In 2012, Leigh Bardugo introduced the Grishaverse with the novel Shadow and Bone, the story of orphaned Alina Starkov’s rise to sainthood. The trilogy was completed with the additions of Siege and Storm (2013) and Ruin and Rising (2014), leaving Bardugo’s hundreds of thousands of international fans wanting more.
Bardugo has since added even more to the Grishaverse with The Demon in the Wood, King of Scars, Rule of Wolves and The Language of Thorns, giving backstories to Alina’s side characters. But in Six of Crows, followed by Crooked Kingdom, she introduced us to a whole new set of characters.
The Netflix series has the title of the first novel, and when boiled down to a singular storyline, the first season only covers the events of that book in the first four episodes. An adjusted version of the Six of Crows characters are added into the story and given a ton of screen time, despite the fact that the plot of the series would have been nearly identical without them. But through this detour, the series ends with a setup for the plot of the book.
While the series may not have felt very true to the books, I’m going to take the stance that it was, given there’s so much going on.
Ravka, the country in which the story takes place, is at war with its neighboring countries, Shu Han and Fjerda, in the midst of its own civil war.
Ravka’s social order, a royal family, is supported by the Second Army, a military team of Grisha — people with Doctor Strange-esque powers and skills dictated by their order and bloodline. The country is also supported by a more expendable (human) First Army, which makes up most of the working class.
In Ravkan legend, the deadly Shadow Fold, a strip of land that is always completely and suffocatingly dark and filled with man-eating Volcra, was created by the Black Heretic, a power-hungry Grisha with control over darkness, cutting the country in half. In trailers for the series, the Shadow Fold seemed like it wasn’t going to impress fans, but 99 percent of the special effects in this show are truly incredible, including the Shadow Fold.
Although the book often mentions Alina’s white-blond hair and pale skin, in the television series, the character was given a different storyline and cultural identity after actress Jessie Mei Li was cast. In the first episode, when Alina is welcomed into the Second Army, the first Grisha to embrace her is played by Bardugo.
Viewers are thrown right into the action in the first episode, although the backstory doesn’t explain the war and focuses almost exclusively on the relationship between Alina and her best friend, Mal (Archie Renaux). Despite this, I really think the series is not just for the readers.
There are a few, brief periods of gratuitous violence and a lot of high-adrenaline heisting.
Shadow and Bone is definitely geared toward a young adult audience. Although the protagonist is female, it’s definitely a show everyone can enjoy.