Bringing the Light: Netflix’s Television Adaptation of Shadow and Bone

by Julie Edelstein ’22

Source: IGN Nordic

 Published May 3rd, 2021

Pop quiz: what do you call a show that combines the “chosen one” trope of every other young adult fantasy series, the dark grit and humor of your typical heist film that critics will inevitably compare to Ocean’s Eleven, and a goat? 

Answer: Netflix’s adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s novel Shadow and Bone

It’s not the new Game of Thrones or Harry Potter, but it is already proving to be the world’s next big obsession in the realm of fantasy television. It is a tremendous feat to create a satisfactory page-to-screen adaptation, especially when recreating a series that already maintains such a passionate fanbase as Bardugo’s “grishaverse.” The alternative universe maintains its own countries and customs, as well as individuals with extraordinary abilities known as Grisha. This world is displayed throughout three overlapping series of novels, but the adaptation follows two: Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows

Shadow and Bone takes place in the fictional country of Ravka, a nation torn in half by the Shadow Fold, a giant cut of darkness and demons. The series follows the journey of Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), an orphan girl who discovers that she possesses the extraordinary ability to summon sunlight. When her power is revealed, she is torn from her home and her best friend, Malyen Oretsev (Archie Renaux). She is thrown into an unfamiliar world of Grisha, where General Kirigan (Ben Barnes), the powerful shadow summoner, believes that her gift makes her destined to destroy the Fold and save the nation. 

Meanwhile, the crooked criminals leading the Six of Crows duology catch word of the mythical sun summoner and jump at the chance to make some money. This dynamic trio won over both long-time book fans and new viewers from the moment they were introduced. “The crows” are comprised of Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), a “rising star in the criminal underworld,” Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), an “assassin with a conscience,” and Jesper Fahey (Kit Young), your not-so-typical “gunslinger and gambler” whose charm brought light to a show that maintained a fair amount of darkness. 

With so many different complicated storylines to charge through over the course of only eight episodes spanning seven hours, the progression of this show was not perfect. Relationships and character development were slightly rushed, many characters often felt simplified to surface-level traits, and world-building was difficult to follow for newcomers to Leigh Bardugo’s world.

Overall, however, Shadow and Bone is an absolute delight that truly highlights all of the best aspects of fantasy television. The series is perfectly casted, with each performer bringing so much heart to their characters while nailing their dynamics, and it stays true to the details that long-time fans honor and appreciate. As for disappointing adaptations, this series is far from one, and for every out-of-character drawback, there are so many more honest and breathtaking moments that make this show worth watching. 

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