For any popular book to screen adaptation with an already existing fanbase, there is always a risk of either enraging or disappointing fans of the original source material or confusing new viewers. Netflix's new fantasy series, Shadow and Bone, takes that risk and takes it a step further by having Leigh Burdugo, the author of the bestselling "Grisha" trilogy and "Six of Crows" duology, upon which the show is based, as an executive producer. Burdugo, along with show developer Eric Heisserer, took this already enriched fantasy world filled with magic and mayhem and brought it to life for the audience brilliantly.
From the popular "Chosen One" trope to terrifying monsters and an unlikely group of heroes banding together, Netflix's adaptation has it all. While the series portrays three distinct yet connected storylines, it mainly follows orphan Alina Starkov, in the fictional country of Ravka. The plot takes off when she accidentally discovers that she is a Sun Summoner, a Grisha, someone with the power to harness and control sunlight, and effectively destroy the Fold, a stretch of darkness that has been a blight on Ravka for years.
Now, she must learn to control her powers and face various challenges, political intrigues and enemies along the way. Instead of being a shot-by-shot adaptation of the book, the "Shadow and Bone" series takes the pre-existing story and adds new plotlines and creates different relationship dynamics, making it a lot more enjoyable for both book fans and new viewers. It feels like a show which resulted as a hypothetical question to the author, "if you could rewrite the plot of the books and fix anything, which parts would you fix and why?"
I loved most of the changes they made to the plot. In the books, since we only got to see everything from Alina's point of view, the other characters felt a bit stale and one-dimensional at times. However, in the show, we get a lot more backstory and different perspectives, especially with the character of Mal Oretsev, making it a lot easier to connect with the characters. Another aspect of the show which was completely different from the books are the inclusion of the Crows, Kaz Brekker, Jesper Fahey and Inej Ghafa, a trio of con artistes and thieves from Ketterdam, who have to travel across the extremely dangerous Shadow Fold in order to get to Ravka and capture Alina right from inside the secured castle.
But of course, any fantasy series with intricate worldbuilding, multiple storylines and dozens of major and minor characters, is bound to get confusing and fall a bit short at times, with some characters getting more of a spotlight than others. The inclusion of racism, with Alina being half-Shu and facing discrimination and minor aggressions at every turn, hit a bit too close to home, especially with all the anti-Asian hate going on in the world right now. While some fans were arguing over whether Alina and Kirigan or Alina and Mal should be together, I was more invested in the hilariously adorable Jesper and his interactions with Milo, the goat. Who would have thought a goat which was supposed to be used as bait would steal the show?
Whether it be the diverse cast, the intense scenes of General Kirigan, the short tease of a heist pulled off by the Crows, the playful banter, the heart wrenching scenes between Nina and Matthias, the magical world building, or even the teen angst- there's a little bit of something for everyone to enjoy in this eight-episode series. And hopefully, there's more to come!
The author studies English Literature at North South University.