“I’ve been waiting for you a long time, Alina,” He said. “You and I are going to change the world.”Shadow & Bone
As an avid reader of the YA fantasy genre, I was not unfamiliar with the works of Leigh Bardugo. In fact, her Six of Crows duology is one of the best duologies I’ve read. So when the announcement of there being an adaptation for the “Shadow & Bone” came out which would include the six of crows storyline as well, I was hyped to say the least.
Here’s the thing, adapting a well loved book into the screen is tricky. It is especially tricky when it comes to fantasy books. There are so many things that could go wrong. Change too many things and you’d risk angering an already established passionate fanbase; change too little and risk it being too confusing for new audiences who are not familiar with the source material.
But somehow Shadow & Bone managed to strike the perfect balance when it aired on 23rd April of this year. It managed to satisfy both the fans of the books & the new audiences who were unfamiliar with it. It has a score of 7.8 out of 10 on IMDb and 87% on rotten tomatoes.
When Netflix was continuously churning out lukewarm content with problematic romances and cliched storyline “Shadow & Bone” came in like a breath of fresh air.
The story follows our protagonist Alina Starkov who grows up in the Russia-inspired land of Ravka. When she unexpectedly harnesses a power she never knew she had to save her childhood best friend Malyen Oretsev and gains the attention of General Kirigan, she becomes a target of intrigue and violence.
It also follows the characters from Six of Crows which includes criminal mastermind Kaz Brekker, his right-hand man & sharpshooter Jesper Fahey, the ever so sneaky knife-wielding Inej Ghafa, a beautiful heart render named Nina Zenik & a Fjerdan Grisha hating soldier Matthias Helvar.
Initially, I fell head over heels for the show when it came out. I literally saw no flaws in it and thought it was the best adaptation they could ever give me. But I’ve had some time away from the series now and I can acknowledge the fact that this series is also far from perfect (as most adaptations tend to be).
And now with the second season being announced for Shadow & Bone (finally!!). I feel like this is the perfect time for me to give my two cents on what I thought about its first season.
Here’s my take on what in my opinion worked for the “Shadow & Bone” series & what didn’t –
(BEWARE THERE WILL BE SPOILERS!!)
WHAT DIDN’T WORK:
Pushing the Darklina ship
We all love a dark brooding anti-hero turned love interest and we all love Ben Barnes (I mean how can we not?). But the Darkling in the book is not an anti-hero, he is an outright villain. He is the ancient dark heretic who created the fold to take over Ravka. The Darkling is cunning and manipulative. It is pretty obvious in the books that he seduced Alina only to gain power and nothing else.
Even though the Darkling is still power-hungry & manipulative in the series, he is shown having way too many lovey-dovey feels for our protagonist. This resulted in many people viewing the Darkling as a love interest for Alina and not the villain.
And while I’m all for enemies-to-lovers, putting a literal collar on your S/O and using them for their power is where I draw the line.
The Screen-time of The Crows
I may be a little bit biased when it comes to the crows but I genuinely thought they were the most interesting characters. Whether it be Jesper’s comedic one liners or Kaz & Inej’s soul crushing angst, they stole the show everytime they came on the screen.
Not just the trio, Nina and Matthias’ brewing enemies-to-lovers storyline also made my cold dead heart swoon.
But my gripe is that they didn’t get enough screen time! I know that the show is mostly following the shadow & bone characters and not the six of crows characters but we needed more time with them. Their story arcs felt a little too surface level.
The Nina/Matthias storyline also felt a bit disconnected from everything else that was going on in the show.
“Call me Aleksander”
I think this is the one thing the whole fandom would agree on. The “Please, call me Aleksander” scene was uncalled for!
In the books, reveal of the Darkling’s human name, his real name, is a big moment. Readers anticipated it for years. It happened way down the line AND IT WAS A FREAKING BIG DEAL WHEN FINALLY REVEALED.
General Kirigan telling Alina to call him Aleksander after only knowing her for two days cheapens the significance of it and makes it seem unimportant. This is one thing I probably won’t forgive the series for getting wrong.
WHAT DID WORK:
Many times book to screen adaptations fail to cast actors that actually fit the role. But thank the lord that’s not the case for this series. Every single actor fit the role to a T. Ben Barnes as General Kirigan is the fan favourite casting choice among the fandom and rightfully so.
But my favorite has to be Kit Young as Jesper Fahey. Kit Young embodies the character of the sharpshooter so well that sometimes I forgot this was an actor playing a part. He was charming, charismatic, funny and just the Jesper Fahey I imagined when I read the books.
Jessie Mei Li as our sun summoner Alina Starkov, Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker & Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa were perfect in their roles as well.
Archie Renaux as Malyen Oretsev was one of my favorites hands down. He brought forth such an honest portrayal of the worried best friend in love that it made my heart melt.
Even though I was a little apprehensive about Danielle Galligan and Calahan Skogman as Nina Zenik and Matthias Helvar respectively, their performances pleasantly surprised me and I found myself way more invested in their storyline than I originally anticipated.
Other cast members like Daisy Head as Genya Safin, Luke Pasquino as David Kostyk, Sujaya Dasgupta as Zoya Nazyalensky & Zoë Wanamaker as Baghra were mind-blowing as well.
Mal & Alina
I’ll be honest I was not a big fan of the Mal/Alina ship in the books. In fact, I found their story to be very boring. But in the show, I fell head over heels for their love story. They did the cliched childhood best friend to lovers trope splendidly. Their chemistry, their yearning for each other, their flashbacks all made me root for them from the bottom of my heart. I already talked about how much I loved Renaux’s portrayal of Mal and I was rooting for him to get his girl back from the beginning!
In the never-ending ship war that’s been going on I’m surely on SS Malina!
The heist of the crows
I think I’ve made my love for the crows clear enough already but I just can’t praise them enough. Even though I do think they needed more screen time, they absolutely stole the show everytime.
When I found out the storyline of S&B and SOC would be intertwined in this one series I was more worried than curious. I was worried that they wouldn’t do justice to the SOC characters and I had no clue how they were gonna make adding them to the established s&b storyline work but it worked and god was I overjoyed by it. The addition of the crows stealing the sun summoner added to the intrigue of the story and gave us some of the most memorable moments on the show and it also gave us MILO THE GOAT!
All in all, this show was an enjoyable ride for both the book fans and the new fans with the lovable characters and the high stakes adventures. I definitely recommend checking it out if you’re in the mood for something magical and fun.
P.S. I am aware of the show’s controversy regarding the brown facing of Amita’s stunt double. Which, in my honest opinion, is despicable and the showrunners should come forward and apologize.