When I first found out that Netflix was doing an adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha Trilogy I was not thrilled. I have watched countless books I’ve loved get the green light for a show only to be ruined and disparaged once it’s released to the public. At the start of 2019, I was shocked and increasingly stressed to see that Netflix would not only be taking on Bardugo’s first book but also attempting to merge her second series, Six of Crows, with the story of Shadow and Bone.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Leigh Bardugo’s work, she’s a young adult fantasy author that has written numerous books and series within the Grishaverse. Her stories take place in a complex and well-developed world where people called Grisha have the ability to manipulate things like nature, materials, or other people. Shadow and Bone is the first of these stories and is followed by Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising. The Grisha trilogy centers around Alina Starkov, a young orphan who discovers she has a special ability, and the Darkling, a mysterious war general who takes an interest in Alina’s power.
While I wasn’t the biggest fan of the Grisha Trilogy, I fell absolutely in love with her next duology, Six of Crows. This series follows Kaz Brekker as well as five other fantastically diverse and nuanced characters as they attempt to commit one of the greatest heists the world has ever seen. Many of my friends and fellow book lovers also got into Bardugo’s books through Six of Crows and were more than a little alarmed to see that Netflix would be trying to recreate Shadow of Bone while also incorporating characters from Six of Crows. Taking these two stories and mushing them together had even the most faithful of fans concerned.
As time went on, I eventually forgot that Netflix was even planning on making this show until a few months ago when cast photos and trailers started coming out. I have to say what I saw made me really excited. Seeing the images on EW with all of the characters in costume had even my cynical self feeling a little hopeful. I was so thankful that Netflix didn’t whitewash the cast like other series adaptations often do and I was happy they also seemed to be picking actors who would embody the characters in the way readers had always imagined.
Around a month before the show was released, I knew that Netflix had entangled my interest and that no matter how many times I had been hurt in the past, I would be watching Shadow and Bone. To help deal with the potential fallout if the show ended badly I forced my sister (who never reads) to read the books so that she could either enjoy or suffer along with me when the time came.
As soon as I got home from college my sister and I sat on our couch and clicked play. As the evening progressed we continued to say things like “one more episode and then we will stop” and “ok maybe let’s just watch the first five minutes and then pause”. We didn’t stop. At 2:30 in the morning after the credits of the last episode appeared on screen my sister and I looked at each other in awe. We had absolutely loved what we had seen and already wanted to start again.
Shadow and Bone is one of the best adaptations I have seen since Harry Potter. It was clear that Netflix took the time and money to create something that fans of the books would not only appreciate but cherish. The show was visually gorgeous, the casting was pure perfection, and the way viewers are introduced to the world is great for anyone no matter if they have read the books or not. Everything in the show was a joy to watch and it made me feel excited in a way that I haven’t been since I was a young teen reading these books.
Every single actor clearly knew their respective character inside and out allowing for their complexities to shine through with the smallest of mannerisms or simplest reactions. Freddy Carter (Kaz), Amita Suman (Inej), and Kit Young (Jesper) looked flawless even when things were not going their way, while Jessie Mei Li (Alina) and Ben Barnes (the Darkling) brilliantly executed the subtleties of the will they won’t they trope present in the first book. Even Archie Renaux (Mal) ended up convincing me to like Mal, a character I heavily disliked in the novels.
I loved how the Crows interacted with the Shadow and Bone characters (it felt almost like a fun crossover fanfiction). I think Netflix made a great choice to show Nina (played by Danielle Galligan) and Matthias’ (played by Calahan Skogman) backstory before they depict their interactions with the rest of the gang. Many of the plot decisions exemplified how the show’s creators clearly cared and understood Bardugo’s stories. My only slight issue was that while I loved Milo the goat (the clear star of the show) I really hope that next season they introduced Wylan as Jesper’s emotional support figure.
The success of Shadow and Bone certainly bodes well for Netflix and signifies that the platform can create solid adaptations (a skill that many production companies lack). I am anxiously awaiting a season two announcement and I can not wait to see what Netflix does next with the Grishaverse.If you love or even slightly enjoy fantasy you should watch this show. I can not express how happy it made me feel not only because I was so proud of how it was adapted but because it was just a good story. This series deserves so much praise and offers both readers and TV watchers the option of enjoying the Grishaverse in whatever format they prefer. Go watch Shadow and Bone! You won’t regret it!