Book enthusiasts have been celebrating since the television show “Shadow and Bone” came out on April 23 on Netflix. It is based on the very popular young adult fantasy novels by Leigh Bardugo known as the “Grishaverse.” The show has been in the works since 2019, and from that time, fans have been promoting it through book communities on social media. Fans have been passionate, going to various Zoom interviews to meet the cast and find out details of production to know what to expect. Now that “Shadow and Bone” has been released, they no longer have to wait.
The show focuses on Alina Starkov, played by Jessie Mei Li, as she is plucked out of obscurity after her powers as a “sun summoner” are discovered. Before Alina, “sun summoners” were a legend, an idea of a person who could summon light and would be the cure to destroy the fold, a dark shadow area in the land where monsters live. Alina finds herself joining the Grisha, a group of people with special abilities to control elements. While the Grisha live a higher life than the commoners at the Little Palace, Alina does not want to live with them. She longs to be with her best friend Mal (Archie Renaux) but has to be trained under the powerful General Kirigan (Ben Barnes).
This storyline is based on the original “Shadow and Bone” book; however, the series focuses on all of the Grishaverse. This has caused characters from another book in the series, “Six of Crows,” to be featured, like Kaz Brekker, Inej Ghafa and Jesper Fahey, played respectively by Freddy Carter, Amita Suman and Kit Young. The show separates these characters into two groups with storylines that tend to overlap, but each story remains somewhat faithful to the books.
The show has surprisingly improved the story from the original “Shadow and Bone” book. In the books, Mal is seen as a terrible friend to Alina since he is largely absent while she searches for him and his help. This may be due to the fact that the book is only in Alina’s perspective, which Bardugo has admitted was limiting to the story overall. In the show, however, Mal is seen as a loyal friend who risks everything to be with Alina. General Kirigan is also changed; in the book, the character is not seen in a very sympathetic light. In the show, characteristics like his bitterness for people who are not Grisha and his desire to give Grisha power stem from his survival against past persecution. While some other minor storylines related to minor characters were changed too, it does not take away or change their overarching stories.
On the other hand, the storyline between Kaz, Inej and Jesper has completely changed from the story of “Six of Crows.” The changes have been so substantial that while the storyline from the book could be used for a later season, the characteristics of the three characters in the series have changed. Their missions come off as a bit clumsy as the group tries to earn a million kruger, the currency from the country they’re from. Repeatedly, the characters find themselves going through various stumbles, causing the likelihood of them getting the money to lessen. They constantly lose resources, easily get attacked and are frightened by powerful people.
Though, it must be said that the show should not be completely compared to the books. The show has become its own story. The books Bardugo wrote are merely the inspiration for what is shown on the screen. “Shadow and Bone” explores the universe Bardugo created and is cinematic in the best sense. The world the characters live in, though fantastical, seems somewhat familiar to our own, perhaps only distant in time. This is because the sets were inspired by Tsar Russia. By contrasting that decor with the powers the Grisha have and the monsters in that world, the action in the show becomes something viewers can process and accept, not making them question what the world of “Shadow and Bone” is like. This causes the viewer to be drawn into the world. When any of the characters are facing a threat, the viewer feels as if they are there with the character experiencing it.
Verdict: “Shadow and Bone” is a must-watch show. The story it portrays, while different from the original, will manage to draw both fans of the book and new viewers alike by immersing them in the characters’ world, making viewers feel invested in the show’s action.