions of their grey/smoke/slate/quartz eyes as Aleksander does 😏
The next time they're together he saves her life. Alina is traumatized from seeing a man sliced in half and the Darkling instructs her to keep her eyes on him instead. She is disturbed that he killed the person about to murder her and this aversion seems incredibly contrived and arbitrary on behalf of the author. It's almost like she wants Alina to be vindicated and shamed for not trusting her initial bigotry against him or something 🤔The Darkling admits even he can make mistakes and then he touches the back of Alina's neck (with some secret Heartrender/Healer abilities?) and she falls asleep riding on his horse.
They spend the next few days traveling. Alina notes that the Darkling hasn't spoken to her (probably because he's focused on getting her to the Little Palace without any more assassination attempts) but Alina is a paranoid she's offended him somehow. Again, this is just Alina's insecurity painting a narrative that simply doesn't exist based on what actually happened so far.
They exchange a few words by the stream and Alina fishes for pity points by saying she's ugly and can't possibly be Grisha. Aleksander appears 100% done with her stupidity and says she doesn't understand but he's not in the mood to explain at the moment and walks off ☠️
Alina joins the Darkling and his men for a meal. She notes that the grouse they've killed is meager shared meal but that the Darkling doesn't want to put his men in danger by sending them out to hunt in the forest at night 😌He also sits on the floor to eat like they do and he doesn't take more than the regular portion than they do 😌. Sorry, how is this man the most ~evil~ wizard on the planet? He is obviously a good and fair commander and beloved by the Grisha.
Alina has been checking Aleksander out the entire time so when he catches her, he walks over to talk. He fishes around for information on what Alina has heard about him. He seems sad when Alina mentions she has heard that Darklings are born without souls, though not surprised. He then spins the story about the Black Heretic being his ancestor and how the Fold was a mistake and how every Darkling since then has tried to undo it and how Alina is "the first glimmer of hope" he's had in a long time.
Because Alina is still on that "Grisha are unnatural monsters" agenda, she asks him about the Cut and he explains it but she's still distrubed. He asks her if it would have been better if he used a sword and she replies: "I don't know". The Darkling gets offended and leaves. Alina tries to convince herself she can't have possibly hurt his feelings (because Darklings don't have souls or feelings?) and then feels paranoid that she's failed some secret test. Yeah, the test you failed is called "empathy", Alina 🙄
Two days later, they arrive at Os Alta. Aleksander roasts the Grand Palace as the ugliest effing building he's ever seen. He leaves immediately after dumping Alina at the Little Palace and Alina actually seethes that he isn't paying more attention to her? I understand that it's overwhelming to go to a brand new place, but Alina expecting him to constantly hold her hand and explain everything to her after she basically insulted him is a bit strange.
The next time Alina sees the Darkling, they are scheduled to appear before the King and Queen. The demonstration is a surprise for Alina and Aleksander's lack of transparency of what's expected of her means she's forced to rely on him and trust his instincts. This might be his underhanded way of getting Alina to see that she can trust him; that he will not make her look like a failure or humiliate her; that they are in this together and it will only work if she trusts him.
After the demonstration, Genya and the Darkling trash the monarchy for a bit (Alina is horrified) and then the Darkling orders Genya to get a black kefta for Alina, to which Alina infamously wants a blue one. The Darkling doesn't really put up much of a fight, merely wanting to know why. Alina decides he doesn't approve of her choosing blue and wonders to Genya if he's angry.
After Alina's first day, the Darkling calls her to his quarters to ask her how her day was. Alina is surprised that this is all he wanted to know because she was paranoid he was going to torture her??? She says: "Why shouldn't I be afraid of you?...You can cut people in half. I think it's fair to be a little intimidated." If the Darkling is offended or angry about this, he doesn't show it and merely indulges her. He notes that she has a habit of running her hand across a scar on her palm and asks her about it, tracing the scar himself. Alina gets distracted by his touch but manages to answer his questions: she got the scar at Keramzin, Mal is also an orphan, he is good at tracking. He shows her a secret passage back to her rooms to avoid the main hall.
Alina starts her training and at one point laments that the Darkling is rarely at the Little Palace and when he is, he never speaks to her or barely looks her way and she is convinced it's because she's a failure and can't summon light on her own. It could also be because, you know, he's the commander of the Second Army and is usually seen in talks with other military advisors and the fact that Alina kinda lowkey insulted him with her wariness about his powers???
The next time they are together, Alina interrupts him and Baghra arguing. He politely asks her how she is. Baghra antagonizes her. The Darkling defends her. They talk about amplifiers and because Baghra is being a snarky little shit about it, they take their conversation outside.
Aleksander complains about how annoying his mom is and then asks Alina what stories she's heard about Morozova's herd. At one point he laughs for the first time and Alina practically creams her pants at the sound. Alina expresses her concerns that she can't summon any light and the Darkling says he's not worried and it will happen when it happens and worse case scenario, it will happen once she has the stag. They have a quiet intimate moment, gazing softly into each other's eyes and then suddenly Aleksander realizes he's catching feelings and steps back suddenly like "GoodLuckWithYourLessonsOKayBYE". Baghra watches this interaction from her hut and gives Alina a slut-shaming look.
Alina eventually does learn to summon light on her own. Baghra gives her grief about how it's not enough. The Darkling shows up during one of these lessons and says as much. Alina says she's useless. The Darkling corrects her (“I don't think you're useless, Alina....No Grisha is powerful enough to face the Fold. Not even me”) and then he apologizes for letting her down ("I've asked you to trust me and I haven't delivered"). He wonders if his mother is right and he's crazy to hunt the stag. They have a nice bonding moment, Aleksander lies about Baghra's power, and then he asks if Alina would think him crazy for still wanting to find the stag. She asks why he cares what she thinks, he seems genuinely surprised himself that he cares. Then he kisses her. He seems not to have meant to kiss her because then Ivan shows up for his 5 o'clock shift of cockblocking and the Darkling immediately pretends like nothing happened and walks away with him. Like dude is acting like a fucking dork who's allergic to feelings at this point. I should note here that Alina practically has an orgasm from how giddy she is about this moment. She can barely think of anything else.
The next time they're together, it's at the Winter Fete. They do their demonstration and Alina accidentally reveals her insecurities about how he had kissed her and then disappeared. He responds, "Did you really think I was done with you?" and then they enjoy some steamy kisses and thigh grabbing in an empty room before a random round of Grisha show up for their 6 o'clock shift of cockblocking. Aleksander is annoyed at his own attraction to Alina. He asks if he can come to her that night but Alina doesn't get a chance to respond.
and then the Darklina romance arc falls off a giant cliff and dies a terrible death 😭😭😭
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