‘Shadow and Bone’ Series Review

Looking for a new binge-worthy show with action? Fantasy? Romance? Welcome to the Grishaverse.

Based on the Grishaverse novels, written by author Leigh Bardugo, the Netflix series Shadow and Bone premiered on Netflix on April 23, 2021. The first season is composed of eight episodes, featuring characters from the original Shadow and Bone trilogy, as well as those from Bardugo’s companion duology, Six of Crows. The initial series announcement took place on January 10, 2019, so for fans of Bardugo’s novels, this has been a long time coming. 

The series follows the story of Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), an orphaned cartographer who uncovers her previously hidden ability to summon light, which has the potential to save her homeland of Ravka from The Fold: an ancient source of cruel magic and darkness threatening to tear the world apart. The newly discovered magic coursing through her veins forces Alina to leave the comfort of her childhood best friend Mal (Archie Renaux) and learn the way of the Grisha, a group of individuals with a series of their own unique, magical powers. Throughout her journey, Bardugo’s leading heroine faces a multitude of challenges and dangers, not to mention coming to terms with her feelings for her new and unexpected companion, General Kirigan (Ben Barnes), otherwise known as The Darkling and the head of the Grisha Second Army.

While Alina is forced to pursue her new role and powers in the heart of Ravka, audiences are also introduced to the money-hungry gang known as The Crows: sharpshooter Jesper Fahey (Kit Young), equilibristic spy Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), and cunning leader Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), as they embark on a perilous mission far from their home in the fictional slums of Ketterdam. The Six of Crows books take place approximately two years following the final book in the Shadow and Bone series, so according to Bardugo, the crew’s adventures in the show are meant to serve as a prequel, woven into the main plot. 

Long-standing fans of the novels expressed a multitude of concerns leading up to the show release, from casting and production quality to accuracy in regards to the books. However, many found solace through the knowledge that Bardugo served as executive producer, alongside showrunner Eric Heisserer, in bringing the Grishaverse to life. 

“It’s hard to make a good adaptation and I was very nervous,” Sophie Fang, secretary of Centennial’s young adult book club said. “But overall the actors embody their characters really well, and I think they’ve stayed true enough to the story to make it recognizable but also interesting.” 

Not all fans are entirely satisfied. Although the series closely follows the plot of the books, some of the more intimate details left some individuals feeling slightly bothered. “I came into it knowing that it would not be exactly like the books, but I did not like that ‘General Kirigan’ told Alina his name, Aleksander, in the beginning,” Lydia Mielke, junior Centennial student, explained. “It was a very important thing in the books that was supposed to be very special and connect them in a way, not happen in passing.”

Perhaps the most outstanding difference between the books and series production is seen in the decision to make Alina biracial. The heroine is labelled as half Shu––Shu Han, one of the other kingdoms in the Grishaverse, is based off of dynastic China. The author of the novels has said she has come to realize the importance of increasing diversity and striving for inclusivity in her storytelling. And the public is certainly on board with her decision. “Even though it wasn’t in the book, I look forward to seeing how the show [will continue to] deal with the issues Alina faces as a [person of color],” stated Fang.

Overall, the show has been immensely well received, landing the top spot on Netflix’s most watched list for several weeks after the show was first released. The series has left fans ruminating on what to expect in terms of a second season. For those eager for more, the cast has been spotted participating in interviews and games with Entertainment Weekly and Seventeen, giving fans a peek into their lives and friendships behind the scenes.

Mielke summarized the general spirit of fans everywhere in saying, “I loved the show. I can’t wait for season two, and I’m sure it will be even better than the first.”


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