‘Shadow and Bone,’ Netflix’s Current #1 Ranked Show: A Review

By Maha Sanad, STAFF WRITER

Netflix’s newest book to series adaptation, ‘Shadow and Bone,’ released on Friday, April 23, after fans had been eagerly awaiting its arrival for months.

‘Shadow and Bone’ is a popular young-adult fantasy trilogy published from 2012 to 2014 by author Leigh Bardugo. Bardugo also released a duology called ‘Six of Crows’ in 2015, with the sequel being released in 2016. The ‘Six of Crows’ duology follows different characters in a different place than that of the ‘Shadow and Bone’ book series, but they both take place within the same world; Bardugo refers to it as the “Grishaverse.” 

In both series, there’s magic, fantasy, and romance peppered throughout, although many fans agree that ‘Six of Crows’ is a bit darker and grittier than the ‘Shadow and Bone’ trilogy. Overall, the Grishaverse is a beloved literary universe with fans spanning all over the world. Netflix realized the Grishaverse’s popularity in the young-adult fantasy sphere and has adapted it into a long-awaited series.

The ‘Shadow and Bone’ Netflix series follows the characters from both the ‘Shadow and Bone’ and ‘Six of Crows’ book series. While there are some spoilers in the Netflix series for both book series, the Netflix series differs quite a bit from the plot of the novels, particularly ‘Six of Crows.’

If you have any interest in reading the Grishaverse before watching the Netflix adaptation series, I recommend doing so. While the books can be slightly cheesy at times, the world-building, character development, and magic systems in both book series are some of the best in the young-adult fantasy genre.

One of the biggest worries I, along with other fans, had for the ‘Shadow and Bone’ Netflix series was that because they were going to try to fit so much information from the books, the episodes would feel extremely rushed. The good news is that after binging all eight episodes in a single sitting, I can assure you that the pacing is spot on.

Despite the many concerns that fans had for the Netflix adaptation, after watching it and having time to reflect, many fans agree that ‘Shadow and Bone’ is one of the best fantasy adaptations from the past decade. One Reddit reviewer looks forward to future seasons, “I think while this first [season] was really good…the most exciting part was just realizing what later seasons with a bigger budget can accomplish.”

The pacing is great, none of the character arcs feel rushed, and the casting is perfect for each and every character. The cast is abundantly diverse, with the main character, Alina Starkov, played by mixed-race actress Jessie Mei Li, who gives a wonderfully emotional performance.

The beautiful thing about the representation in the ‘Shadow and Bone’ series is that none of it feels forced or as if it is merely an attempt at keeping up with the progressive times. Each person in the diverse cast of characters plays an important role in the story. Their race is integrated into the series rather than following the “colorblind” narrative that some other shows, like Netflix’s ‘Bridgerton,’ seem to have. It’s beyond refreshing to see characters who represent so many different minority groups be integral parts of such a fantastical and magical world.

As a fan of the Grishaverse, I can safely say that the ‘Shadow and Bone’ Netflix adaptation gets two big thumbs up from me, and based on social media reception, most fans seem to agree. ‘Shadow and Bone’ has been ranked #1 on Netflix’s most-watched list since the day of its release, with one article even suggesting that it “could become the streaming platform’s ‘Game of Thrones.’” Those are some pretty big boots to fill, but if any show can achieve GOT status, ‘Shadow and Bone’ is certainly a contender.

While the Grishaverse books skew young adult audiences, the Netflix adaptation can be enjoyed by anyone aged 15 and up. Whether you are a fan of the books or not, if you ever find yourself in the mood for a bit of fantasy and need an escape into a magical world, then give the ‘Shadow and Bone’ series on Netflix a try! You will not regret it.