By Lauryn Clarke, Third Year, History
Based on the books by Leigh Bardugo, Netflix’s latest adaptation brings the fantasy world to the screen with ease and fantastic visuals.
Netflix’s Shadow and Bone (2021), based on the first books of two separate series in the ‘Grishaverse’ by author Leigh Bardugo (the titular Shadow and Bone, and Six of Crows), has been a hit since its release on Friday, currently retaining the Number 1 Most Popular spot on Netflix over the weekend and it is not hard to see why.
Based in the fictional country of Ravka, where ‘Grisha’ have the power to control fire and even people’s blood, this show follows two main plotlines. Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), a girl who discovers in the midst of a horrible attack that she has long-awaited powers, and Kaz Brekker (Freddie Carter), a criminal who is tasked with planning a heist that could change his life and the lives of those around him.
As someone who has read all of the books in both series, I must admit I was a little worried about how Netflix would adapt this show – there is a lot of world-building and unique vocabulary required with Bardugo’s work, which could have very easily gone wrong in the translation from page to screen. There were some changes from both books, including the merging of the two plots, but they work well and are in-keeping with the spirit of the books – this was also fun as there were times where I was on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen!
All the actors in this show are phenomenal. Particular favourites of mine are Kit Young as Jesper, and Ben Barnes as The Darkling. Young plays the comedic relief of the Six of Crows section of the show in a natural way that had me giggling and eagerly awaiting his next appearance on screen; the show also does not shy away from Jesper’s queerness and his flirty behaviour. This was wonderful to see on screen considering how often shows like to queerbait and be oh-so-subtle with the sexuality of their characters.
Ben Barnes (who admittedly, I developed a crush on as a child) plays mysterious and broody to perfection, and it is easy to fall into his spell much as we see Alina doing on screen. Barnes was the fancast for this character since the initial books were released and this, reportedly, encouraged him to audition for the role – I can confirm that 2012 Tumblr made a good choice with this one!
The show also touches on real life issues such as class and race that are often only included in part in fantasy shows such as this (I’m looking at you, Game of Thrones (2011-2019)). The race of Alina and Inej (Amita Suman) and the way this means they are treated are explored in a thoughtful way, and the backstories of these characters are treated with respect. Equally, the subplot of Nina and Matthias (Danielle Galligan and Calahan Skogman) delves into the cultural differences in the reality of Ravka and beyond, and the deadly consequences this can have.
Overall, this show is absolutely worth a binge watch and I cannot wait for season two. It has not been confirmed yet but given the response in both viewership and on social media, I would be very surprised if we didn’t get the announcement we are eagerly awaiting.
Featured: IMDb, Netflix
Will you be watching Shadow and Bone?