The moment many readers have been waiting for has finally arrived; the first season of Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone has officially been released on Netflix. As of April 25th, two days after the initial release, I have watched the show two times in full (once with friends, once on my own). As someone who has been into Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels since middle school, I have to say that Shadow and Bone truly lived up to any expectations I had. I could go on and on about how much I loved this book-to-screen adaptation, but I’ll narrow it down to a few key points that I think are important for anyone who may be on the fence about watching.
I need to bring up that the plot of the Shadow and Bone show was definitely different from the original source material. I know this is something that would typically bother fans of the book series, but I think it was perfectly executed. I did not expect the show to be a carbon copy of the novel. If I had, I really think I would have enjoyed the Netflix series significantly less. The Shadow and Bone book was written and released nearly ten years ago, and changes were necessary in order to fill plot holes and move the story along. Character dynamics improved, especially between the leading characters Alina and Mal, and overall arcs were improved upon. The general plot stayed the same—a young orphan, Alina, discovers she has the power to control light, a one-of-a-kind power that nobody else possesses. Once this is uncovered, efforts are made by General Kirigan, a Shadow Summoner, to take Alina in and help harness her powers in a way to banish The Fold. This dangerous place is a swath of shadows that splits their war-torn country of Ravka apart. Typically, The Fold would not be an issue if it were just shadows; however, within this expanse of darkness are creatures called Volcra who attack anything that tries to pass through The Fold. The story follows Alina as she learns to use her power, growing stronger with each passing day as she prepares to destroy The Fold. This was consistent throughout the show and the novel, but there were other plotlines introduced and interwoven that really enhanced the show and brought it to a more enjoyable standard.
Something I’ve always really loved about Leigh Bardugo’s books was her openness to diversity, whether that be with race, disability, sexuality, and so on. The show did not shy away from any of these subjects, bringing them to the forefront and embracing them in a way that did not feel forced or uncomfortable. Out of the six leading actors, four of them were people of color, whereas the books only have 2. Within the show itself, there were multiple mentions of characters being queer, with one of the leading characters, Jesper, kissing a boy during one of the episodes. On top of all this, they were sure to include Kaz Brekker’s disability (walking with a cane/noticeable limp) and made sure that representation of any kind was executed properly. I really loved seeing these characters come to life, especially because of the development and diversity that went into bringing them to the screen.
Lastly, I’d like to say that although the special effects can be subpar at times, the cinematography and costumes were especially beautiful for this show. Shadow and Bone always had a very eerie, specific tone to it, being set in a fictional Tsarist Russia. Imagining the setting and costumes was always fairly easy, as Bardugo went into detail about whatever aspect she was discussing. Actually seeing them on screen was incredible, though. The artistic team was absolutely amazing for this show, and I don’t think I could imagine a better set of creative directors being chosen to pull this off.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Shadow and Bone series. I have a deep hope that the show will come back for a second season, as the first one certainly left audiences with a cliffhanger ending. With a fun fantasy universe, well-developed characters, and an enjoyable plot, Shadow and Bone was a fast-paced and fun show that I am sure will be garnering more attention as it remains on Netflix. I’m excited to see where this series goes and can only hope we will be getting more information soon on what is to come.