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Netflix’s ‘Shadow and Bone’, a live-action TV series based on Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling novel Shadow and Bone, dropped its first season on April 23, 2021, and like Grisha fans everywhere, I, too, binged the show in one sitting, now can’t seem to shut up about it!

Shadow and Bone Season 1 Trailer

The Grishaverse Setting

Even though the show is named after ‘Shadow and Bone’, it seems to be about the whole Grishaverse. There are five ‘Six of Crows’ characters along with the usual S&B characters. They all have their own storylines, and they all cross each other at some point over the eight episodes that come. Multiple storylines can be confusing, especially this early in a fantasy setting.

The series dives headfirst into the Grishaverse. They don’t ease into it or explain much. There are a lot of things happening right off the bat— Alina finally getting stationed near the fold where Mal is & doing anything to not get separated, the Crows looking for a way through the fold, the tension between the First Army and the Second Army, Nina getting abducted. The worlds are haphazardly thrown together. The characters are introduced like Luis was in charge of the introduction, but the story stays true to Alina throughout it all.

Shadow and Bone Season 1 Teaser

Deviation in the Story of Shadow and Bone

The writers of the show took a ‘slightly’ different route with Alina’s story and gave a POV to Mal, combined with gorgeous cinematography and a cast of talented & inclusive actors and actresses, in my opinion, made all the differences. But I have to admit, the storytelling isn’t exactly smooth. People who haven’t read the trilogy seem to be lost more than others. The readers always knew where the story was heading or whenever a famous dialogue was nearby.

Though it’s obvious the show has taken a whole lot of creative liberties, and thank god for that. That made me curious; it’s clear more than ever that Six of Crows is the real scene-stealer, maybe King of Scars too, but we are yet to see that. Why adapt Shadow and Bone? The obvious answers are: this is where it all started; this is the foundation of the entire Grishaverse. But also, I am speculating here that Leigh Bardugo probably wanted to rewrite it, a second chance to do things differently.

Then, the question remains, why not extend the same favor to the Darkling? The show writers & the cast really invested themselves in building the Malina (Mal & Alina’s ship name) story arc from scratch. As if they knew fans would be really against Malina, and they wanted to make it undeniable. Malina in the book was insufferable, but on-screen Malina? Audiences will at least ‘get’ their story if not love.

Wish the show makers showed that kind of patience while building the Darkling’s character arc. He doesn’t get a wow intro, unlike the Crows, who got really killer intros or even Nina Zenik/Mattias, who seems disconnected from all the things happening in season one. It was subtle, but they had their moments. But for Darkling, the man responsible for everything going wrong, we just get a back scene, and that’s it?

Why is Darkling called the Darkling? Why do people fear him? Why are people so loyal to him? Darkling is more than vague answers and cheap tricks. Ben Barnes did his part; he read all the books, put a lot of thought into his character, and played an active role when his parts were being written. However, I can’t help but feel they really rushed with his character arc. The writers could have easily given us the anti-hero we deserved. The closest he comes is cutting that man into pieces for trying to kill Alina. They stepped up a bit from episode 7, but that only increased the thirst.

Most Appropriate Casting of Shadow and Bone?

Despite my reservations about the Darkling character and Ben Barnes, the cast is undoubtedly my most favourite thing about the whole series. The book Alina wasn’t very impressive, but Jessie Mei Li somehow made me fall in love with the character. That almost never happens.

That being said, the Crows are what made the show for me. They have a very ironic dark humour thing going on. Inej & Jesper managed to shine through it, but I felt like Kaz was missing something. Don’t get me wrong, Freddy was perfect, he embodied and pulled off Kaz so beautifully, but I didn’t see much of the dirty hand/bastard of Ketterdam, the trickster, the crime prodigy side of Kaz. Hoping that changes in the next season.

But can we talk about Jesper? Kit Young deserves an Oscar for his performance. Period. He was a treat to watch; he won us over every time he appeared on the screen. His and Amita Suman’s off-screen friendship definitely translated well into the characters.

Shadow and Bone
Shadow and Bone

A Show where it gets better than the Books

Shadow and Bone works so well as an adaptation for the same reason it’s getting booed for as it steps away from the ‘chosen one’ narrative that the trilogy focuses really hard on and gives, not just the Crows but everyone— Genya, the Inferni Twins, Dubrov & Mikael, Feydor & Ivan, Alexei, Zoya— a part of the storytelling. It has made it a bit messy for sure, but it has actually set the tone for the future seasons, and it looks promising. Personally, I can’t wait for season two!

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Tarin is a cha-enthusiast and your next door fangirl. Send her book/movie/TV show recommendations at

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