Shadow and Bone (Netflix) Review
Disclaimer: I started this post as a review for both Shadow and Bone the television show and Six of Crows the book, but as I say later on, the show review got much too long. Stay tuned next week for Six of Crows review, and maybe even a Crooked Kingdom review if I finish it before then.
When I asked what people wanted to see in this space, the most requested content was book reviews. Fun fact: I’ve been reading the same book for like two months. It is a long book, and not that easy to read. I still haven’t finished that book but I did finish another one which I will not be reviewing today because I feel the need to discuss the Netflix show Shadow and Bone first. (The book I finished is Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, but we’ll get to that next week. I promise.)
Shadow and Bone (Netflix)
A week and a half ago I decided to watch Shadow and Bone on a whim, it is not what I’d usually be interested in but I am very prone to peer pressure and everyone on my tumblr dashboard was watching it. I watched it all in two days while I neglected my novel revision because I was down in the dumps. Was it good? Sure. Did I like it? Less sure.
The show follows a large cast of characters surrounding a central plot of Alina, a regular everyday map maker, finding out she is some sort of saint that can reunite these two nations that have been separated by a large slice of darkness that is full of monsters. It’s a pretty standard YA fantasy plot, she gets sort of kidnapped by the general of one of the armies who sweet talks her into believing that he wants to get rid of the darkness together. (He doesn’t). She has a childhood best friend, Mal, who is obviously in love with her and does some crazy stuff to get back to her and it’s all very romantic.
I’m sure anyone who has read the books, or even watched the show, is pretty angry about that synopsis but you get it, right?
From what I understand as someone who has not read these books, the show combines the original plot of the book Shadow and Bone, the first book in the Grishaverse series by Leigh Bardugo, and a new plot following the characters from Six of Crows. The events of Six of Crows happen after the events of, I believe, all of the Shadow and Bone books, so their inclusion in this is entirely new. (I believe. I probably should have done some research but this is what I’ve gathered from Tumblr.)
This results in a show that jumps around A LOT, which could have been confusing but I think it kind of worked in a way. I think they gambled on quality by including the crows, but in the long run it worked and everyone who wanted the crows involved were happy. I have one, tiny, small, complaint about it though and that is the inclusion of the Nina and Matthius plotline.
Nina is introduced as a grisha (sort of like a wizard, if you’re not familiar) who is supposed to help the crows kidnap Alina (the main character, very important grisha), but she gets kidnapped by witch hunters. That is her only connection to the main plot until the end, the rest of her scenes chronicle her time with Matthius (one of the witch hunters who she saves and then they fall in love, it’s very romantic). These are scenes taken from flashbacks in Six of Crows, except portrayed in a much shorter amount of time IMO.
My problem with these scenes and this subplot is that it has absolutely nothing to do with the main plot at all. I understand why they included it, I’m sure the fans wanted it, but I guess I just think it should have been included as a flashback later on when the characters become more important. (Kind of like it is in the book.) I also have a problem with how it sort of felt like insta love between a “witch” and a “witch hunter”, a little problematic in my opinion, but that’s getting too into the details.
A couple other negative notes: I’ve been told that Alina wasn’t intended to be Asian (or shu, as referred to in the show), and that any of the seemingly random racism in the show was added in because she was in the show. Obviously, I loved that they made the choice to make the show more diverse than the book might have intended, but I felt like the racist remarks were unneeded. They added nothing to the plot ultimately, and felt out of place since the cast was so diverse.
I think it was clear the show was made for people who have read the books, and I personally think that should not have been the case. I wasn’t really well versed on the lore of the grishaverse, and this first season didn’t provide me with enough information in my opinion. A fantasy show should spend more time lore building, I did just sort of feel confused a lot of the time.
Believe it or not, I actually did like the show! Just not for the plot. What I did like about the show was all of the characters. I really liked Alina despite my usual predisposition to not like main characters, I thought her and Mal were really cute. I liked that the misunderstanding of their letters being intercepted was smoothed over quickly, and that Mal was so accepting of Alina’s newfound power. I liked how the show jumped between the crows and the main plot until the end when they finally overlapped, with the crows joining the fight against the general who was actually trying to grow the darkness (called the fold). I love a good branching story that joins at the end.
And ultimately, I love lovvved the crows. Their scenes were the best, and I think that is possibly because they weren’t coming from a book besides the Nina and Matthius scenes. Also because the characters themselves were the best.
As I mentioned earlier, the crows were trying to kidnap Alina for a job. They’re a part of a gang, or are going to be, I don’t remember whether they already are in the show, but they take a job to kidnap Alina that offers a crazy amount of money. I should probably explain who the crows are, Kaz (the leader of sort, dark brooding sort), Inej (Kaz’s right hand woman, the spy of the group), Jesper (gunslinger with jokes, I love him), and then also Nina and Matthius but they aren’t involved in this season.
Their scenes were like a heist show suddenly, and I thought their dynamic was incredibly entertaining. Kaz is like all emo and dark and evil, and Inej is soft, religious, and also sort of dark and against killing people but...... she does......... for Kaz, and then Jesper is like the mood maker. They have to pull all these crazy stunts including disguising as entertainers, Jesper hooks up with a stablehand at one point trying to procure a horse, Alina straight up just locks herself into their carriage. The hi jinks, the banter, the longing looks between Kaz and Inej! The absolutely subtle way they did the Kaz and Inej relationship, knowing that at the start of Six of Crows (years later) they're still just pretending to not be in love. Needless to say, I finished the show and felt like I absolutely HAD to read the Six of Crows duology.
Which I think I’ll write a review of in another post because this got way longer than I intended it to!
Thanks for reading, I’ll see you next week (probably) for a Six of Crows review.