Netflix’s Shadow and Bone immerses you in a totally unique fantasy world, full of politics and magic. You’re going to want to set aside 8 hours to binge this one, because you won’t want to stop in the middle!
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.
This review is spoiler-free, except for the one section marked as containing spoilers! So skip past that one if you don’t want to spoil Shadow and Bone for yourself.
Shadow and Bone Season 1 Review
First of all, if you’re ready to watch Shadow and Bone because you love the source novels, I can tell you you won’t be disappointed. (I could probably scream about the perfect casting on this show all day.) I’ve read all of the Grishaverse books myself, and it was a real joy to watch them come to life in the series. If you haven’t read the books, I recommend them, but you can dive into the Grishaverse through Netflix easily enough.
You’re fully immersed in the Grishaverse
One of the greatest things about Bardugo’s books is the incredibly rich fantasy world she created. And this translates beautifully to screen. The production design on Shadow and Bone is truly incredible.
The series covers a lot of ground in terms of both story and physical location. The show does a great job of giving each new place its own distinctive feel. Even if you come into the series with no background knowledge from the books, you’ll have no trouble distinguishing the dark and twisted streets of Ketterdam from the Ravkan front or the Fjerdan permafrost.
Costuming too is absolutely on point. The keftas worn by the Grisha are stunning! And again, the Crows and Barrel gangsters have a distinctly different feel than the First Army soldiers and the Fjerdan drüskelle.
The effects also jump out in Shadow and Bone. The Fold and the volcra were perfectly ominous, and it’s easy to get excited any time a Grisha uses their powers or Jesper lets off a bullet. Top that off with excellent fight choreography (and basically anything Inej does), and you’ve got a series that easily keeps you entertained.
When you watch Shadow and Bone, you really feel transported to a different world – and that’s exactly what a great fantasy series should do.
Weaving the two series together works well (for the most part)
Shadow and Bone actually includes characters from two of Bardugo’s series within the Grishaverse: the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology. In the books, Alina’s journey as the Sun Summoner takes place years before we ever meet the Crows (Kaz, Inej, and Jesper). So, their involvement with Alina’s story is a completely new invention by the series.
And it does work pretty well, actually! I think the show managed to slide the Crows into the Shadow and Bone plot pretty seamlessly; I doubt anyone not familiar with the source material would feel their presence was off.
However, I will say that because the series combines these two stories – which both had quite a few characters and stories within them to begin with – Shadow and Bone can feel a little overstuffed. Nina and Matthias’s story, while eventually important to the Six of Crows series, feels pretty separate from everything else that’s going on, despite the show’s attempts to link it to the main plot. I don’t know that the tragic nuance of Genya’s story fully translated to screen. And there are some character appearances that may come off as random or unimportant because the plot didn’t have time to expand on them yet.
Still, overall the biggest plotlines come together well in Shadow and Bone. I definitely think it could be one of those shows where you re-watch the earlier seasons with the knowledge of what’s to come and find certain scenes even more impactful. (Fingers crossed for more seasons!) Because there is so much going on, the plots and the action definitely keep up an unrelenting pace. You’re unlikely to get bored watching this one, because there’s always a new heist, battle, or magical showdown just around the corner.
Here come the **spoilers** I absolutely have to talk about
Again, BIG spoilers for Shadow and Bone ahead!! Specifically for how the series involved the Crows during the season finale, so these are spoilers even for book readers – jump ahead if you haven’t finished the show and don’t want to be spoiled!
Now that the warnings are out of the way…can we talk about the Crows being on the skiff when the Darkling expands the Fold?! Can we talk about Jesper and Inej diving into the fight on board? The mini team-up between Inej and Zoya? THE FACT THAT INEJ FREAKING STABBED THE DARKLING?! Talk about giving us an incredible character crossover I never knew I wanted! Yes Inej!! Just when I thought I couldn’t love her more.
We also got Kaz outwitting the Darkling a little earlier on too with a sort of flash/smoke bomb. That was pretty fun too. Overall, I’m just really pleased with how the Crows interacted with the main Shadow and Bone plotline.
Ok, back to the non-spoilery wrap up
If you like magic, political intrigue, heists, and found family dynamics, Shadow and Bone is the series for you. Netflix really put in the effort to make this show stand out. It’s immersive, action-packed, and visually stunning. You definitely won’t be sorry you gave this one a shot.
Shadow and Bone season 1 is streaming now on Netflix.
If you watch Shadow and Bone (or if you’re a fan of Bardugo’s books), drop me a comment below. I’d love to talk about this one with fellow fans!