(WARNING: SPOILERS INCLUDED BELOW)
Fans of Leigh Bardugo’s popular trilogy Shadow and Bone were thrilled when it crossed over the Fold from the pages of a book to Netflix. The series follows the main plot of Shadow and Bone, but also blends in other characters from Bardugo’s sequel series Six of Crows, that have been adapted to fit with the main plot. Main character Alina Starkov, mapmaker for the First Army of Ravka (inspired by imperial Russia), finds out that she is a Grisha with a power to save her country from the monster-ridden Shadow Fold. Released on April 23, the series has an age rating of M18 in Singapore, but the ratings vary across different websites. In this article I shall be reviewing the four best and worst parts of the show.
1. BEST: Filming
The backdrop for Shadow and Bone was absolutely gorgeous. Budapest’s stunning views really made me feel like I was actually standing in the beautiful palaces of Ravka. Unlike other Netflix fantasy shows, the filming blew me away from the second I started the first episode. The effects and the way the Grisha powers are shown are amazing and worked really well, making the whole experience a lot more believable.
2. WORST: Renaming of the Darkling
As much as I was thrilled with the filming, some parts of the plot just weren't as great as they could have been. One was the fact that the Darkling was renamed to ‘General Kirigan’. I felt that changing such an important character’s name made him lose so much of his intrigue. The Darkling is supposed to be someone mysterious and feared, but by making all the characters know his name, it makes him seem more human.
3. BEST: Character updates
This was one thing I thought that a lot of fans (including myself) were glad about. Malyen Oretsev, Alina’s best friend, is famously disliked for his initial treatment of Alina and how he dislikes her powers. However, in the show, he was given a makeover and made into a more empathetic character who was better for Alina. There was also the Darkling’s backstory, which really added some dimension to the man. By learning more about his past, we can see his evolution from heart-broken soldier to ruthless commander.
4. WORST: Fewer episodes
The episodes, whilst ranging from a good 40-50 minutes, didn’t feel long enough for us to see all the scenes we wanted. It would have been interesting to see more of Alina understanding how her actions led to the deaths of her fellow cartographers, or Kaz’s tragic backstory, or Inej dealing with her first kill. Giving the characters more depth and understanding that you usually get from the books would have been a nice touch to the series.
5. BEST: Actors
I loved the cast for Shadow and Bone as they really embodied their characters. Whether it was Jessie Mei Li as the awkward yet strong Alina, or Amita Suman as the determined and talented Inej, they really were tailored for their roles and brought their book character to life. Two favorite characters of mine were Kit Young as Jesper Fahey, a gun-slinging thief who brings a sense of levity to the scene, and Calahan Skogman, who really enhanced the character of Matthias Helvar, a Fjerdan Grisha hunter, and showed off multiple facets of the drüskelle’s personality.
6. WORST: Matthias knowing about Nina’s betrayal
A major plot point in Six of Crows is of Matthias being freed from Hellgate (a prison) and hating Nina for her “betrayal”, not knowing Nina’s true reasons for giving him up to the slavers. This is crucial to show the interesting dynamics between them once he is free and how they slowly begin to trust and love each other again. However in the show, Nina tells Matthias why she did it right after he is captured, but he still hates her. It changes their whole story and I question how they will repair their relationship in the next season.
7. BEST: Incorporation of several plots
This was especially well done. It must have been extremely difficult to juggle so many different events happening at the same time: Alina at the Little Palace, the Crows making their way across the Fold to capture Alina, Matthias and Nina escaping from the clutches of death off the coast of Fjerda… they were combined in a beautiful way, and a lot of original ideas helped the story move on smoothly.
8. WORST: Changes to the Grisha mythology
This was quite a big peeve for me when watching the show. The directors created a number of changes to the world of Grisha as a plot device, but it just watered down the world-building present in Bardugo’s books. And if sequel books are adapted further down the line, it could actually really change the plot. Some examples are: Genya Safin not being the first tailor and being able to completely change people’s appearance without jurda parem, the fact that amplifiers needed to be molded into the skin of the Grisha, and that Alina learns of Morozova’s amplifiers extremely early into the plot.
Even though there were some minor flaws in the production of Shadow and Bone, it really brought the Grishaverse to life. It is a brilliant adaptation of the books and I wish Netflix luck for the future seasons. No mourners, no funerals.