Enter the Grishaverse with ‘Shadow and Bone’

Expect a new world with diverse characters and unique storylines to fall in love with


shadowandbone via Instagram

Behind the scenes of Shadow and Bone with Jessie Mei Li and Ben Barnes, who play Alina Starkov and General Kirigan.

On April 23, Shadow and Bone was released on Netflix. Consisting of eight episodes, each about an hour long, the show lives up to its high expectations. Fans of the books are in for a treat to see their favorite characters who do not interact on the pages interact on screen. 

The Netflix adaptation consists of two separate novel duologies and trilogies. The Shadow and Bone trilogy follows Alina Starkov, General Kirigan, Malyen Oretsev, Genya Safin, Zoya Nazalyensky and other side characters. These books take place in Ravka, a fictional world inspired by Tsarist Russia. Ravka is divided into two, separated by the ominous Shadow Fold. Once Alina reveals her power to summon light, she is sent to the Little Palace to train with General Kirigan. Separated from Mal, Alina has to carry the weight of being Ravka’s savior, alone, as well as tackle being a target for anyone wanting to make it big. 

The crows — Kaz Brekker, Inej Ghafa and Jesper Fahey — run the Crow Club together. They aren’t a widespread gang yet, and they seize an opportunity to cross the fold, kidnap Alina Starkov and bring her back to Ketterdam, south to Ravka. 

One difference between the novels and the Netflix show is that in the Six of Crows book, Alina, Mal and the General never interact with the characters in the Six of Crows novels. When readers first heard the news of the integration, many were skeptical at how the producers were going to integrate the two storylines together, especially since Six of Crows takes place two years after the last Shadow and Bone book. The executive producers include Leigh Bardugo, who is the author of the Grishaverse. According to recent interviews, she had most of the creative control on the show, which made the adaptation one of the most accurate book-to-TV adaptations many have seen.   

Jessie Mei Li (Alina Starkov) joins the well-known Ben Barnes (General Kirigan) as the hero-villains of the story. Alina’s best friend Mal, played by Archie Renaux, delivers an exceptional performance to a bland character, giving him a new personality and charisma that the books do not show. 

Introducing the ‘Bastard of the Barrel,’ known to watchers as Kaz Brekker, Freddy Carter gives the mysterious side of Kaz, hinting at his trauma that readers of the books appreciate. The Wraith, known as Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), shows the faithful spy with morals, delivering an unforgettable performance of an exceptionally strongly-written character — both in the books and the Netflix adaptation. Kit Young, who plays Jesper Fahey, perfectly delivers his charisma and charm. After the plan ultimately fails, Kit proceeds to laugh and twirl his guns in his hands in true Jesper motion.

The acting does not disappoint, but what truly makes the show is the set itself. Filmed in Budapest, the Little Palace comes to life in an incredible way. The white walls brighten the atmosphere, the rooms intricately detailed with paintings of Ravkan royals, as well as the War Room and Alina’s suite. Ketterdam, the crime-filled city in Kerch, comes to life with the rain; the signs and the inside of the club itself are eerily similar to how readers might imagine the Crow Club in the books. 

The cinematography cannot go unnoticed as well. The effect of the camera angles are incredible, hanging in for just a moment here, or zooming out just a little longer, creating an ominous feel throughout the entire show. Along with the cinematography, the visual effects are captivating. A specific example could include the light and the shadows being emitted from the characters themselves, more evidently with Alina, the sun summoner, and General Kirigan, the Shadow Summoner. 

The Cut, the most notorious way to be murdered by General Kirigan, raised some concerns in the fandom. Readers weren’t sure how the slicing of a man in half would work on screen, but Ben Barnes delivers an unforgettable performance, showing mastery of the hand motions and engulfs his character, General Kirigan. 

However, there are some things that make this Netflix adaptation less than perfect. 

The portrayal of some characters seems forced, as well as the weakening of some characters. In the books we know Kaz Brekker as a ruthless crime lord who can take anyone down with his cane, but in the Netflix adaptation, when he gets jumped he gets horribly injured. Readers expected Kaz to be ruthless and know how to defend himself without Inej or Jesper at his side. 

Another fault is the revealing of General Kirigan’s real name. Readers had to wait until the final pages of the last book to learn his name, while the Netflix series reveals his name in the third episode, in the most nonchalant way. The scene in the adaptation takes away the meaning of his name, and especially how it becomes revealed to Alina, and Alina only.  

General Kirigan’s backstory is another flaw. The writers create a stereotypical villain origin story for General Kirigan, his character losing the charisma that he has in the books. What’s different is that we learn more about General Kirigan at the end of the last Shadow and Bone novel, whereas we are introduced to his name and his backstory in the first season.    

Regardless of the small details a reader might catch, this adaptation is an incredible new fantasy, and one can expect many things from this season and the possibility of many more after that.