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The Light at the End of the Dark YA Adaptation Tunnel

For those of you who already know what’s up with Shadow and Bone (the book and Netflix’s new 2021 adaptation of it); yes, the title is a pun and yes, I’m proud of it. For those of you who don’t know, let me introduce the premise of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows Duology before jumping into how this series feels different than the bad YA adaptations we’ve been getting these past few years.

Shadow and Bone, the first novel in the Grisha Trilogy, follows mapmaker Alina Starkov as she travels into the Shadow Fold- a place of darkness that has torn her country of Ravka in two- to face the monsters that live there. While in the Shadow Fold, Alina discovers that she is a Grisha- basically a person with magic powers- and that she is the only one with the power to control light. She then embarks on a journey to the Little Palace, where she will learn how to control her abilities alongside the other Grisha. 

Six of Crows, the first novel in the Six of Crows Duology, follows six members of a gang known as The Dregs in the city of Ketterdam as they try to pull off a seemingly impossible heist.

But before we talk more in depth about the upcoming TV show adaptation that combines both of these stories, let’s talk about why so many YA adaptations have been failing these past few years. Anyone whose favorite fantasy young adult novels have been turned into television shows and/or movies greatly understands the saying “The book is always better.” Young adult adaptations have become increasingly popular over the past ten years, since the rise of Stephanie Meyers’s Twilight adaptations that came out between 2008 to 2012 and Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games whose adaptations came out between 2012 to 2015. Since then, we have also received adaptations of Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments (both a movie and a television show for this one), and Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds. While none of these adaptations are fully true to the source material, the difference between the latter book-to-movie/television show adaptations and the former is that all of the latter ones failed. In fact, a majority of the fans of the books still do not like them.

This is for multiple reasons, but the main one is that these adaptations are not very faithful to the original source material. When it comes down to it, it does not matter whether they are trying to age the characters up to make the show darker or sexier or simply foregoing plotlines that are fan favorites. The simple fact is that these are some of the most crucial elements of stories that draw readers in. Readers tend to categorize themselves as character driven or plot driven for a reason. When these aspects are changed, it is inevitable that the fans of the source material are not going to be too fond of it. 

Now, the question is: why do we feel so strongly that Netflix’s adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows is going to be different despite having nothing but a two minute teaser trailer to work off of? I think that the first answer is that Leigh Bardugo herself has faith in the show. She even worked as a writer and executive producer on the show and was thus able to call some shots. In these past, failed adaptations, the authors did not wind up having much of a say in what was done to their characters and worlds. This is why the crucial changes were allowed to be made- and in the books’ fans’ opinions, for the worst. However, knowing that Leigh Bardugo has a say and is working alongside professionals who also worked on shows like Stranger Things, The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones has made us all the more hopeful and excited for this adaptation.

The second reason is that the casting is immaculate. From Ben Barnes as the Darkling (or General Kirigan in the show) to Archie Renaux as Mal Oretsev to Jessie Mei Li as the world-saving Sun Summoner Alina Starkov, the fans seem to be in love with everyone casted for the show. I can’t get over the emotion that is present in the expressions and body language of these actors in just the teaser trailer. They all feel so true to the characters! And I think that I speak for all of us Six of Crows fans when I say that Jesper Fahey (Kit Young), Kaz Brekker (Freddie Carter), and Inej Ghafa’s (Amita Suman) appearances- despite being no more than five seconds long- sent us reeling a bit and in desperate need of more content. 

Lastly, the fans of both series are incredibly curious to see the characters from both series meet since the series take place at different time periods and in completely different countries- Shadow and Bone takes place in the fictional country of Ravka (inspired by Russia) years before the events of Six of Crows, which takes place in the city of Ketterdam (inspired by Amsterdam during the 18th century Dutch Republic). This is the aspect of the show that many fans are excited yet hesitant about, including myself. We’re very excited to see how the Six of Crows characters will do in the Shadow Fold, since it isn’t even a part of their duology. But ultimately, we’re just hoping that the interactions between the characters of these two series will stay true to their personalities and that the new plot and events of the show will make sense. However, tying this back to my previous point, I think that the main reason so many fans are not dreading this change is because Leigh Bardugo herself worked on the show. Overall, I’m optimistic that it will go well.

I know that I might be speaking a bit too soon with my hope in this show, but there really is so much going for it- including the rumor that it’s already been quietly renewed for a season two! We won’t know whether this is true or not officially until after the first season has aired, but the prospect of there already being a season two in the works definitely creates some excitement. With the promise of a second season comes the promise of inclusion for so many more beloved characters, including the remainder of the Six of Crows crew, and, of course, the fan fave Nikolai Lantsov. But for now, we’re just excited that the first season of the show is a thing to begin with and that it looks so promising so far.

I hope you all check out Shadow and Bone on Netflix on April 23rd! (I know that I’m personally prepared for my finals to take a backseat on this day so that I can binge this show in one sitting). No mourners, no funerals, my friends.

Jayni is a sophomore at Pace University’s New York City campus. Her major is English Language & Literature and her minor is Psychology. She has a particular joy for analyzing books, music, movies, and tv shows. When she is not working or reading, you can find her playing FromSoftware video games and doing diamond dot paintings.
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