My Thoughts on the Shadow and Bone Netflix Adaptation!

It has been no secret just how very excited I was for the Shadow and Bone series (as well as the Six of Crows duology) to be adapted by Netflix. While the streaming platform doesn’t always get it right, I was really optimistic early on and the trailers looked fantastic. Before I watched it, though, I caught up on all the books as to really know what I am talking about (only Rule of Wolves is missing for me now, but that’s irrelevant for the show at the moment) and even before going into details on my thoughts, I think they did a great job!

Obviously, the Grishaverse is huge and vast and has quite the fanbase because of the books series. But not everyone has read those and Netflix offers a platform that exposes the material to millions of people all over the world. Not everyone will be happy with everything, but I would like share my personal opinions in the following post.

*I could not do this without going into detail on some topics, so this might not be for you if you want to go into the show with as little knowledge as possible. SPOILERS ahead!!!*

THINGS/CHANGES I DIDN’T LIKE

I want to get the “bad” things out of the way, because some of it really irked me. It did not overshadow my enjoyment entirely, because I binged the show in a day, but I find it necessary to point them out regardless.

  • Casting Jessie Mei Li as Alina was a beautiful choice. Jessie is a ray of sunshine and hence amazing to watch as the sun summoner. They have great chemistry with on screen partners and I’m so very glad they got cast for this role. In the books, Alina wasn’t biracial though. This was a choice made to bring more diversity to the on screen adaptation, but where they went wrong (in my opinion) was by adding anti-Asian slurs and racism to portray the treatment of people from Shu Han. Nowhere in the books was this kind of racism ever present and we are dealing with a Fantasy world where Alina already faces enough struggles and could have dealt with a number of different circumstances that made her feel othered if that was what they wanted to portray so badly. Every time they inserted a slur such as “rice-eater” or “half-breed” it felt forced and unnecessary and I imagine hurtful to certain audiences. The problem is that they never contextualize this behavior, because they simply claim that being at war with Shu Han is enough to warrant the hostility, but that’s really not the take they thought it was.
credit: Netflix
  • Amplifiers in the books, while still kind of barbaric, are jewelry made out of bones/scales/claws/etc. and can be anything from a necklace to a bracelet or ring. Grisha can only have one amplifier in their lifetime (yeah, I know exceptions exist) and can never take it off. The Grisha who killed the animal the amplifier is from has the power over it. I think that’s all pretty cut and clear, so, why did the show change them into some kind of body horror?
    When the Darkling puts the antlers on Alina, she does not get a badass necklace, but rather the antlers fuse into her collar bone, making it an extremely uncomfortable scene to watch. I worry about this change, not just because she eventually absorbs the antlers into her body entirely and they are not visible anymore at all, but also because it makes me feel that the producers thought putting a literal collar on a person was not horrific enough and they needed another violation of Alina’s body to showcase the Darkling’s evil nature. Apparently, people wouldn’t be put off enough by his disregard for consent and need to control everyone around him.
  • Speaking of the Darkling! Due to budget constraints and everyone adoring Ben Barnes (he is a great actor), they opted to not show the Demon in the Woods short story as part of a flashback, where the Darkling would have been only 10 years old, but rather showed a grown up Darkling. In that tidbit from the past, he seemed enamored with a Grisha called Luda, who did not exist in the books, but came across as a love interest in that scene. Her death causes the creation of the Fold, making it feel like fridging (where the girlfriend/wife/love interest of the male protagonist dies in order to propel his story). In an interview with Insider, the showrunner explicitly said they weren’t trying to do that and even actively tried to avoid it, but nothing in that scene told me they weren’t romantically involved. (You can read the interview here!)
    Also, I keep calling him the Darkling, because that’s how I knew him for 7 books. Yes, his first name is Aleksander, but in the books that’s revealed very late. His name is a mystery and Alina is the only person in that world to know it, which felt special, but here he just throws his name around like it means nothing. The show really humanised him a lot.
credit: Netflix

GENRAL STUFF I ENJOYED OR NOTICED

The following points that I will mention were neither huge mistakes nor masterful choices. I just collected some of my thoughts that I found interesting or necessary to mention to give you all a complete picture.

