Shadow and Bone: An adaption done right


Becca Koch '22, Web Editor

After being let down by far too many book to movie adaptations (Percy Jackson I’m looking at you), I was cautious about my expectations of Netflix’s new show Shadow and Bone. The story centers around Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei-Li) discovering she has the ability to summon light. She is seen as the key to destroying “The Fold” a dangerous cloud dividing her country in two. Shadow and Bone is based off of the Shadow and Bone trilogy by Leigh Bradugo and is part of a greater literary universe called by fans as the “Grishaverse”. During the series she is helped by someone known as General Kiregan in the show, but he is known as The Darkling in the books.
One of the biggest plot points in the show and the book is the love triangle Alina is in with her childhood best friend Mal and The Darkling, leader of the Grisha and creator of the Fold. I never really liked the Darkling in the books that much. I knew that he was bad and he only wanted Alina for her powers. I’ll be honest, in the books I did not like Mal. All of the books are told from Alina’s point of view. She never thought Mal liked her as anything more than a friend. So most of her narration is longing for what they could be. But in the show they were able to show all sides of the story and develop their relationship beyond just Alina’s wistful thinking. Taking the narration out of Alina’s hands developed her relationship with Mal more. After watching the show I liked them together a lot more.
The costumes and sets were both phenomenal. One of my favorites was the black and gold dress Alina wore to her showcase. The beading on it was so intricate. It also stood out to be because of what it symbolizes. Grisha wears keftas, basically a fancy coat with a color corresponding to your abilities. The Darkling is the only one allowed to wear black, so when Alina wore black it was a symbol of the magnitude of her abilities. All of the sets were also great. A lot of the filming was done in Hungary, the forests were gorgeous and made some of the scenes more dramatic.
One of my biggest concerns was the addition of characters that are in later series in the universe but not in Shadow and Bone. Shadow and Bone was the first series ever done by Bardugo. Comparing it to her later books, you can see massive amounts of growth in her writing abilities. Even though Shadow and Bone is a good series on its own, the addition of more storylines increased the value.
One of the books that brought in other characters was “Six of Crows.” Kaz Brekker, Inej Ghafa and Jesper Fahey all play a large role in a subplot to kidnap Alina. The actors all were phenomenal and played their roles amazingly. Although, I did feel like Kaz and Inej were being pushed together a lot. Their relationship is something that isn’t even fully explored in the Six of Crows duology. It felt forced in the show. I know there was some controversy over the casting when it initially came out because some of the actors didn’t look exactly like they were described in the book. However, those actors captured the essence of their character perfectly, and in actuality the actors didn’t look completely different from their characters.
My favorite part of the show were all the scenes of Nina Zenik and Matthias Helvar. They were two of my favorite characters in Six of Crows. Their scenes were separate from the rest of the storyline, but they will be important characters in later seasons. Most of their lines were directly from the book which I loved. Their storyline was filled with so much emotion and hearing direct quotations made me so happy. Their actors also worked so well together. The only one of the “crows” missing was Wylan, but he will likely be in another season.
Taking a well loved book and adapting it along with plot changes is often a recipe for disaster. I was so happy this was not the case. Shadow and Bone was one of the best shows I have seen this year. I highly recommend it to anyone. Although because it is a high fantasy, I do recommend reading the book as well to better understand the world itself. They go a lot more in depth to the cultural practices and explanations of grisha powers. As always, I prefer the book more than the show, but for all intents and purposes Shadow and Bone is a capable adaptation.