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Shadow and Bone: Why it’s Surprisingly the Best, Recent YA Book-to-Movie Adaptation

Now Streaming on Netflix 

My Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆

Total of 8 episodes 

Rotten Tomatoes: Certified Fresh - Critics Rating 89%  Audience Score 95%

Second Season Not Yet Confirmed 


The new Netflix fantasy YA adaptation, Shadow and Bone, may just be one of the most thought-out and accurate representations of a beloved YA series that fans of the books will not be disappointed in. The show follows the plot of the first book in the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, and the origin stories of the fan-favorite Six of Crows characters. The Six of Crows duology takes place two years after the end of the third installment of the Grisha trilogy, but the tv show decided to take a different route by bringing the storylines and characters of both books series together to bring the entire Grishaverse together. 


The premise of the show is about Alina Starkov, an orphan who discovers that she is Grisha (the magic-users) who possesses the ability to summon light. The setting is Ravka, a worn-torn country inspired by the Tsarist Russian Empire. Ravka is separated by the Fold which is an endless darkness separating East and West Ravka. The Fold contains winged creatures called the Volcra making it an area that no one can travel through unscathed. Alina’s power is what can get rid of the Fold, which makes her very valuable, and no one else has this power either, making her unique among all other Grisha as well. 


The show contains comedy, action, fantasy, romance, and more. Fans of the books will be pleasantly surprised to see the trilogy modernized with more representation in all areas, but especially with race, such as by making Alina bi-racial, which she was not in the books. The show creators also made it a point to make Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend and a tracker in the army, more likeable. In the books, he was misogynistic and an overall character that fans of the books do not care for. In the show, they give his character more backstory and develop him to be worthy of Alina’s love interest. 


Fans of the books are most excited to see the Six of Crows characters come to life. The characters are very diverse with race, sexuality, and disability. Each of them has a distinct storyline and backstory that the show has begun to introduce the audience to. With a second season, the audience will learn more about these characters. The show has not gotten into the plot of the first Six of Crows book yet, because the main focus is Alina’s story. However, the show has set it up that the plot of the books will come if the show gets renewed for more seasons. 


The Six of Crows characters are located in Ketterdam, the trade center of the empire, where Kaz Brekker runs the Crow Club. Kaz is the leader of the Dregs, a gang in Ketterdam. Inej and Jesper are members of the Dregs, and close allies of Kaz. They compete with fellow crime boss Pekka Rollins for a job with a payout of 1 million kruge, which they learn is to capture Alina Starkov bringing both storylines together. 


The overall show got the budget it deserved with great effects, location, wardrobe, and aesthetics to match the tone of the Grishaverse. The casting is also very accurate with bringing the characters to life from the books. I have read both the Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows duology, and I can confidently say that book fans will not be disappointed with casting or the performances. The actors bring subtle movements and haunting looks that make the characters palpable, especially with Kaz and Inej’s PTSD. The acting is superb with representation and stories that people who have not read the books will fall in love with these characters just because of the performances given. 


Personally, I wish the Six of Crows characters had gotten more screen time because the actors, Freddy Carter (Kaz), Amita Suman (Inej), and Kit Young (Jesper)’s chemistry is unmatched. Their comedic timing and the darkness that comes with the work that they do brings much of the excitement to the show. I’m hoping that we will see more of them if Netflix renews the show for several more seasons, so then we can get into the plot of the Six of Crows books, which have more action and a heist with many memorable moments that book fans hope to see brought to the screen. 


I am a die-hard Six of Crows fan, but I was pleasantly surprised with how much I did enjoy the Shadow and Bone scenes. I was happy about Mal’s character improvement and was happy that we got to know more about his background as a character. Jessie Mei Li portrayed Alina so well. She brought her character a strength and depth that I did not see as much in the books. She is a strong female lead that brings the whole show together. Then we have Ben Barnes, who plays General Kirigan, who is a shadow summoner and leads the Grisha army. He becomes close to Alina, and their development in the show is interesting and has more depth as we learn more about his backstory as well. They become close because of their similar powers, and he brings her into the Grisha world. 


Ben Barnes is an incredible actor and people will recognize him from playing Prince Caspian in the Chronicles of Narnia movies. He exuberates the darkness and hidden depths to Kirigan’s character. Fans of the books will be pleased with his performance of the evolution of his and Alina’s relationship. In the books, their relationship is questionable but the show creators make it a point to bring justice to the relationship for the book fans to be proud of. However, getting to see this new generation of actors leading this adaptation makes it even more special. 


Overall, I enjoyed the show very much as a book fan, and a reader who has been very disappointed in modern YA adaptations. My favorite so-far has been The Outsiders movie, which came out in 1983. This is because it stayed to the heart of the book taking literal page to screen scenes, with the same dialogue and plot. 


Nowadays, it is so difficult for YA adaptations to be done well because the producers want to make money and create a film that will attract all audiences, not just the book audiences. Even though you can make a good movie or show adaptation that reflects the story directly without making drastic changes. This has been seen in Divergent, The Mortal Instruments, The Kissing Booth, Percy Jackson, and so many more. Shadow and Bone did take a risk with bringing the Six of Crows storyline in earlier than it occurs in the Grishaverse, but it stays intact because it represents the heart of the characters well. Also, the author, Leigh Bardugo, was very involved in the writing, casting, and production process. 


For the adaptations to be successful, the creators need to appease the book audience first and the rest will come from there. This is because there is a reason why people have fallen in love with the books, why change that? I believe people who come across Shadow and Bone on Netflix will come to love it as well. There are many characters to get to know which may be overwhelming at first, but the show makes it possible for all audiences to understand the plot, characters, and universe, whether they have read the books or not. 


The book contains book quotes (yes! Can you believe it?!?), and scenes directly plucked from the books that fans will jump up and down for. I recommend this series to book fans who were reluctant to watch, as I was, because of poor YA adaptations being made today. I also recommend it to anyone who wishes to watch a fantasy show that holds meaning and real characters that all people can relate to. It’s a binge that you won’t regret. 


I’m very much hoping for a season 2 renewal in the near future. The second season will need the same budget and involvement with Leigh Bardugo. There will also be more casting of characters from the Grishaverse, that I, and other book fans, will be anticipating to see brought to life. I’m also very happy to see an author receive an adaptation that they can be proud of, and that represents the characters and story they put their all into. 


Hopefully, going forward, people will see the success of Shadow and Bone, and take that into account going forward with YA show or movie adaptations. People always want a good YA series, book, or movie because of the coming-of-age drama, angst, and feeling they get when they watch or read. This show is no different. It successfully gives the audience all of these elements, and does the books justice. I hope more people will come to appreciate it as I have, and for what it can mean for book fans going forward if their favorite series may be lined up for a future adaptation. 


Marisa Silk

Stonehill '24

Marisa Silk is a freshman at Stonehill College studying English and Secondary Education. Marisa is from Norwood, MA. Marisa enjoys reading, writing, drinking tea in the afternoon, and going to the beach. After college, Marisa wants to become an English teacher one day and write professionally as well. She will then receive her Master's in English. Marisa hopes to share her love of reading, writing, television, and music with the rest of Her Campus readers.
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