"Shadow and Bone" brings a fantastical world to Netflix

By MARISSA KRASNY
On April 27, 2021

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore, Wikipedia

When I was 16 years old, if I wasn’t at home or school, you could likely find me at the library. It was there that I first came across a book called “Six of Crows” by an author named Leigh Bardugo. I checked it out and quickly found myself lost in a world of saints, summoners, soldiers, and thieves. 

From there, I devoured the original series that preceded the “Six of Crows” duology, beginning with “Shadow and Bone.” So when the Netflix Original series adaptation was announced to be in development in January 2019, I followed the production news very closely. 

Book adaptations to television or films have been hits or miss in the past, and they usually were more misses than hits. Luckily, the “Shadow and Bone” adaptation was sensational. 

“Shadow and Bone” tells the story of a world divided in half by a shadow tear called The Fold, which is filled with darkness and creatures called Volcra. The world is composed of humans and people called Grisha, magic users who can control things such as chemicals, fire, and people. 

The countries are fighting against The Fold and even each other, with no end in sight. The only hope is the recently discovered Sun Summoner, a Ravkan cartographer named Alina Starkov, who has the power to banish The Fold and heal her country, but she may not be able to remain safe long enough to learn how to use it. 

“Shadow and Bone” premiered on Netflix on April 23 and has remained the number one streamed show on Netflix ever since, drawing critical acclaim. The series has been very popular with fans of the books and new fans alike. 

The show combines both the original “Shadow and Bone” trilogy and the following “Six of Crows” duology that took place five years after the events of the trilogy. The fans had worried how they would combine the plotlines in the same time frame, but the way the showrunners approached this was sensible and it allowed for some fun and interesting character interactions. 

New elements were added to the show that did not feature as heavily, or at all, in the books. A notable change was an increase in diversity. While “Six of Crows” had good racial and LGBTQ+ diversity, its predecessor series “Shadow and Bone” was lacking in this regard. 

The Netflix adaptation rectified this by changing the races of previously white characters, including the protagonist Alina Starkov. The showrunners used this to include a commentary on racism in the series. They also elaborated on elements of classism that were lightly touched in the series. 

These changes did feel authentic and not forced for some performative diversity. The new takes on race and class felt genuine and certainly fleshed out the world the story is set in. This made the Ravka and its surrounding countries feel real. 

The series separates itself from other fantasy shows in many different ways, mostly coming from the infusion of the “Six of Crows” characters. The books follow a gang of criminals, combining crime and heist elements with magic powers and grit. 

The scenes with the current “Crows” characters (Kaz, Inej, and Jesper) offered a view into a new story that did not distract from the larger plot. The “Crows” plotline shows the many different kinds of stories the Grishaverse has to offer viewers and readers.

“Shadow and Bone” was a rare television adaptation that did not disappoint the loyal readers of the source material, and it has spawned a large number of new fans. The fresh take on the fantasy television show offers a unique magic system and a complex world to explore. 

Fans are already clamoring for a season two renewal, and I am happily among them. 

5/5 stars

 

mkrasny@ramapo.edu

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