On March 16th, the second season of Shadow and Bone was released on Netflix. The series is inspired by the Shadow and Bone series and Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo, set in a magical universe with political intrigue. In the Shadow and Bones series, a young girl named Alina Starkov discovers she is essentially the chosen one, having the ability to summon the sun. This puts her in direct contact with royalty and their mysterious general, the Darkling. The Six of Crows books are set in the same universe with six young adults, Inej the master with knives, Kaz the ruthless leader, Nina the girl who can control hearts, Jesper the sharpshooter, Wylan the demolitions expert, and Matthias the brute strength. Though they are all different and do not necessarily get along, they come together to pull an impossible heist to save the world but mostly to get filthy rich. The show has taken over every social media platform, with fans singing its praises. After watching it, I had to admit I was hooked, and the hype was absolutely justified.
I have read both the Shadow and Bone series and the Six of Crows duology. I found the first series to be lacking in some depth for all the characters discussed. The Six of Crows series improves upon this, as seen with its cult-like fan base on TikTok. However, before I jump into the latest season, it’s vital I discuss what happened during the filming of the first season of this show with the use of brownface for Inej’s stunt double. Though the production team and director seem to have worked towards this never happening again, it’s important to acknowledge this happened when it never should have and keep open conversation for accountability of the team and actors involved. In addition, the actress Danielle Galligan does a fantastic job capturing the personality of Nina but is not plus-sized and uses padded clothing to make her the body type of the character. This is something that has not been fixed and is once again important to simply bring attention to.
The show takes what makes both series interesting and builds on it with a unique plot converging both series. In the books, the characters from both series never interact. However, I enjoy seeing how the characters from Six of Crows are hired by Tolya, a man who controls hearts, and Zoya, a girl who can control the wind, to help the Sun Summoner Alina. The interactions between the characters were so fun, with the viewer getting to see Inej interact again with Alina. In addition, I enjoyed seeing Nina and Zoya interact, with both of them being quick-witted and sharp. These interactions and crossover allow for a connection between the series we do not get to see in the books. Though this means a divergence from the original plot of both series, it allows for an expansion.
Another thing I absolutely loved this season was the relationships. The show stays true to one of my favorite relationships in books in general, Kaz and Inej. You fall absolutely in love with their tragic backstories and strong personalities. Kaz finds Inej working at the Menagerie, where she was taken to perform for customers after being kidnapped and sold to the Menagerie. He then buys out her indenture and she works for him, helping in deadly tasks with her precision with knives and stealth. Meanwhile, Kaz became the ruthless leader he is because one of the gang bosses ran a con on him and his older brother shortly after becoming orphans, resulting in them becoming homeless, catching a plague, and his brother dying. Both characters go through trauma. They relate to and protect one another in a beautiful way. This makes their dynamic so interesting and though Inej’s backstory is not as detailed as Kaz’s in this season, the foundations of their relationship are still there.
In addition, the show adds some much-needed depth to the relationship between Alina and Mal. In the books, Alina gives up her powers and lives a life with Mal happily ever after which was cute, but also seemed to not add up with Mal fighting for Alina to be a powerful queen and Alina enjoying her powers. However, the show decided to have Mal need to find a purpose after fighting with the Darkling and decide what he wants from the relationship between him and Alina, who is now set to be queen. I found this a great change as it allows them to see who they are outside of the relationship and be less dependent on one another like they are in the books, making me enjoy their dynamic more.
And, of course, there are Nina and Matthias, who are the cutest. Though this season they get little screen time together it was sweet to see Nina doing everything she can to get Matthias out of prison and right the wrongs done in the first season. Last but not least, Jesper and Wylan were probably the most different from the books. This season decided to build the additional backstory of Wylan and Jesper having met before joining up for the heist this season and their relationship moving a lot faster than they do in the books. However, their banter and instant connection with one another were still captured despite these additions to their story, bonding over their respective struggles of Wylan’s shame of his learning disability and Jesper’s shame about having magic. The books shine with the relationships and this season captures that and builds it to make them even better.
Finally, we have the new characters of Tolya and Tamar. These twins are iconic in the books and in the show, it’s no different. Tolya and Tamar are twins with power over hearts who work for the privateer and prince Nikolai who is an infamous comedic character, who comes across the Sun Summoner and sees the opportunity to save the world. Tolya is into poetry to an annoying amount and is very philosophical, which stays true in this show with him reciting poetic lines. Then his twin Tamar is a chaos-loving, axe-wielding girl. The show also does not change much about her. She’s never seen without her axe and always looking for the fight. Both twins also help in this show help Alina connect with her Shu heritage, which is inspired by Mongolia and China, as they are both Shu and Ravkan like her. This was beautiful to finally see implemented and I definitely wish there was even more focus on it this season. Nikolai is also of course comedy in this season and found the start of some depth to him but feel there is much more exploration by both the actor and team to truly get the character.
Overall this season hooked me in a way the first season did not and I had a blast. I immediately was enveloped in the story and characters but felt there could have been more focus on the Shadow and Bone plot they went were following as the Crows got more screen time despite talks of a spin-off show for them. My hope going forward for this show is that we see continued focus on the character’s depth and backgrounds.