A book fan’s take on Netflix’s “Shadow and Bone”


Siena Urquiza '23

Julia Krider ‘23 poses with the first book from the “Shadow and Bone” series, which Netflix adapted for the screen in a show released in April.

Every book reader knows that when a TV production company announces that they’re adapting a beloved book to the screen, it could mean heaven or it could mean disaster. Often, it’s the latter, because a lot of the time film adaptations are quite different from the actual books. 

As a book fan, hearing Netflix’s announce that they would produce “Shadow and Bone,” an adaptation of two of Leigh Bardugo’s best-selling fantasy book series combined into one show, which was released in April, made me feel excited. But then a sense of concern set in: I was worried that Netflix was going to totally butcher the books. 

When the show finally came out, however, I loved it. One of the main reasons why I was so excited for the show to come out was that Netflix had chosen to merge the series “Shadow and Bone” and “Six of Crows” into one show. I was excited by the fact that we were going to see some main characters from both series in one show. Because the plot line of “Six of Crows” comes after the “Shadow and Bone” books, I was curious to see how Netflix would bring the two storylines together.

The TV show follows the story of an orphaned girl named Alina Starkov, who has a newly discovered magical power. Alina’s country, Ravka, is divided by a shadowy rift known as The Fold. Only Alina’s power can dispel The Fold, which is full of man-eating creatures called Volcra. Alina trains to develop her power and work towards freeing her people from The Fold. 

Over the course of the series, the Crows, a trio of thieves, gamblers and spies, embark on a mission to kidnap Alina Starkov for a massive sum of money. The show follows Alina’s efforts to master her power and the Crows’ attempts to smuggle Alina back to their own country. 

In the books, Alina Starkov is a white brunette. In the show, the casting director chose to cast Jessie Mei Li, a half-Asian actress, as Alina. This casting decision introduces more diversity to the young-adult fiction scene. Without including spoilers, I noticed that some relationships in the show are more consensual than in the book as well, and one specific character is less controlling of Alina and respects her own choices. Netflix 2021-ified the books, and I couldn’t be happier about it. 

Another aspect of the show that made “Shadow and Bone”  a unique adaptation was the author, Bardugo, being both a writer for the show and one of the executive producers. Sometimes, authors don’t have a say in how their books are going to be portrayed on the screen. The fact that Bardugo was involved means that the characters that I and so many other Bardugo fans love so much from the books would be accurately reproduced on the screen. 

Filmed in Budapest, the series also has a great magical feel that comes from the environments and the sets. The costumes are breathtaking, the casting is phenomenal and the score is a masterpiece. The actors portray their characters in such a genuine way that I really feel as if I’m watching the book unfold. 

The only thing that I dislike about the series is how busy it is. There are multiple plot lines and lots of different characters, and even though I knew what was going on because I had read the books, watching the show I still found myself getting a bit confused. 

That isn’t any reason to not watch the show, though. Netflix truly paid homage to Bardugo’s masterpieces, and the final product is stunning. I couldn’t have asked for a better show; in my book, this is a hit.