Sink or Swim

Shadow & Bone’s Zoya/Nikolai: Do They End Up Together?

The second season of Netflix’s Shadow and Bone gifted us eight more episodes of action, adventure, and romance. It also expanded the Grishaverse on TV, introducing more characters from the best-selling fantasy books by Leigh Bardugo that inspired the show. One of those new faces, Prince Nikolai Lantsov (a.k.a. Sturmhond), is a main character in his own right in the Grishaverse books The King of Scars and its sequel, Rule of Wolves. And in fact, the season 2 finale of Shadow and Bone strongly suggests that Nikolai’s King of Scars storyline will take center stage in season 3 (assuming the show gets renewed). As book fans know, that means Nikolai is set to grow closer to one Grisha soldier in particular. Nope, not Alina Starkov, but the talented squaller Zoya Nazyalensky. In the books, Zoya takes over for Alina as the general of the Second Army and becomes King Nikolai’s most trusted advisor.

Whether your interest was piqued by Zoya’s saucy comment about Nikolai in the season 2 finale (“Well, that one’s a mess, but I could fix him”), you fell down a Zoyalai rabbit hole on Twitter, or you just want to know if Alina’s relationship with the new king is going anywhere, I can help. So let’s tackle the big question:

Do Nikolai and Zoya end up together in Shadow and Bone?

The short answer: Yes!

The longer, more spoiler-filled answer: Of course they do! (In the books, at least. Who knows what changes the show will make.) Nikolai Lantsov is many things—monarch, pirate privateer, inventor, monster—but he’s no dummy. Nikolai comes to admire and rely on General Zoya Nazyalensky more and more throughout King of Scars, where she keeps his secrets, guards his sleep, and soothes the (literal) demon within him. Perhaps most importantly to Nikolai, she matches him quip for quip. The guy recognizes his dream woman when he sees her. And as soon as the besotted King of Ravka finally spies his chance with her in Rule of Wolves, he seizes it, politics be damned, declaring: “I would make you my queen because I want you. I want you all the time.”

By the final pages of the book, Nikolai’s deep and abiding love for Zoya is clear for all to see. After voluntarily renouncing the Ravkan throne (long story), he immediately nominates her to lead their beloved nation as Queen Zoya. He can’t imagine anyone doing a better job, simple as that. Later, when they’re alone, he tells her: “I would gladly be your prince, your consort, your demon fool.” The man is IN LOVE. He even proclaims to the Darkling that, should Zoya outlive him: “I will love her from my grave.”

Zoya doesn’t leave Ravka’s best boy hanging, either. While the talented squaller spends most of King of Scars squashing her feelings for Nikolai for the greater good, she can’t suppress them forever. The first time Nikolai confesses he’d like to marry her in Rule of Wolves, she turns him down with a reminder that he needs a bride who comes with a political alliance. Tellingly, she doesn’t deny that she’d like to be his wife, though, or pretend she doesn’t love him. She’s head over heels for him and has been for ages. Zoya’s just so stubborn that it takes surviving a few more near-death experiences and major plot twists for her to finally reach for what she wants: Nikolai. Now that they’re both shapeshifters (another long story, but the gist is that Zoya can turn into a dragon!) and she’s going to be Ravka’s first Grisha queen, Zoya seems much more at peace with her desire to have Nikola by her side, always.

For a couple who take two full books to share a first kiss, Nikolai and Zoya sure do fall into a committed relationship quickly. Maybe it’s because they’ve already shown each other, time after time, through actions that speak louder than words ever could, how much they care. Zoya has seen Nikolai at his most monstrous and loved him anyway, even when that meant handcuffing him to a bed at night so the monster couldn’t hurt anyone overnight. Nikolai has put the future of Ravka in Zoya’s hands, plus given her the tools and confidence to make good decisions for the country they serve with their whole hearts. They understand each other on a molecular level and already have an enviable partnership, married or not.

As Zoya puts it in one of her last chapters in Rule of Wolves:

“Her romance with Nikolai would never be bouquets of flowers and pretty declarations of love. It lived in the quiet they’d found in each other, in the hours of peace they were stringing together one by one. … Zoya didn’t really care what title he took. He was hers, and that was all that mattered.”

Zoya/Nikolai (aka Zoyalai) is one of my top 5 Grishaverse ships, and I can only hope the Shadow & Bone TV series does their slow burn justice in the next season. Which of their scenes or quotes do you most want to see in the show?

Still puzzled about why Alina and Nikolai don’t become a couple? I recommend reading a related article, “Alina/Mal: Do They End Up Together?”


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