Earlier this year it finally happened! Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels were finally adapted into a TV show and Netflix released the episodes. I was insanely excited about this, so let’s see whether it lives up to all the hype!
The Plot (according to RT):
Based on Leigh Bardugo’s worldwide bestselling Grishaverse novels, Shadow and Bone finds us in a war-torn world where lowly soldier and orphan Alina Starkov has just unleashed an extraordinary power that could be the key to setting her country free. With the monstrous threat of the Shadow Fold looming, Alina is torn from everything she knows to train as part of an elite army of magical soldiers known as Grisha. But as she struggles to hone her power, she finds that allies and enemies can be one and the same and that nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. There are dangerous forces at play, including a crew of charismatic criminals, and it will take more than magic to survive.
Book vs. TV Show:
So, let me say right away, this is a pretty good adaptation! I really enjoyed watching what we got so far but there a still a few things I need to criticize. But let’s start with the things I did like!
The casting is spot-on. Literally every character has found a perfect actor or actress to portray them. I honestly don’t know how they managed to pull this off but I couldn’t be happier about it. This was actually one of the main things I was concerned about for the adaptation as the casting can really make or break how it turns out. So, I’m very glad that they really nailed it.
That being said, let’s talk about some of the things that bothered me. First of all, the worldbuilding. I read all the books, so I was already familar with the setting we’d find ourselves here. However, had I been completely new to this, I think I would have been very confused. There wasn’t a lot of time to explain and explore the different Grisha classes and powers. But more importantly, they didn’t impress the role of faith and/or magic enough in my opinion. In the books this is a big part and was a substantial reason why I found the story so intriguing. It’s what made this so different from other stories but unfortunately, the show doesn’t get to the bottom of this and doesn’t let us explore the depth of these things.
This is not really a criticism but rather something that surprised me, but I hadn’t expected that they would combine stories this much. You see, the Grishaverse novels comprise of the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology (and the King of Scars duology, but that isn’t relevant for the show yet). Originally those two things have nothing to do with each other other than somehow being set in the same universe. The characters don’t meet, the stories don’t intersect. So, imagine why confusion when my favorite murder babies went on a very different mission than they did in the books. For a moment I actually thought I had completely misremembered the novels until I realized they changed everything up. I was a bit sad about this as the story (and the heists) of the Six of Crows duology were just brilliantly written. I hope we’ll get to see this later in the show as it would be such a waste of brilliant story-telling not to!
Let’s talk about the Darkling for a minute. Ben Barnes plays the part to perfection but I wish we had seen more of his backstory. There’s only very little we know about him before the events of the show and I think it would have been impactful to dive a bit deeper into his past and his mind. Considering how much plot they squeezed into this season, I see why there wasn’t time but can you imagine how cool it would haven been to get an episode simply dedicated to the Darkling through time. Along with the Darkling I was a bit sad about Baghra. I had imagined her more along the lines of swamp witch and much more strict. But again, there wasn’t much time to explore her story, so it is what it is.
Two things that were different from the novels that I enjoyed where Mal and the amplifiers. I’m still not a fan of Mal but in the books he was such a twat. He pissed me off a lot but in the show they improve a lot by simply cutting out some if his extremely childish behavior. As for the amplifiers, they are jewelry in the books – you know, bones fashioned into bracelets or necklaces. In the show the amplifier gets molded into Alina’s skin and body. This is of course freaking horrible but it also underlines how much of a violation it is.
Finally, can we talk about Milo for a second? That goat is the MVP of the entire show. I’ve only had him for one season but anything would happen to him, I’d kill everybody in this room (which is very obviously a sentiment shared with my favorite murder babies). Just how cute is that goat? And how ingenious was it to write it in the show?
Despite some flaws, this was an adaptation I enjoyed tremendously. Although I think I would have been confused a bit if I hadn’t read the books, I loved watching Shadow and Bone. Go check it out!
Did you prefer the book or the movie? Let me know in the comments!