If you’re a massive Young Adult Fantasy fan like me, then chances are you’ve already binged the newly released Netflix adaptation of Shadow and Bone as I have this past weekend. And chances are, you want your own pet pygmy goat. But for those who haven’t entered the Grishaverse yet, allow me to give my thoughts on possibly the most exciting Netflix fantasy show yet!
Shadow and Bone is based on the YA fantasy trilogy of the same name by Leigh Bardugo, as well as her later duology, Six of Crows. Now, I absolutely love Leigh Bardugo and will read anything she puts before me, but many readers would agree that Shadow and Bone, as Bardugo’s debut series, doesn’t quite compare to the absolute brilliance of Six of Crows. Whilst I love these books and the world Bardugo has painted, I was curious to see how the show would bring these two books together, especially as the plot for Six of Crows is set after Shadow and Bone and features only a few brief cameos.
Adapting a much beloved book series into a TV show comes with many challenges, and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to please all fans. The casting needs to be perfect, the setting and costumes need to be perfect, the plot needs to include everyone’s favourite bits, but also the show needs to appeal TV fans and those who haven’t read the books. And, inevitably, Shadow and Bone will likely be compared to Game of Thrones and The Witcher. Shadow and Bone is nothing like these and doesn’t need to be.
So has the show delivered?
Oh yes. Most definitely yes. This is now my favourite book-to-TV adaptation!
Shadow and Bone then, for the uninitiated, is set in the Russian-inspired country of Ravka which is divided by an evil magical wall known as the Shadow Fold: a dark stretch of land swarming with deadly monsters! The Shadow Fold has weakened Ravka, causing war and poverty. In this world, some are born with magical powers and are known as the Grisha. The Grisha train within a military school to use their powers against Ravka’s many foreign enemies. One girl, Alina, is a soldier within the non-magical branch of the army who enters the Shadow Fold on a mission and discovers she possesses the ability to summon sunlight – the one power that could destroy the Shadow Fold for good.
Entering a whole new world as a Grisha, Alina learns to master her magic whilst learning the deadly secrets of the Shadow Fold’s creation.
Naturally, when the pages of a book are translated to the big screen, there need to be some changes. Thankfully, many of these changes fit easily within the world and don’t stray too far from the source material. In fact, I’d say the show follows the events of Shadow and Bone quite faithfully. The real problem came with introducing the world and characters from Six of Crows. Instead of following the original plot from the duology, it seems the showrunners opted to run a prequel-like storyline parallel to Alina’s story. It begins with a heist, as you’d expect if you’ve read the books, but the target is Alina herself.
These two stories merge together brilliantly and introduce a whole new dynamic to the series as the characters meet for the first time. Flashbacks for certain characters, most notably the meeting between Nina and Matthias, are at the forefront. However, the story seems to be setting itself up for the plotline of the first Six of Crows book, and I can’t wait to hear news of a second season to confirm this!
The world of both Ravka and Ketterdam are brought to life with amazing set-pieces and costumes, and I really couldn’t have asked for more. The Grisha’s kefkas are more beautiful than I imagined them to be, and the Grisha’s own powers look amazing on screen. I especially liked the heartbeat sound effects whenever a Heartrender used their power to show exactly what affect their power held.
The character cast is flawless. Absolutely spot on!
The show changes a few things from the book. Most notably, the main character of Alina is now portrayed as half-Shu, which is an Asian race within the world. This change is to make the story more diverse and to draw a parallel with the isolation of being the Sun Summoner, a rarity even amongst Grisha. Jessie Mei-Li is perfect as Alina. The cast of the Crows caught these character’s personality and idiosyncrasies better than I could have hoped. Freddy Carter is Kaz Brekker, and Amita Suman plays Inej wonderfully. You’d probably expect Ben Barnes to be the star of the show as the one and only Darkling, and whilst Ben Barnes is also perfect (heart-poundingly perfect) I’ve gotta say that it’s Kit Young playing Jesper who really steals the show with his charm and sharp-shooting skills.
Honestly, the character dynamics were even better than the books in some cases, though hearing iconic lines uttered on screen was definitely a thrill.
As a big fan of the books, I’m completely satisfied with how well Shadow and Bone works as a live-action show. Whilst the storyline changes were a little jarring at first, it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with these characters and this world all over again. Even non-fans will find something to enjoy amongst the high-stakes action, charming characters, and heart-rending scenes – see what I did there?
I have high hopes for a season two and can’t wait to see where the Crow’s story will unfold next.
If you’ve not read these books yet, then now’s the time to enter the Grishaverse and see what all the hype is about! Series one covers the first Shadow and Bone book in the trilogy, whereas the Six of Crows storyline touches on the world, characters, and flashbacks rather than the events of the book, but you can find both series on Goodreads.
Have you watched through Shadow and Bone yet? What did you think? Drop me a comment!