I can’t even tell you how excited I have been to write this post. Here’s the thing – I love TV/movie adaptations of books. I know this isn’t necessarily a popular opinion among readers and I’ve often been left frustrated by adaptations as well, but I think the chance of them being good is so tantalizing that I’ll always look forward to it. When I read, I don’t quite visualize characters and scenes as vividly as it seems other readers too – my brain just doesn’t operate in that way – so no matter how terrible the adaptation may be, I still feel like I get something out of it.
But none of the typical concerns are an issue when it comes to Netflix’s Shadow and Bone because it is so good!!! No, seriously, I’m already on my third watch and I’m still picking up little details that I missed when I first binged the entire show with my friend on the day of release. Naturally, I have a lot of thoughts, so let’s get into it. And since it has to be said, spoilers below!
- The cast – this cast is absolute perfection. I know they didn’t all look exactly the way they’re described in the books, but I thought each actor captured the essence of their character perfectly. It really goes to show why readers need to take a deep breath when casts are announced – especially if they don’t immediate fit the image in your mind – because there’s so much more to playing a role than appearance. A special shout out to Kit Young who could not have been a better Jesper. The charisma, swag, banter, chemistry with other characters…it was *chefs kiss*. And of course, Ben Barnes absolutely crushed it as the Darkling. The only character who was a little different on screen to what I had imagined was Genya, but I adored her in the show just as much as I did in the books.
- The Crows prequel content – This was probably the part of the show I was most excited for since most of it is essentially new. They could not have done a better job with this. It was quintessential Crows – from the tension between Kaz and Inej to the heist to everything that follows, including their interactions with S&B characters. It flowed so well, and it really goes to show the value of having the author have such a heavy hand in an adaptation. They injected much-needed fun into the plot and balanced out the S&B plot so well.
I know some people have complained that Kaz seemed too nice but we need to remember that this is pre Six of Crows. They’re younger, and are about to go through things that get them to where they are later on in life. Take Inej for instance – we just got to see how she started killing and why. This is about to be a beautiful journey, and I am optimistic!
- Mal – I don’t have a ton to say about Mal that hasn’t already been said. Show Mal >>> book Mal. Any. Day. Also his chemistry with Alina was straight 🔥
- Alina’s background – Oof okay. I have a lot to say on this, and it’s the part I’m least happy with when it comes to the show. When they first announced that they were making Alina’s character half-Shu, I was actually really excited. Politics and biases are a huge part of the Grishaverse, and this change made sense to me because it didn’t feel forced. People have had a lotttt of opinions on the way the racism in the show was handled and I just want to say one thing – if you are a person of color, especially Asian, you’re allowed to feel however you do about this plot line. If you were offended, no one can tell you not to be, and I support you 100%.
In my personal opinion, I didn’t hate it, but I do think they could have done a better job. For example, the Zoya “half-breed” comment was supposed to reflect her internalized racism but we literally do not see anything to suggest that. It felt like there were slurs thrown into the dialogue but no work done to flesh out the plot line beyond that, and that just felt lazy.
- Nina and Matthias – Everything about these two was perfect. The actors absolutely killed it, especially Danielle (Nina). I do wonder how non-readers felt about them because I would imagine their storyline was quite random, but to me, it was everything I wanted and more. So many scenes felt like they came quite literally straight off the page and what more could you want?
- Changes from the books – Ah, the dreaded changes. Adaptations will inevitably change something that send readers into a frenzy. I think it’s best to go into them with an open mind because at the end of the day, you have to change certain things to fit a new medium. Shadow and Bone actually does not change much when it comes to the story itself (obviously excluding all the Crows stuff lol). Some of the big things that people took issue with were the Darkling’s name (General Kirigin), his actual (early) name reveal to Alina, and a couple other small things. I get it, but if these were all the changes they made, I’ll take it. There are certain things that just work better in a book than they do on screen, and some sacrifices for the sake of audience (especially non-reader) understanding will be made.
Okay, so now that I’ve word-vomited my thoughts all over this post, I thought it would be fun to share some of my episode notes that I jotted down on my phone while watching. These have been very lightly edited so they make more sense but retain my authentic reactions!
- Loved seeing more of Alina and Mal’s childhood
- Jessie Mei Li makes Alina so much more likable as well – adds some spark to an otherwise bland character
- Not being in Alina’s head is such a strength because we see Mal’s relationship with his friends and I loved the bromance
- The Crows’ character entrances were perfection
- The fold was everything I hoped it would be
- Pekka Rollins conflict was an amazing add in – things like that are a really nice nod to readers
- Jesper/Inej banter is amazing, such good comic relief
- Fav scenes: Kaz and the woman he caught cheating, Kaz and Helene
- Loved Genya’s entrance (also I’ve been saying her name wrong the entire time)
- Nina’s character entrance was everything I wanted, girl is a badass b
- Hate the Zoya half breed line
- Milo!!! I need so much more goat content
- Love the crows crossing, this was EVERYTHING
- Wish the Darkling hadn’t revealed his name to her so soon, one of my least fav changes
- When Jesper says time for a heist 😍 and all the scheming that follows!! Captured Crows energy so well
- I like the way they condensed the history of the fold and black heretic – very accessible to non-readers
- Loved Alina’s friendship with Marie and Nadia
- The Matthias-Nina scenes are so good
- Probably my favorite episode – the fete!
- We see the storylines come together and it feels so organic and authentic to the books
- The cute party scenes e.g. Genya/David, Fedyor/Ivan these are the things you dream of when books go to TV. Such small nuances that are harder to convey on paper
- More Matthias & Nina perfection
- The fact that we get the ice scene unedited from the book 🤯
- Also Crows vs Grisha! Darkling and Kaz face-to-face scene was amazing, I had chills, also loved Jesper VS Ivan and the little ~hints~ at Jesper’s identity
- Love love love the Darkling’s history – really helped show how complex of a character he is
- Okay I did not love the bones melding into her why did they make this decision I can’t look at it
- No mourners no funerals 🥺
- Love the way they brought the Crows into this
- Inej throwing that knife!!!
- Thank God the antler monstrosity is no longer protruding from her neck
- The perfect ending. There’s so much set up for season 2!
And that’s a wrap! If you have read this far, then thank you so much! I clearly had a lot on my mind and needed a place to attempt to organize my feelings and this was honestly quite therapeutic. If you have watched the show, let me know what you thought!