Title: Shadow and Bone
Release Date: April 23, 2021
Starring: Jessie Mei Li, Ben Barnes, Freddy Carter, Archie Renaux
Based on Leigh Bardugo’s worldwide bestselling Grishaverse novels, Shadow and Bone finds its characters in a war-torn world where orphan mapmaker, Alina Starkov, discovers she has an extraordinary power that could be the key to setting her country free from the darkness plaguing it. With the monstrous threat of the Shadow Fold looming, Alina is torn from everything she knows to train as part of an elite army of magical soldiers known as Grisha. But as she struggles to hone her power, she finds that allies and enemies can be one and the same and that nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. There are dangerous forces at play, including a crew of charismatic criminals, and it will take more than her new powers to survive it. (Wikipedia)
First off, I am going to try my best to refrain from turning this into a Jesper Fahey appreciation post. To keep it nice and quick, he is amazing and if you watch this show for anything, just watch it for him. You’re welcome.
Now on to the actual review. Disclaimer, there won’t be any outright spoilers in this review, but there will be references to certain events or characters.
I honestly loved the Shadow and Bones adaptation and it exceeded all of my expectations. I try not to get my hopes up when it comes to any kind of book adaptation. With a history of many of my favourite books getting horrible adaptations, I’ve learned to just expect the worst and be happy when it doesn’t completely suck.
Shadow and Bone was a magical experience. The casting was impeccable and amazingly diverse, the story line had a perfect balance of accurate book representation and new ideas, there was a scene-stealing goat named Milo, and it had me hooked from episode one. I don’t binge anything. Ever. But I binged this one because I just wanted to live in the Grishaverse and perform a heist with the Crows. This show far exceeded what I had hoped and overall it was a an amazing adaptation.
Things I Loved
I will admit that I didn’t enjoy the Shadow & Bone book. I loooooovvveeee the Six of Crows duology, but I stopped reading the trilogy after the first book. I just was not interested in the storyline or the characters. Other than the Darkling, there wasn’t much to that book I enjoyed. So, again I did not have high hopes for enjoying the TV series. I was also concerned about how the show was going to combine the two series given the very obvious problem of them existing in different timelines. I just didn’t understand how it would work and was worried that the Six of Crows story was going to suffer to make room for Alina’s story. I was also more than just a little annoyed that Wylan Van Eck was not in it and therefore Jesper and Wylan weren’t going to be a thing.
So, Netflix’s solution to combinging the two series was this: give us a backstory to the Crows during the timeline of Alina and the Darkling.
So, the one thing about the adaptation that I was expecting to hate the most ended up being the thing I loved above everything else. I lived for the scenes with the Crows. We were getting a story that we’d heard about in the books, but never read about. The story line with Nina and Matthias was just *chef’s kiss*. I didn’t know I needed that until Netflix gave it to me and it was beautiful. I really enjoyed getting a storyline for the Crows that wasn’t in the book. Usually I wouldn’t enjoy such artistic liberty in an adaptation, but it worked for me in this one. I don’t think the Shadow & Bone books could have carried a whole series on its back, so combining the two series was actually a great idea. This way we also get all the backstory to the Crows and get to see the relationships grow before all six of them come together.
Whenever someone asks me what I love about Six of Crows the most I always say the characters. When asked what I liked least about Shadow and Bone I usually say the characters (minus the Darkling).
My favourite part of the TV series was the way they presented the characters. This casting was absolutely impeccable. It really felt like the characters came off the pages onto the screen. Ben Barnes was born to play the Darkling, Archie Renaux made Mal a character you could actually root for, and Jessie Mei Li took Alina’s character and just ran with it to new heights. Also, Kit Young was everything I needed and more for Jesper. I actually found myself rewinding every scene with Jesper in it because I couldn’t get enough. That opening scene where he shoots the coin….yeah…I won’t make this a Jesper appreciation post, I promised. But seriously, if you haven’t watched the show yet, just watch it for Jesper and Milo the goat. Just trust me.
I also just want to mention that the chemistry between all of these characters was actually on fire. Alina and the Darkling, Nina and Matthias, Kaz and Inej, Jesper and his guns…you get the point.
I’m going to put these points as bullets just to make it quicker. Also, they’re really just my random thoughts.
- Nina and Matthias’s banter and Matthias slowly thawing his Fjerdan heart for Nina. Also, just Nina in general. I don’t remember liking her that much in the books, but in the show she stole every scene. Whoever wrote her dialogue is amazing.
- That first scene between the Darkling and Alina. If you’ve seen it you know what I’m referring to. If not, it’s the arm grab.
- Mal and Alina’s letter – “I’ll meet you in the meadow.” (Be still my beating heart.)
- Ben Barnes’ hair. This is random, but I needed to comment on it. It’s actually too perfect.
- Kaz Brekker and that cane.
- Jesper. Every single second this man was on the screen was pure gold: shooting money in midair, being the handsome decoy, flirting with handsome stable hands, being the most supportive friend to Kaz and Inej, his reaction to Alina getting in the carriage, him and Milo.
- Speaking of Milo, I have decided I want an emotional support goat.
- That Darkling and Kaz meeting. Didn’t know I needed that until it happened. Thank you, Netflix.
- Inej calling Jesper ‘Jes’. “It’s Suli for friendship”. I died.
Things That Were Just ‘Meh’
There wasn’t anything that really stood out as something I completely disliked. Overall, I was really happy with the adaptation, but there were a few things that I wish were done differently.
First, the explanation of the world and the magic was a little confusing. I watched the show with my Mom who hadn’t read the books and she was thoroughly confused by the magic system the entire show. I’m not saying it needed one of those ‘this is how the magic’ works description scenes, but it seemed to pass over how the magic worked and the different types of Grisha. Especially the Materialki. Other than David, we don’t really get to see much on how their magic works.
The beginning with the Crows also felt rushed. It might just be that I wanted more of Kaz being a badass gang leader, but it felt like a lot of backstory there was rushed through quickly. They suggest a past with Kaz and Rollins and then never really address it again.
Again, these are little things. They weren’t bad at all and to someone else they might feel it was done well, but I guess I just wanted more.
As far as adaptations go this one was really good. It was a captivating and phenomenal TV series on its own, but also the kind of adaptation that built on the beautiful world it was based on. Considering I never binge anything and stayed up until 3am watching this one says a lot about how much I enjoyed it.
Did anyone else completely binge Shadow and Bone? Or did you show self-control and watch it slowly? What were your least favourite/favourite parts? Let’s talk in the comments! I would love to hear your thoughts.