Netflix’s Shadow and Bone: What to Expect

Fantasy fans across the globe are heavily anticipating the approaching release of the new Netflix series Shadow and Bone, based on the young adult novels Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. Combining five of her books into one epic story, Shadow and Bone will premiere April 23, 2021, and all eight episodes will be available on Netflix as the clock strikes twelve.


The Shadow and Bone book trilogy began in 2012, following the story of teenager Alina Starkov, a cartographer’s apprentice in the Ravkan military, who learns during a fight for her life that she has the power to summon sunlight, earning her the title “The Sun Summoner”. She’s a living legend amongst the Grisha, those who can control the four elements, metals, chemicals, or even heal or harm the human body. After being presented to the world, she must do her best to destroy the Shadow Fold– the tear of darkness that has split her country in two– and bring peace to a consistently war-torn Ravka, the place she calls home. The trilogy will be turned into three seasons of the show, with Shadow and Bone being the focus of the first season, followed by Siege and Storm as the second, and it will complete with Ruin and Rising, the final book of the trilogy. 


This trilogy does not cover the show’s entire plot, however. In fact, it’s only half. Bardugo wrote a second series– the Six of Crows duology– about six outlaws who attempt the biggest heist they can imagine, led by mastermind and skilled lockpick Kaz Brekker. This duology is by far the most popular of Bardugo’s work. Since it occurs in the same universe as Shadow and Bone, Bardugo and the screenwriters merged the two series into one thrilling show, much to the excitement of the book fans.


A quote from Ben Barnes, playing General Kirigan, sums up the mixing of the two series: 


“The reason that books are mixed together is because Shadow and Bone is a little bit more YA feeling, skews a little bit younger, and is more straight up fantasy. It feels a bit like Harry Potter and Anna Karenina, mixed together. But then, Six of Crows is more of a heist things that’s more of a Peaky Blinders and Ocean’s 11 world. So, the tone sits somewhere in the middle, and I think that’s potentially quite exciting.”


Despite a large following, the cast is full of unknowns. Ben Barnes will play General Kirigan, also known as the Darkling, but that’s where the list of well-known names ends. Jessie Mei Li will play Alina Starkov, with Archie Renaux as Malyen Oretsev, Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker, Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa, and Kit Young as Jesper Fahey. Despite the unfamiliar names, fans appear ecstatic at the casting and are hopeful of what is to come. 


The behind-the-scenes teams from Game of Thrones, Birdbox, Arrival, Stranger Things, and Divergent have all been a part of the efforts to put this show together, not to mention Bardugo herself as an Executive Producer. Composer Joseph Trapanese is behind the soundtrack, having worked on productions like The Greatest Showman and the Divergent series in the past. 


Two new languages have been developed for the show’s use by David J. Peterson, who is behind the construction of the fictional Dothraki and Valyrian languages from Game of Thrones, as well as languages in Marvel’s Doctor Strange and Thor: The Dark World. The languages will follow along with Bardugo’s fictional universe, with countries like Ravka imitating Imperial Russia, and the city of Ketterdam being quite similar to the Dutch capital of Amsterdam. Most of the filming was done in Budapest, Hungary, a location the cast quickly fell in love with.


Fans of young adult books, fantasy television, heist movies, or even just quality entertainment will be excited to tune in to the release of this show on April 23. New fans, prepare yourselves for a fantastical experience. Old fans, grab your keftas, canes, flying ships, and do me a favor: when I die from excitement over this show, “make sure I have an open casket. The world deserves a few more moments with this face” (Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo).


Watch the trailer here: