Shadow and Bone

Stars: 5/5

We are welcomed into the Grishaverse, a world based on the New York Times Bestselling series that shares the same title, “Shadow and Bone.” I’ve been waiting for this series since the cast was announced in 2019. Having read both Leigh Bardugo’s “Shadow and Bone” and “Six of Crows” series, I was worried whether Netflix would prioritize this show. Netflix is now either giving us the pinnacle of television and cancels after one season or the garbage we all love to laugh at while groaning at when Netflix renews for a million seasons.

With a nation divided and at war, Alina Starkov (played by Jessie Mei Li) becomes a hero overnight after learning she could end the Fold, a dark mass with monstrous creatures, known as volcras. Within one episode, Alina is a simple cartographer to being the Sun Summoner living in the Little Palace with other Grisha, humans who practice Small Science.

But in this adaption, Bardugo’s duology, “Six of Crows” characters somehow squeeze their way into the series. The show ages the characters up, and their plotline feels like a prequel to what originally happens in the duology. The Crows, Kaz, Inej, and Jesper, are out to capture Alina, whom they never interacted with in the novels. It’s odd from the perspective of someone who read the books, but it works. 

The Crows’ heist was not what I was expecting, and I wanted to see more from them, especially Nina and Matthias’s (played by Calahan Skogman) subplot. Meanwhile, the storyline for Alina and Mal (played by Archie Renaux) worked perfectly despite not staying 100% on the books. I also liked how the writers strayed away from the novels because the novels were written in 2012. I’m glad Bardugo had a lot of influence in creating the adaptation.

Besides, seeing my favorite book characters come to life, the “Shadow and Bone” did diversity and casting right. I had my doubts but seeing the amount of diversity in a fantasy series was refreshing. I especially loved the casting for Alina, the Darkling (played by Ben Barnes), and Inej (played by Amita Suman).

The series also tried to explore Alina’s identity of being half Shu. There was also a moment when Inej received a microaggression about being Suli. The show tries to display Grishaverse racism, but it flops because we don’t know the history. I hope in the next season there is more context behind the world. There is plenty of explanation behind everyone’s ethnicity and nationality, which are key components to their characterization, in the novels.

The worldbuilding can become inconsistent at times, especially if you are not familiar with the books. The series moves swiftly, so it can be overwhelming at times. The terminology used to describe the Grisha sometimes confused me since I have not read the books in about two years. Understanding the relations between countries also was a fault because there wasn’t much background on how the Grishaverse works.

Next, I have to admit that despite having a low budget compared to other Netflix series, the costumes and character designs were on point. This isn’t anything like "Fate: The Winx Saga." I loved the keftas, Kaz’s cane and Jasper’s guns. The effects looked real and didn’t have that corniness that “Fate: The Winx Saga” had.

Speaking of Jesper, I adored how he did that. His shooting skills saved the day too many times. I love the banter between him and Kaz. Kaz Brekker has a plan for anything. Kaz knows he loves Inej and Jesper but won’t show it. The chemistry is on point for the Crows.

Anyway, the first season is all about Alina’s journey after finding out that she is Grisha or the prophetic, Sun Summoner. It seems like she was in the Little Palace for a few days instead of months. The writers simmered Alina’s plotline down to her love interests, Mal or The Darkling. Everything she did centered around Mal. Alina couldn’t enjoy a meal without thinking about writing to Mal. I wanted just one day for her to put herself first and have fun.

Finally, one thing that still bugs me to this day is how General Kirigan or Aleksander, is wearing all black (no white or variety), summons shadows, and has the nickname, The Darkling, and no one gets villain vibes from the guy. Sure, he’s good-looking and charismatic, but no one was a little suspicious? But he’s a good villain. One of my favorite scenes was when The Darkling met Kaz Brekker.

No matter what when combining both book series, there was going to be some faultiness and inconsistency. The series knows how to keep the audience engaged for 50 minutes. We get romance, mystery, action and fantasy. “Shadow and Bone” is one of the few book to TV adaptions that is worth the hype and does not disappoint. I cannot wait for season two.

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