When Shadow and Bone first opens, the series' main antagonist isn't a person. It's a physical manifestation: the Fold, a darkness that extends from north to south, dividing the country of Ravka in two. It has stood for centuries, with generations dying in endless attempts to cross it. History says it was made by a Grisha some 400 years previous, a Shadow Summoner known as "the Black Heretic" who has been dead for years. But the truth about the Black Heretic in Shadow and Bone is far more complicated than anyone realizes.
Warning: Spoilers for Shadow and Bone Season 1 (and a few from the novels) follow. The history books of Ravka teach that the Black Heretic was the first Shadow Summoner in recorded history. He was jealous of Ilya Morozova and wanted to outdo the legendary Grisha, whose amplifier creations had made him a saint. But when The Black Heretic attempted to make amplifier creatures of his own, he instead created the Fold, the giant Unsea that split the continent in two. He also created the Volcra, beasts trapped within the Fold that attack and eat those who try to cross it. Legend had it, the creation of this abomination killed him, and no Shadow Summoner who has lived since has been strong enough to undo what The Black Heretic did.
But like all history books, this retelling gets some key points wrong. For one thing, the Black Heretic didn't want to emulate Morozova. He was a Morozova. And the Fold was no accident; he created it on purpose.
Most importantly, the creation of it didn't kill him. He's still alive and well and living in the Little Palace...
The books explain in more in-depth: Aleksander Morozova was the grandson of Ilya. His mother was the first Shadow Summoner on record, Baghra Morozova, who was shunned after accidentally murdering her sister. Baghra had her son and raised him in secret, believing he would be her revenge. It was a mistake she lived to regret to this day.
When he grew up, Baghra advised her son to disappear, take a new name, and come back as a new Shadow Summoner. He took her advice, although not how she meant him to. He faked his death after creating the Fold, and he comes back every generation under a different name. His current name is General Aleksander Kirigan, head of the Second Army.
The irony of this is that Aleksander cannot grow the Fold because of the creatures that dwell within it. But when he finally reentered the Fold with Alina by his side for protection, something happened that no one expected. Although she threw him from the sandskiff and left the Black Heretic for dead, he survived. It turns out, the Volcra didn't kill him. Instead, his abilities changed the Fold's very nature, morphing the Volcra into creatures of shadow who now obey him.
So, the Black Heretic's secret may be out, but he's only grown more dangerous.
Shadow and Bone Season 1 is on Netflix now.