TV Adaptation Review – Shadow and Bone (Series One)

Image credit: Netflix

Hello everyone,

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 πŸ˜‰

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.

Other Observations

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 πŸ˜€

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

Let’s Chat

Have you watched the series? If so, what did you think of it? Let me know in the comments!

22 thoughts on “TV Adaptation Review – Shadow and Bone (Series One)

  1. I think I pretty much agree with everything you’ve said here! I think one of my biggest surprises (in a bad way) was the whole thing about the Darkling casually revealing his name. So weird! And the other thing which bugs me so much for it being such a little thing is the moment Alina asks Genya to heal her scar. I wonder what prompted that.

    But I definitely agree about Kaz, I loved his schemes and the Crows were what made this show for me, because I’m not sure I liked the adaptation of the actual Shadow and Bone plot line, but he was definitely overshadowed by the action and the other two. And when they were still in Ketterdam, I wasn’t a fan of his encounter with Pekka, where he pretty much acted terrified and let them drag him around. I just wasn’t sure what they gained by that whole little bit with Pekka… I suppose, as you say, it’s to set it up, but I think it would be more powerful if we’re introduced to this seemingly unbeatable King of the Barrel and then later we’re told there’s one man capable of throwing him off his rhythm, rather than just having Pekka be a general bully. Although he is generally a bully!

    Having said that, I’ll definitely rewatch it as some point and see if my opinions change at all.


    1. Thank you so much for your comment, Azucchi, and I am sorry for the late reply.

      I’m glad you agree with lots of the points I made! It just felt like they stripped away a lot of the mystery surrounding the Darkling, and yes now you mention it that was strange about Alina asking Genya to heal her scar.

      That’s also a good point about Kaz and Pekka. I was surprised too with how easily Kaz allowed Pekka to push him around. But I guess there is a lot more to come with that plot strand in the series ahead! I’ll definitely be rewatching it too. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lol, Grisha is actually a common Russian male name, it still makes me laugh every time I hear it in the show.
    I agree about tv-show been different from books. I liked how the shadow and bone book was adapted more than the first book itself, but I would’ve preferred if six of crows was adapted separately from the main show – spin-off.
    I also rooted for Mal and Alina, though I hated their couple in the books. And here I found myself thinking that Darkling actually never had feelings for Alina, and just wanted her for her powers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I was definitely conflicted to begin with about whether I liked the fact the two series were being adapted simultaneously. I’m still not 100% sure to be honest, even though I enjoyed the show! I was the same about Mal and Alina, never really liked their pairing in the books lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I didn’t like Mal and Alina either! But now infeel more sympathetic toward them. And I still think that Six of crows should become a spin-off from the main tv-show.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad you enjoyed it overall! I still have two episodes left but I had similar feelings regarding the series. I was unsure about the storylines of the Grisha trilogy and SOC intertwining as well, but in the end I really like how it was done!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I loved Mal in the show more than the books, to be honest. And Jessie Mei Li just owned every scene she was in. And yess, Jesper was adorable!! I’m also agreeing with what you said about the Darkling.
    Lovely review!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I binged this and really enjoyed it, but that is probably because I hadn’t read any of the Grishabooks beforehand. I started reading Six of Crows after finishing and have been enjoying it. I agree that Kaz was overshadowed which was a real shame, but the casting was great so I can’t complain too much. I also found Alina kissing the Darkling to be a bit uncomfortable. Even without the context of the books, but from how they were presented in the show and the tiny bit I’ve picked up from commentary by booktube, it just seems like an odd choice. I’m curious to see how the next season plays out and how many more changes there will be as compared to the books.

    Liked by 1 person

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