The long awaited fantasy realm of the Grishaverse has finally made it to the screen. Based off of author Leigh Bardugo’s successful book trilogy of the same name and duology “Six of Crows,” “Shadow and Bone” is Netflix’s newest addition to the streaming service’s growing collection of beloved novel-to-television adaptations.
With a slew of main characters — each developed considerably well in the series’s short length of eight episodes — “Shadow and Bone” weaves the compelling story of the Grisha people who can wield the elements, the enemies-to-lovers-to-enemies dynamic between Sun Summoner Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) and the Darkling General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) and an abominable wall of shadow teeming with bloodthirsty creatures that is known as the Fold, crafted with impeccable special effects and CGI.
The show follows Alina, who discovers under unfortunate circumstances that she is the rarest of all Grisha, a Sun Summoner, and is fated to destroy the Fold with the Darkling. Ripped from her life as a cartographer with her childhood friend Mal (Archie Renaux), Alina is thrust into an unwelcoming environment to strengthen her newfound power, where she finds out Kirigan and his means of use for her are not exactly who or what he says them to be.
“Shadow and Bone” does an excellent job making readers’ dreams come true, from the author’s own perfect fan cast of Ben Barnes as Kirigan becoming a reality to the “Shadow and Bone” book making a guest appearance in one of the scenes. Down to the stunning embroidery on the costumes and the noticeable but not overt nods to Eastern European geography and culture, Bardugo and crew have all the details down pat. “Shadow and Bone” also flawlessly melds both the trilogy and duology worlds, as three of the six crows — Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman) and Jesper Fahey (Kit Young) — provide a secondary, intertwined plot that crosses just enough with Alina’s storyline to keep things interesting without being a distraction.
Apart from the quality production, the dynamic between various characters is electric, thanks largely to the prowess of the actors and the close adherence to the book’s original dialogue. The dark and mysterious Kirigan is locked in a feud with Alina and Mal (who clearly have their own undeniable chemistry), and Barnes carries the character with the optimal level of disdain and sensuality. Barnes’ peak moment is when he utters the now-infamous line, “Fine. Make me your villain,” dripping with contempt. Kaz and Inej, part of the “Six of Crows” verse, depict the popular YA “I hate everyone but you” angle with ease, much to viewer satisfaction. The charming Grisha Nina Zenick (Danielle Galligan) and handsome but somewhat prejudiced Fjerdan Matthias Helvar (Calahan Skogman) don’t get as much screen time as hoped, but there should be plenty of their budding relationship to come in the next seasons.
The show also attempts to grapple with race, which isn’t covered much in the book. Because of this disconnect, this theme centering around Alina’s ancestry isn’t developed much and ultimately falls flat over the course of the season. However, “Shadow and Bone” must be commended for its diversity, which feels natural instead of forced.
While “Shadow and Bone” may not be exceptionally spectacular in all fields, it makes a more than genuine effort to do so. But no components of the show are more remarkable than the world Bardugo has meticulously and most impressively crafted, drawing in fans and refusing to let them leave — not that they’d want to wrench themselves away from the Grishaverse anyways. The grandeur of “Shadow and Bone” has Bardugo’s heavy involvement in the show to thank, the fruits of an author’s magical touch harvested. Even if you haven’t read the books, “Shadow and Bone” is a series that goes beyond entertaining — it’s a stellar example of a beautiful work come to life, leaving you wanting more.