Netflix’s Shadow and Bone: Great for new fans, even better for readers

Ella Davis, Web Editor

Warning: Contains minor spoilers!

Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse has come to life in an eight-part fantasy series on Netflix which debuted on April 23. Pitched as Games of Thrones meets Ocean’s Eleven meets Pirates of the Caribbean, the series is an adaptation of the first book in the young adult trilogy Shadow and Bone as well as the Six of Crows duology.

The trailer caused a storm on Mar. 30 because it was the first time fans got to see the country of Ravka, a tsar-punk world partially populated with Grisha, people who practice magic with their hands. But there is also a literal swath darkness that divides the country in two: The Shadow Fold. And when cartographer Alina Starkov (played by Jessie Mei Li) is  revealed to be the Sun Summoner—a rare Grisha who can summon light —she is whisked away from everyone and everything she knows as she has the power to destroy the fold and save all of Ravka. No pressure!

However,  there’s also an interwoven story included in the plot which focuses on the Crows, a criminal gang led by the cunning and suave Kaz Brekker (played by Freddie Carter) that operates in the city of Ketterdam. They have an offer to kidnap Alina Starkov for one million kruge (Ketterdam’s dollar) and so the heists ensue!

That may seem like a lot of world building, and it is. Viewers unfamiliar with the Grishaverse will benefit from watching this video to get a pulse of the magic and politics if they don’t choose to read the books.

That’s also where the show starts to shine, in the way the showrunners combined both the Crows’ story and Alina’s. Not only does it allow the host of the newcomers on the cast to make their mark—particularly Kit Young’s gunslinging gambler, Jesper, who almost steals the show—but it makes up for the flaws in the original books by adding new character interactions, locations and lore.

Fans of the series will likely have a more engaging viewing experience as they get to experience the characters and places they love, while also getting to compare and contrast the way Shadow and Bone deviates and adapts its source material. This results in the first episodes being a little confusing or even intimidating for outsiders, as the world-building is steep and the pacing break-neck.

Viewers should also know that Shadow and Bone is not afraid to include blood and gore or world-based racism. Comments are also made by multiple characters about Alina Starkhov’s ethnicity and appearance, since she is half-Shu, another fictional nation based on East-Asian cultures.

Overall, the show is a gorgeous and impressive first season of a fantasy series that has room to grow in terms of pacing and seamless exposition, yet its cast and character arcs ground it in a world rich with history and conflict which make any viewing an adventure.