  • As someone who has read all the books, short stories and anthologies (Language of Thorns and Lives of Saints), I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on the Grishaverse. However, had I been someone who didn’t have that prior knowledge, I could have easily seen myself struggle with some of the concepts. They really barely explained anything to do with Grisha orders, amplifiers or something as simple but vital as the belief systems (Fjerdan god vs. Ravkan sainsts etc.). I doubt that anyone could understand some of the important components to their full extent having none of that knowledge and background info. Whereas I understand it’s difficult to include, a little more would have been appreciated from my side.
  • While waiting for the show to release, I always said that I did not care about the faithfulness of the story, but rather about the accurate representation of the characters and their personality and I still stand by that. Yes, Jesper should have been played by a dark-skinned actor, but Kit Younger has his personality DOWN. And not just him, EVERYONE either behaved exactly like I imagined they would (even if they didn’t all look like they had in my head) or even improved on the characters by playing them softer and with more nuance and vulnerability (e.g. Matthias Helvar). I cannot wait to see who they will bring in for the twins, Nikolai and Wylan next season.
credit: Netflix
  • The overall pacing and the amount of story they packed into this first season was well handled. From what I heard, the showrunner has a three-season-plan, which would correlate nicely with the three Shadow and Bone books. I really hope that the next season would also start implementing the Six of Crows plot, because this was a nice prequel to their characters, but I need to see the big heist happening. However, since everything is more interconnected, they might change things up further and I’d be excited to see what that looks like.

SOME IMPROVEMENTS

In some cases, I even think that the show did better than the book. Having the ability to show several points of view, whereas Shadow and Bone the book only offered Alina’s side really gave them the chance to explore the characters some more. Also, it probably helped that the producers already knew about all the later books Leigh Bardugo wrote as well. Here’s some changes I thought worked well:

  • When I first read Shadow and Bone, I hated Zoya. She literally broke Alina’s ribs and just treated her terribly, because she was jealous. Early on in the books, there are few redeeming qualities to Zoya and while she improves over time, I always felt a grudge until I got her side of things in King of Scars. While she starts out similarly in the show, I was grateful that they allowed an insight into her backstory earlier in the season than in the books. She is such an important character, but I think audiences would have struggled later on, just like I did while reading, if they hadn’t softened her up.
  • I think I am part of a small group of people who actually liked Mal in the books, but I think Archie and the writing on the show made the character so much better. They scratched unnecessary and childish jealousy scenes (which was annoying but fine in the books, because they were younger) and genuinely made his connection to Alina seem sweet and fated. I’m so happy people are now actually rooting for them.
  • Milo the goat is the real MVP.

VERDICT

I loved seeing some of my favorite characters brought to life on the screen. My expectations were high and I could have easily been disappointed but I was really pleased with how everything came together. Shadow and Bone is by no means flawless, but the effort they put into wanting to do the material justice came through. I honestly didn’t know if I would understand the involvement of the crows before watching, but it was integrated beautifully and they provided some of the best parts of the season. If you enjoyed the books, I think you will like this as well. Even if you weren’t a huge fan of the Shadow and Bone books, but only enjoyed Six of Crows, I can easily see you liking this better. 

credit: Netflix

Previous Reviews from this books series and Leigh Bardugo’s work:


Have you watched Shadow and Bone yet? Do you plan to? What were some of your favorite and least favorite moments? Let’s talk!

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo (Book Review)

Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Page Count
: 514

With the imminent release of the Shadow and Bone Netflix series (if you haven’t heard me talk about that basically all the time as of late, where have you been? Watch the trailer here) and the even closer release of the second book in the duology King of Scars is a part of – Rule of Wolves – I thought it was time I finally caught up on the Grishaverse.
It’s been a while since I’ve read Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, but I still vividly remember how easily I fell in love with the characters and the world they inhabit. It has been much more recent that I tore my way through the Shadow and Bone trilogy, finally catching up on Alina’s storyline and getting that proper introduction to Nikolai Lantsov. He deserved that grand entry like no other! I’m glad I picked up all the previous books before reading King of Scars, because I think I would have been lost without people’s backstories. 

That’s the thing with the books in the Grishaverse; in the beginning you might have been able to just read one series or another, but we are in so deep now, with everything being interconnected, that it would do you a disservice not to know the previous material. In fact, it’s necessary, because so much of this series is built on your feelings for the characters and what is about to happen to them.

“The monster is me and I am the monster.”

