There was excitement all round when in 2019 it was announced that Netflix would be adapting Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse novels, namely the Shadow And Bone trilogy and the Six Of Crows duology, and after a slight delay due to the coronavirus pandemic it finally hit our screens on April 23rd.
The announcement of show was actually the perfect prompt for me to read the books, as I had not done so until that point. I read the trilogy over the course of last summer and quite enjoyed it, and then read Six Of Crows quite recently – an excellent book with truly iconic characters. I still need to read the sequel, Crooked Kingdom, but all in good time!
I was very hyped for show and that was helped by the stunning trailer, and in the end the series itself did not disappoint! I enjoyed it a lot, seeing the characters on screen was extraordinary and in the main they really lived up to my expectations.
One thing I did not expect was just how different the show was to the books. They made a LOT of changes and that was a surprise to me. The general gist of the story (at least the bits from the Shadow And Bone trilogy) is the same, but a whole new storyline has been created for the Six Of Crows characters to align with the rest. I was not quite sure how to feel about that decision at first, but in the end I came to appreciate it a lot and it was definitely fun to watch!
Here are my detailed thoughts on the show. This will contain spoilers aplenty, so do not read on if you do not want to find out what happens!
What I Liked
The casting. On the whole, the casting is top drawer. There is so much here that I can gush about, but most of the actors are perfect for their roles. As soon as Ben Barnes was chosen to play the Darkling I thought was an excellent choice, and so it proved. The Crows are all fantastic, but my personal favourite was Jessie Mei Li. She was just ideal for the role of Alina, she embodies the character very well and brings a really genuine warmth to her.
Away from the central cast, I was delighted to see Zoe Wanamaker playing Bhagra as she is a household name with a powerful on-screen presence. Meanwhile, Kevin Eldon’s portrayal of the Apparat is exactly how I imagined him in the books.
Honestly, I would say the only casting choice that really did not hit the right notes for me was Daisy Head as Genya. She just lacked the kind of personality I saw in the character from reading the books, but that is just my personal feeling.
The music. Joseph Trapanese did an absolutely brilliant job with the soundtrack, it gave the show a really epic feel and heightened the suspense. In each episode there was a moment where it reached a crescendo and somehow it made me even more excited to be watching it.
Kaz’s scheming. One of the highlights of Six Of Crows are the moments where Kaz has one plan in action but then something else happens and that turns out to be his real plan all along, pulling the rug from under the reader and the rest of the Crows in the process. There was one moment in episode four where this is executed brilliantly on screen when, in pursuit of Alina at the Little Palace, he fools Arken into attacking her decoy. It was shocking at first, but simply brilliant when it was revealed to be all a red herring.
Jesper. I mean, Jesper in the book is strangely likeable despite his love of gambling as well as shooting at anything and everything, but in this adaptation he is more than likeable – he is positively adorable. He provides many of the show’s lighter moments and Kit Young is so charismatic in the role.
The relationship between Alina and Mal. There is a lot of emphasis on the companionship Alina and Mal had while growing up in Keramzin, and the frequent flashbacks to their childhood brought about several of the show’s more emotional moments. I was glad they focused on this as it provided much-needed depth, and on a separate note, I am finding Mal much more likeable in the show than he was in the books 😉
Alina and Mal meet the Crows. Before seeing the show I had no idea these two sets of characters and their narratives would intertwine, and as I said at the beginning of this post, I was a bit dubious about it at first. But in the end, to see them all interact together was something I very much appreciated.
The visual effects and the costumes. These were masterful.
Milo the Goat!!!! Need I say more?
What I Liked Less
They ruined the Darkling. First off, I should say that I am not one of those readers who love the Darkling. Rather than morally grey, I found him simply evil and nothing else. However, there was a certain mystery about the character which the show completely undermined. He just did not stand out like he should have. Asking Alina to call him by his real first name was frustrating enough, but General Kirigan?? He is THE DARKLING, and that is it.
Kaz was slightly overshadowed. Despite that piece of characteristic Kaz Brekker scheming that I mentioned earlier, I just could not help thinking that in this adaptation he was overshadowed somewhat by Jesper and Inej – that might especially be the case for viewers who have not read the books. Others might disagree, but that was just the feeling I had.
Alina and the Darkling’s ‘romance’. I shouted at the television in disappointment when Alina kissed the Darkling. It was meant to be the other way round – in the books he tries to seduce her. This is something the producers should never have changed.
The sandskiffs. In general I thought the cinematography and the set design were both really impressive, but to me the sandskiffs – the vessels characters use to transport themselves through the fold – looked more like they belonged in a school production than a high-budget television drama.
How to pronounce ‘Grisha’. A few minutes into the first episode, I realised that I have been pronouncing the word Grisha wrong all this time!!! I had no idea it was pronounced ‘greesha’. It was a bit of a shock, I must admit. Please tell me I am not the only one!
Nina, Matthias, and Pekka. We are introduced to all of those three characters and see much of the complex backstory between Nina and Matthias, but overall we did not see much of them. I think this first series was just laying the groundwork for them, and the same could perhaps be said for other characters such as David and the Apparat.
Morozova’s stag. A beautiful creature. Such a shame there was no way of humanely obtaining the amplifier…
Mal’s hiding place. When Inej discovers Mal hiding in the last episode, I felt it was a missed opportunity for Kaz to say he knew he was there all along 😀
Not a very faithful adaptation, but a highly entertaining one which for the most part I enjoyed. There was never a dull moment and it was definitely fun to watch.
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐.5
Have you watched the series? If so, what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!