Netflix’s latest fantasy series, Shadow And Bone, is a smash with both Grisha fans and newcomers, telling the narrative of an underdog soldier in dramatic and riveting ways. Those who couldn’t put the Grisha trilogy down may be apprehensive to dive into Netflix’s adaptation of the Shadow And Bone series.
After all, in terms of the literature, television adaptations have typically ranged from dull and uninspiring to absurd and unfaithful.
Thankfully, fans of Leigh Bardugo’s fantasy novels will not be disappointed by the series, which takes traditional fantasy tropes and enhances the experience for today’s binge-watcher, and has been in the top 10 for the past week. But I was curious as to how this works for individuals who are new to the world of spells and warfare.
Shadow and Bone is set in a war-torn universe where Alina Starkhov (Jessie Mei Li) works as a cartographer. Alina discovers she possesses amazing abilities that could be the key to freeing her planet from an evil force known as The Fold, which is home to horrific monsters known as volcra.
However, as word of her abilities spread across the land, nefarious forces seek to eliminate her. Alina meets friends and opponents along the way who either aid or hinder her trip.
I admit that I started into Shadow and Bone expecting another another fantasy world with the same old clichés, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the stories brought up served up creativity in spades, as a buddy who is a Bardugo superfan pointed out multiple times.
Cast with magic
I seldom empathise with many protagonists in such roles, but Li was able to sell both fragility and strength in his portrayal of Starkhov. She is accompanied by a great cast as she offers an enlightening performance from start to finish.
Amita Suman, a talented Nepali actor, plays Inej Ghafa, a spy for the Dregs (a gang of robbers in the area of Ketterdam). Suman impresses in this part and is frequently a scene-stealer, making her a star to watch in the coming years. Then there’s Zoya, played by Sujaya Dasgupta, an Indian actress who plays Alina’s competitor.
Archie Renaux plays tracker Malyen Orestev; Malyen is Alina’s true soulmate, and Renaux approaches the part with equal measures of grit and thoughtfulness, quickly making him a fan favourite.
Is there, of course, Ben Barnes – is there any period fantasy drama these days that he isn’t a part of? Put in the role of General Aleksander Kirigan, a mysterious Shadow Summoner (the group behind The Fold) with a tragic past of love and grief. Barnes is charming and attractive as usual, but I like how he’s levelled the playing field by introducing a dark side worth exploring.
The attraction between Alina, who is the Sun Summoner, and Kirigan is evident on the surface, but fans can sense there is something much more sickening about their relationship.
Netflix has put a lot of money into the show’s production design, and rightfully so. Shadow and Bone has prospered not only because of its compelling characters and storey arcs, but also because of its enthralling environments. There are no holdbacks in the show’s creature designs, which are also Witcher-quality.
Furthermore, the soundtrack is soul-stirring, with a strong bass line and some bone-chilling trills. Watch this with a home theatre system; a small screen and weak speakers will do this show no justice.
It didn’t take long to pick up on the many clans and organisations, as well as the magical language thrown into the mix, and the team is conscious of ensuring that new eyes are drawn to the series.
If you give Shadow and Bone a weekend, you will certainly fall in love with the storey arcs, and there will be plenty of opportunities to watch it again.
On key problems like race, sexuality, immigration, and conflict, much of the OTT approach to social issues is laced with moral suffocating. However, Shadow And Bone deftly incorporates these difficulties into the adaption.
I’m already looking forward to the second season, though it will undoubtedly take some time. You will not be disappointed if you keep this one on your radar.