King of Scars, just like the Six of Crows duology, offers multiple POVs. The most important ones are likely Nikolai, Zoya and Nina, although I have to say that I struggled to really find a proper connection between Nina’s storyline and the others. She felt very much apart with her mission in Fjerda, even if her plot made sense for her character development and offered a great new path for Nina. It’s something only she could effectively pull off. And I could see those small crumbs that tried to hint at how it would link to the business in Ravka, but (at least in this part of the duology) it felt very much like it could have been a completely unrelated just simultaneously running story.
So, I couldn’t help but feel more drawn to what was going on with Nikolai. I think I wasn’t alone in quickly having him become a favourite even without him having his own perspective back in Shadow and Bone. This broken golden boy just has his charms, as every other character in the Grishaverse could probably attest to. The fact that he now has a major part in this duology just shows that Leigh Bardugo knows what her fans like to read about.

“Most of us can hide our greatest hurts and longings. It’s how we survive each day. We pretend the pain isn’t there, that we are made of scars instead of wounds.”

While I felt like the plot was moving along quite slowly at times and not necessarily contradicted previous books, but definitely rewrote a couple narratives (just throw out your knowledge about amplifiers now for example …), which I did not care about massively, I did appreciate how much more we got to know the characters.
Again, Nikolai is not just charming, he is a really good man. The way he puts Ravka above all his needs is incredible and possibly not healthy, but he just wants to do better than the weak men who came before him. He would give his life if it meant that the people he is trying to serve as a ruler will get to have a more stable and prosperous life. As boisterous and superficial as he can seem, he is one of the most selfless characters.
But most of all, I appreciate that I got to know Zoya more. I’m not going to lie, I struggled with her character for a long time in previous books, because I just couldn’t forget her mean girl behaviour from the beginning. I don’t enjoy people who make others feal scared or lesser than just to feel superior and she has always given off that vibe. She was never kind, nor good, she was ruthless. Now though, I feel like this showed us why she is the way she is. Why she thinks kindness is such a weakness, even if that’s not true at all. Why she is all prickly like thorns despite her beauty like the most gorgeous flowers. There’s really quite a lot of selflessness in her too.

“Most women suffer thorns for the sake of the flowers, but we who wield power adorn ourselves with flowers to hide the sting of our thorns”

King of Scars definitely isn’t my favourite book in the Grishaverse, but it does what it is supposed to – it keeps me wanting more. I always want to know and probably always will want to know how these characters are doing and if lasting peace is an option. But it’s Ravka … something always goes wrong.

Lastly, which is really more of a personal side note than a criticism, I wish there wasn’t this incessant need to always pair everyone up. Tolya is literally the only person I can think of who currently doesn’t have a crush and it’s a lot to me. Sometimes characters can just be friends … or partners in crime … or confidants … or alone?

Fazit: 3.5/5 stars! I rounded up, but I did struggle with this book at times.


Have you read King of Scars? How deep are you into the Grishaverse? I, for one, can’t wait for the show and the upcoming release of Rules of Wolves!

Trailers You Might Have Missed … (Feb 29-March 6)

trailers

A little disclaimer here, I am quite tired right now … which I will mention several times during the post. As if writing it would make me any less tired. I am rambling. This is a trailer/promo post! YAY! See for yourself which gems (or just general works consisting of moving pictures) I have found!

Movies

Finding Dory

This feels years too late, but I am still massively excited. Although I am trying to drown that excitement in order to not get disappointed if they can’t recreate the same feeling as with Finding Nemo.

Ghostbusters

You gotta admit, this looks pretty epic!

The Meddler

This could be quite sweet and funny, but it’s probably a movie I’d watch with my mum.

Nina

I don’t know if it’s just me or if there really are a ton of music biodramas out there right now. It looks good, I am not going to lie, but I guess I would have to be in the right mood again.

Louder Than Bombs

I am not sure my tired brain really grasped what all this movie is about, but it sure looks emotional and it has Jesse Eisenberg. That’s already a big plus!

Rio, I Love You

I usually quite enjoy those episode-kind-of-movies, where the fate of people somehow intertwines. I think I’ve only seen New York, I Love You from that series so far though.

Pete’s Dragon

I am majorly tired and now I sort of have forgotten if I put that into last week’s post or not. Sorry about that, the sleepiness is getting to my head. It looks interesting, but also kind of weird … not sure if it’s a good weird yet.

TV Shows

Daredevil Season 2

I should have posted that last week, but I somehow TOTALLY missed it. My bad! They are quite intense, but it took me a bit to get the feeling of the show back. I cannot wait for it to continue though.

Crowded

I’ve watched the pilot for this a while back and thought it didn’t get developed and then I was sad, but it did! It’s going to air soon. YAY!

What else did I maybe miss this week? Which of these movies or shows would you watch? Tell me all about it in the comments!