Reviews, Television, What to Watch
Apr 23, 2021

‘Shadow and Bone’ Series Review

Shadow and Bone drops on Netflix today! Get your binge worthy snacks ready because you’re not moving this weekend.

The world of Shadow and Bone debuted as a wildly successful YA fantasy series by author Leigh Bardugo first. Leigh Bardugo gifted readers with the world of the Grishaverse, spaning two spin off series since the completion of the original trilogy. Book lovers more than likely immediately spotted their crows in the Shadow and Bone trailer, letting the world know the show creators had weaved “Master of Crows” into the parallel timeline it occupied during Alina’s rise as the Sun Summoner.


Image Still: Netflix

Our inital reaction to the trailer was awe, seeing the fold brought so darkly to life (See what we did there?). Our next favorite take away from the tv series is Alina’s mixed parentage. Throughout the book series Leigh Bardugo mentions the tensions between the nations and how prejudice colors the world of Grisha. Making Alina (Jessie Mei Lei) part Shu might be the biggest stroke of genius to better diversify the novel’s story as well as give light to her long running feelings of being “other”. Book lovers beware though, Alina doesn’t quite gain her powers the same as in the novel, however it is cinematically pleasing and really should be embraced. Our biggest bones to pick on changes was how little we saw of her at the little palace. In the series she struggled as an outsider for much longer, and her failure to call her power is glazed over. We’re not sure how hurrying along her powers helps telling a cinematic story? Her failure to connect with many of the Grisha, and then actually connecting without even realizing it, is really passed over to pull focus onto the Crows heist arc. We love the Crows, love them. But why pull out Alina’s initial meeting of the Grisha when she learns the little palace is even more politically complicated that her previous Army posting as a map maker. In the books a stunning scene that deeply reveals Alina’s character is completley absent from the tv series, and it hit a hollow chord. In the books her power is mythic, meaning Alina’s power had no previous designation. We immediately learn the power heirarchy of Grisha as they argue over whether she should be blue or red, Alina voices her desire to enter with Genya who wears a servant’s white. Unknowingly declaring her side for Genya, ignorant of what the white signifies, was a massive plot point for what laid ahead for Alina. Keftaless an ushered back to her rooms, with orders to send off for her first Kefta the Darkling lays his first public claim to Alina in castle politics by declaring she’d wear black. The book creates this imperious power dynamic, that Alina personally shuts down, saying she’d prefer blue. No one has ever turned down the Darkling and Leigh Bardugo makes a very powerful statement by having a teenage girl turn him down. Actions like these are Alina’s building blocks of character, the tv series spends a bit too much time on the action of getting the heist together and takes away from Alina’s high morality. Instead we see a much weaker version of a girl dreaming of a boy in an all too Twilight scene in a field. We do love the series and give it a serious 8 out of 10, but we hope season two does a better job of showing Alina’s moral fiber. The tv show makes her all too passive for far too long, she was never so caught up in the glamour of Grisha, and the brief respite she took in the glitz and glam came after months of struggle. Those beats of her struggle were missing from the show, we hope to see them restored in future seasons. They also slighted Alina when they changed the origin of her determination to hide her power. Alina at a young age had such a strength of character in the books that she willfully pushed her power down, making herself sick for over a decade through her desire to remain with her best friend. The tv series saw fit to change the lack of her power by a cut in her hand, simply stating that power only shows through pain in children. What? WHAT? Do the showrunner and writers not realize how much they have diminished the strength of will of this teenage girl? They got so many things right in Shadow and Bone, but we’d feel remiss if we didn’t mention how disappointed we were in seeing Alina’s moral fiber picked apart.

A huge bonus of the tv show is The Darkling, played by Ben Barnes. The show gives us the most delicious backstory of the wall’s creation. While to book does have Baghra mention that The Darkling and the Heretic are one in the same, none of the wall’s vivid creation is there. The tv show gives us that and so much more, a lost love, a broken heart, a lost family. We can hardly stand The Darkling’s backstory it had our heart beating with so much excitement. Honestly, why are we rooting for Alina? Let the Darkling have his way. The Darkling’s name is also given away so early, we were disappointed that we’ve had the reveal through his shadow self taken away. Alina also spends her time yelling out “Aleksander” willy nilly, a name she kept close to herself in the books. Alina and the Darkling are irrevocably tied to one another and both are other, they are one another’s mirrors in the book, that didn’t feel quite true in the tv series as she is painted such a lovesick girl.

The Crows being woven into the story is very interesting. By necessity for plot, we assume quite a few more liberties were taken with that story. Same as with Alina, we miss getting to know more of the Crow’s various personalities on the other side of the fold, we also lose alot of the rich tapestry of West Ravka. Kit Young who plays Jesper is an absolute smash! What the filmmakers do show of the city is breathtaking, we only wanted more. Yes, you get the ultimate fan girl moment of Kaz facing The Darkling, more unbelievable is that he stole anything from the Darkling, but okay we guess? There will certainly be alot of sighs from Kaz and Darkling ship fans, they get the fan-service scene of their dreams. You can’t deny while watching the show how rich the atmosphere is. They’ve done a wonderful job bringing Ravka to life. The costumes and effects are top notch. We weren’t in the least bit pre-pared for the amplifier scene. Not. The. Least. Bit. Prepared! Nope! A much darker tone was adapted and we honestly almost fainted it was so gruesome. We could hardly breathe as we sat through the minutes of that scary skin antler protruding through her skin. The melding of her amplifier was something straight out of SAW and less Grishaverse. Ugh. Still gives us the shivers, we couldn’t stop thanking our lucky stars once they sunk it into her. Again however, we wonder how they will move forward to season two effortlessly when one of Alina’s biggest challenges was hiding her identity because a magical deer antler collar is hardly inconsipcuous.

Overall a spectacular show that has magic and action, love, and drama. The world and the costumes are stupendous. We think if the series had, had two more episodes so much more characterization could’ve come into light alongside the action and magic. We can’t wait to see what season two has in store. (Hopefully with more episodes).