HomeTelevisionShadow and Bone Review: A Series with the Magical Power to Hook...

Shadow and Bone Review: A Series with the Magical Power to Hook You

Shadow and Bone
Photo Courtesy of Netflix

Netflix’s Shadow and Bone brings with it a whole new world of magic known as the Grishaverse. The series stays true to much of the source material while also exploring new ideas — however, if you haven’t yet read the novels the series is based, some of parts of the Netflix series may confuse you.

Let’s start at the beginning. Shadow and Bone is based on books by author Leigh Bardugo, both the Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows duology, and was adapted for Netflix by creator Eric Heisserer (the Oscar-nominated scribe of Arrival). The series focuses on orphaned Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li, Last Night in Soho) who discovers she has the power to call light, which makes her the one and only “Sun Summoner.” She is not alone, however, because there are other “Grisha” (people with magical powers) who have the ability to slow hearts or control winds.

After Alina discovers her powers while crossing “The Fold,” a wall of darkness full of monsters that separates countries in this universe, her whole world changes. She is no longer just a member of the First Army helping out with the warbetween the countries (Ravka, Fjerda, Shu Han), nor is she just childhood best friend to tracker Malyen Oretsev (Archie Renaux, Morbius). She is whisked off to see the king and prove that she has the power to possibly destroy The Fold that has been tormenting people for so long and put a stop to the fight against Ravka. 

She’s sent to train with other Grisha at the Little Palace in Ravka, accompanied by a powerful man with the power to call darkness. Many know him as the Darkling from the novels, but in the show, he’s mostly referred to as General Kirigan (Ben Barnes, Westworld). He’s mysterious and intimidating, and throughout we see Alina battle with her conflicting feelings for him, as well as grapple with her thoughts of Mal after she was forced away from him.

This is Li’s first major role and they do an incredible job. Her chemistry with both Renaux and Barnes makes for a fairly compelling love triangle. The series also elevates Mal’s character, depicts the best of Alina’s, and shows the dichotomy of the Darkling’s. The show does leave something to be desired when it comes to Alina’s relationship with others, however. One example is her friend and the Tailor who helps get Alina ready for big events, Genya (Daisy Head, Harlots). Their friendship was not nearly as fleshed out as in the books; although Genya was a compelling character despite her limited screen time. 

One detail in this segment of the series that fell a little flat was Zoya’s (Sujaya Dasgupta, Guilt) character, who was a bit different in the novels (especially when you find out about her relationship with the Darkling). Understandably, a lot of the novels’ events could not be fully explored in this adaptation, so they do a pretty good job, but it would’ve been nice to see some of the scenes they left out or explore the backstories of more of the characters. In time, there’s no doubt we’ll see more. 

Meanwhile, there’s also the plot from Bardugo’s spin-off book series Six of Crows going on. Well, it’s more of a prequel to the real events of the novel, anyway. Since the spin-off takes place two years after the events of the Shadow and Bone novels but the Netflix show combines the characters into one timeline, they had to change some details to make it all fit together. 

Later, we meet “Bastard of the Barrel,” edgy and intelligent Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter, Free Rein), and his team: badass and pious Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman, The Outpost) and witty sharpshooter Jesper Fahey (Kit Young, Endeavour). Honestly, these characters steal the show. If you are no stranger to the books, then you may know about the epic exploits these characters take on in the Six of Crows novel. If not, they’re still a fun relief from the intensity of Alina’s plotline, and the characters have great chemistry together. They take part in multiple different plots and heists, none of which are covered in the books. But hey, they had to combine the storylines of both book series somehow. And though the storyline they’re given falls a little flat, the characters truly shine, just as they do in the books. Next season we’ll perhaps see the real Six of Crows plot alongside Alina’s continued journey. 

Also, we can’t forget about bold Ravkan Grisha Nina Zenik (Danielle Galligan, Krypton) and reserved “drüskelle” (a.k.a. Fjerdan Grisha hunter) Matthias Helvar. The two of them are thrown together when Matthias and his soldier buddies capture Nina, and their story unfolds as a tragic tale of heartbreak when two people who find common ground and spark a connection realize that they may be too different to test fate. If you are completely unfamiliar with the novels, not gonna lie, the purpose of this storyline will make little sense, but you should know that it’s setting up an epic adventure that unfolds in Six of Crows

Some things fans of the series will appreciate are the references to the books in iconic lines such as “no mourners, no funerals.” Though there are definitely areas that could’ve been developed more and some of the aesthetics of the show are not entirely how readers may have envisioned them, there’s a lot that makes this series a fantastical ride. The soundtrack is beautiful, and most of the characters’ personalities and dynamics are fairly accurate to the source material. 

Truthfully, if you look at this as the next Game of Thrones or go into it without any prior knowledge, you’ll be disappointed. It’s something entirely new and different. Shadow and Bone may not appeal to everyone, but it’s a must-watch for any fans of the Grishaverse. If you want to enjoy this show in its full glory, it might be time to pick up a copy of Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, and don’t forget to grab Six of Crows along with it. If that’s not your thing, pay very close attention to world-building, and it’s still a show with the magical power to get you hooked. 

Shadow and Bone is currently streaming on Netflix.


Most Recent

Stay Connected