Shades are the beating hearts of the soul, the part that makes people process complex emotions like love and create empathy with others. Shades might make you feel emotions to their fullest, but, if traumatized, it will make you feel agonizing pain.
Little is known about Shades, and most information is heavily related to religion. Shades are not a common knowledge among students, but may be at least told about by the time a Brakebills student graduates their course.
Described by Martin Chatwin as "a tiny beating heart" in the very center of your being. He further explains that it's what makes you "feel like the pain would burn you 'til you're nothing", and that it's also there for love. Shades are heavily connected to an individual's sense of right and wrong, and the emotional connection of the person to their morality. It allows the person to process complex emotions and connect to one another.
Outside of a person, a Shade's appearance is a younger version of themselves.
One can remove their Shade out of choice, but in some special cases, individuals may lose their Shades through magical circumstances. While they won't die, their emotional capacity is nonexistent: they will be unable to truly feel or have empathy towards others, and thus become less hindered by moral repressions. They see the world in a very logical and straightforward way, willing to do anything to accomplish their goals, altering their original personality.
Julia was forced to emulate emotions and feelings based on her memories alone. Many Niffins are bloodthirsty as a result of their lost Shades.
Shades can be removed in pieces or as a whole. The slightest removal will evoke a significant change in a individual's personality. Shadeless individuals are able to hold the Shades of others, as with Julia putting Alice's Shade inside of her briefly. In the Underworld, Shadeless people have a large hole in their abdomen that slowly closes. The more that a person goes on without a Shade, the harder it is for them to regain it.
Individuals with No shades
- Martin Chatwin - By choice
- Julia Wicker
- (Book) as a sacrifice to a god.
- (TV) as a complication of an exorcism involving her unborn demi-god fetus, ultimately restored.
- Niffins - In the process of becoming a Niffin, an individual will lose their shade.
- A Shade can be equated to "the heart" of the soul
- Shades in the Underworld act as guardian angels performing minor miracles and live in Elysium
- Humans lose their Shades upon transforming into Niffins and cannot be reverted back without them
- Certain gods have control over Shades and can even bring Shades from the Underworld, as shown when Persephone reunited Julia with her Shade after vanishing with Reynard.