Shadow and Bone was one of my most anticipated shows of the year, and y’all it lived up to the hype! Debuting on Netflix last week, my husband and I devoured it in one day. And I regret nothing 😉 Adapted from the Grishaverse books by Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone is a fantastic debut and intro to the series for new and old fans alike.
Season 1 sets the stage, introducing the audience to the characters, the fantasy world and magic system that is reminiscent of Tsarist Russia, and the villain who sits in this lovely, gray moral area which I just love. The visual effects are remarkable, the action and adventure thrilling, and there is enough mystery to keep the watcher engaged. If you enjoy high fantasy adventures, you are in for a treat.
Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li): The entire show is based around this character and what she discovers. Alina is an orphan in the Ravkan army, serving as a mapmaker to stay close to her best and only friend Mal who is a tracker in the same unit. When we are first introduced to Alina, we see quickly that she is an outcast, part Shu and discriminated against because of it. Despite these things, she is fiercely loyal and quick to speak up for herself and others. When Mal is assigned to cross the Shadowfold on what Alina believes to be a suicide mission, she conjures a way to go with him. It is on this mission that we discover Alina to be a Grisha, and not just any Grisha, but the Sun Summoner. Jessie Mei Li’s portrayal of Alina throughout the series is fantastic. She’s believable, her emotions sparked my own feelings, and you can see the growth in Alina from the self-conscious, trying to hide person she is in the beginning to who she is at the end.
Malyen Oretsev (Archie Renaux): The series opens with Alina and Mal, best friends who were raised together and have stuck together all this time. Mal is an interesting character. He is a tracker in the Second Army of Ravka, one of the best trackers known for his ability “to turn a stone into a rabbit.” When Alina’s Grisha ability is revealed, Mal is suddenly lost without his friend, and he will do whatever it takes to get back to her. Mal is kind and good, if a bit naive at times. His storyline takes him to the Fjerdan border and back.
General Kirigan (Ben Barnes): For those familiar with the books, this character is the Darkling. Y’all, I’m not gonna lie, I straight up giggled, like full on ten year old girl crushing giggled when Ben took the screen for the first time. His casting is perfection. No one else could be the Darkling in my eyes. No one! But I digress, General Kirigan is the commander of the First Army of Ravka, the Grisha commander. He is also the only Dark Summoner that we know of and one scary dude, though I wonder sometimes if that is intentional or not. If you like gray moral characters, he’s your guy. He’s broody, and you know that saying, “A hero will leave you to save the world, but a villain would leave the world to save you,” yeah that’s the vibes I get from the Darkling. He claims he wants to end the Shadowfold, but can’t find a way to do it. Then Alina is discovered, and suddenly he has a way. Now what he plans to do however is up for debate.
The Crows – Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), and Jesper Fahey (Kit Young): Six of Crows is one of my favorite series ever, mainly because of the cast of characters. Freddy, Amita, and Kit are perfect in their respective roles. Kaz is the leader of the Crows and a young businessman in Ketterdam, a city on the island of Kerch. He’s a bit of a mystery and clearly a skilled criminal. Inej is a ghost, or she could be one with how she sneaks around buildings without ever being caught. Kaz rescued Inej from a brothel where she was serving as an indentured servant. Making monthly installments on her for her freedom, he still owes several before she will fully be free. Jesper is my favorite character in the series. He is a gunslinger, but not just any gunslinger. He is the best, and he never misses. He also happens to bring some levity to an otherwise dark show. The Crows are on a mission to find the Sun Summoner, the 1 million kruge reward calling to them.
Nina Zenik (Danielle Galligan) and Matthias Helvar (Calahan Skogman): Nina and Matthias are two of the characters I wanted to see most come to life. Both are from the Six of Crows duology. Nina is a Heartrender, a dangerous and powerful Grisha, and Matthias is a Fjerdan witch hunter. How the two of them cross paths is only hinted at in the books, but comes to life here. Nina is feisty and daring, the complete opposite to Matthias stoic, loyal character. I can’t wait to see more of these two in the coming seasons.
I could literally write an entire post on the casting alone for this show. It is phenomenal! All the way from the Darkling to David and Genya to Alina and all the Crows…this cast did a wonderful job bringing the books to life. And the casting director nailed it!
Grisha, the Shadowfold, and the Crows
I love how the screenwriters immerse us in this fantasy world. One of the things I absolutely loved about the series is how the countries are based on real ones. Ravka has a lot of similarities to Tsarist Russia, especially as we can see it is in the middle of a war. Torn in two by the mysterious Shadowfold for nearly a century, Ravka is known as East and West Ravka to those living in the East. To those living in the West, it is the Old Country and simply Ravka. This sets the stage for later seasons.
Grisha are the magical component of this show, and one of the harder things (I believe) to understand, especially if you haven’t read the books. However, the show does a wonderful job of building up these characters and setting them apart so that you can see their magic, even if you don’t necessarily understand how they perform what they call “small science.” The special effects here are stunning. It’s so realistic that I truly believed the Inferni were creating fire with their hands. And the Darkling summoning the dark…creeptastic!
The Shadowfold itself really comes to life here and is the what drives the plot in many aspects. In my head when I was reading, I really just pictured an area that was in eternal darkness, not this living breathing thing that is on the screen. If anything this just enhanced the story and the need to fight it for me than it did while reading. The volcra are terrifying, and those final moments electrifying!
How It Stands Up to the Book
I am still reading the Grishaverse books. I’m currently in the middle of Siege and Storm as of writing this post. I kind of did it backwards, reading the Six of Crows duology when they first hit shelves not realizing they were set in the same world. That said, this first season’s major plot points follows book one which it is named after. The book is told exclusively from Alina’s perspective so the writers were creative in adding in Mal’s story line and even the Crows. The Crows’ story is entirely new as the their original books take place roughly two years after the end of the original Grisha trilogy. With the addition of story lines and some minor changes, I found that the story lives on the screen. It is very well done adaptation in my opinion, and I personally cannot wait for more! To see my review of the first book Shadow and Bone, click here.