Mal has always been the one to look after and protect Alina in the past, by taking action first. Though he’s afraid to go out into the Fold, he also is willing to do it, and tries to stop her from following him. When they are first recruited into the army and he finds out she got into trouble hitting an officer in the mess hall, he finds the same man and cracks him across the head with a bottle so he also gets a night in jail, just so he can be with Alina. He volunteers for a risky and dangerous mission to find a magical stag, even if he doesn’t believe in it, in the hopes that it might reunite them, manages to save himself in a fight that gets his friends killed, then fights off attackers intending to kill them by killing them in turn once at the palace. Mal finds and rescues Alina once she heads into the woods, and also challenges the general to hand to hand combat, even though he knows the general has incredible magical powers that could slice him in half. He’s often looking for an angle and has a natural ability to reason his way out of problems by using whatever is at hand, including stealing a bullet off a goat and using it to break out of his handcuffs. He’s forthcoming with his opinions and feelings and resentful of being left behind with no explanation, even though he never truly gave up on Alina. Mal is skeptical of what he cannot see or prove, and doesn’t believe in the white stag until he sees it with his own two eyes. He also knows Alina must kill it and absorb its power before their enemy can do it, and urges her to take the knife and do it, even if it means sacrificing his life in the process.

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Mal is loyal to his friend and sticks by her, or he tries to, through thick and thin. He is funny and likable, often cracking jokes to lighten the mood or making deadpan statements. He’s afraid of a lot of things, and ranges between running away from them (literally into the field as a child) and trying to get out of them (by asking his officer not to send him into the void) to tackling them in a straightforward manner, including following Alina and Kirigan and intending to attack and kill the latter given the chance. He can sometimes recklessly rush into things, causing Kaz to think him a loose cannon, but it’s always to protect the people he cares about the most.