Spoiler-Free Review of Netflix’s Shadow and Bone


Emma Ozdogan, Online Arts Editor

On April 23, Netflix’s Shadow and Bone television series took the streaming service by storm, claiming the spot as the platform’s largest TV debut this year. Based on Leigh Bardugo’s two bestselling book series, the Shadow and Bone trilogy and Six of Crows duology, the show explores the dark-fantasy world of the “Grishaverse,” following protagonist Alina Starkov as she navigates her war-torn country. After unleashing an extraordinary power that could be the key to peace, Alina is torn from everything she knows to train as a member of an elite army of magical soldiers known as Grisha. With half the world worshipping her and the other half wanting to kill her, Alina struggles to hone her powers as she learns of the harsh realities of her cruel, unforgiving world. In addition to Alina, the show follows a crew of charming criminals and a diverse cast of supporting characters on their own adventures, all tying into a singular, satisfying narrative. 

As someone who read and enjoyed both the book series and other Grishaverse novels, I was ecstatic about the show’s announcement in early 2019. However, when I found out that it would be combining two series set in different parts of the world during different timelines, I was immediately worried that the showrunners would be unable to successfully combine the two stories into a singular show. Despite my worries, this adaptation completely surpassed my expectations. Not only was the show able to successfully fuse the two series into one cohesive story, but it even improved upon some of the source material. For example, it expanded the backstory of Alina and her childhood best friend Mal, increasing the importance of their relationship and adding an additional layer of depth to the story. 

On the other hand, the series is still enjoyable if you have not read the books. The plot is unique and multi-faceted, following a wide array of characters – with plenty of POC and LGBTQ+ representation – and stories that tie together to form one narrative filled with magic, action, drama, and romance. In addition to the intricate story and thanks to the hefty budget, the show’s landscapes and special effects are visually stunning, creating an authentic experience for any viewer. Junior Mehak Dhaliwal’s experience watching the series attests to this idea: “I really liked the cinematography. As someone who never read either series, I think the show did a really good job of building up the plot, world, and developing the characters. I was super invested in it and basically finished the whole show in a weekend.” Sporting a stellar cast and fantastic visual effects, Netflix’s Shadow and Bone appeals to a broad audience and is sure to keep viewers engaged with its multi-layer narrative and worldbuilding.