Hello there! I’m always late to the party when it comes to watching and writing about adaptations because it usually takes some time for me to get to these. I’m a big reader — and recently a big (fiction) podcast listener — so I tend to prioritize those two types of media in my free time as opposed to films or shows. With the Shadow and Bone Netflix adaptation, however, I knew I wanted to watch it as soon as possible, in a big part because my twitter timeline was filled with people eagerly awaiting the show.
So, on the day of the release, my friend Clare and I set out to watch Shadow and Bone, hoping that it would be more enjoyable than the book trilogy. (+ Clare was also hoping for a lot of Ben Barnes, which I think is something many of you will find relatable.) Even though Clare had to drop out about halfway through the show and couldn’t continue the next day, I journeyed on on my own and finished the show on the following day.
Was the show worth watching? Did it improve on some things? Find out that and more in my review* below.
*May contain minor spoilers, but nothing major.
My Thoughts on Netflix’s Shadow and Bone Adaptation
I couldn’t stop watching the show.
Going in, I didn’t know what to expect — while I finished the Shadow and Bone trilogy, I mostly did so because one of my friends lent me her copies and she was looking forward to hearing my thoughts on the series. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hate those books — I rated all of them three or four stars — but I felt like I wouldn’t have missed out on anything had I not read them, as they were pretty basic YA fantasies. Thankfully, I feel differently about the show, and I think it’s one of those rare, special cases when the adaptation is better than the original. Not only does it improve on certain things (more on that later), but the cinematography is also beautifully done. The quality of the adaptation is incredibly high, in my opinion, which makes me hopeful for future YA adaptations that are apparently coming from Netflix.
For me, the biggest worry with adaptations is that they will not develop the characters as thoroughly as the source material. I don’t mind changes or leaving out certain things — I think these are necessary for solid adaptations, as different things work in books and in visual media — as long as the characters come across as similar to how they are in the original. In Shadow and Bone, I think they did a fantastic job with the characters. In part I think it’s thanks to the writing, in part thanks to the actors that I found all the characters well-done. The only exception is Zoya — I never appreciated the girl on girl hate in the trilogy, and I was sad to see it persist in the show, this time with Zoya also being racist towards Alina. If you want to read more about how people of color feel about the racism in the show, I recommend reading this thread or this thread.
I was worried that the Six of Crows characters, aka the real reason why I was excited to watch the show, would not be well developed, because it was obvious from the trailer and the promotion the show received that Alina’s story would take the center stage. Thankfully, all five Six of Crows characters that appeared were wonderful — I especially loved the way the creators built up the relationship between Inej, Jesper, and Kaz. I also loved seeing the development of Nina and Matthias’ relationship, although I’m afraid that people that are unfamiliar with Six of Crows might not be convinced by their feelings for each other, as they didn’t have a lot of scenes together.
Yay for positive changes!
I enjoyed Alina’s story far more than I thought I would — the fact that I didn’t love the Shadow and Bone trilogy meant that I believed that I would have to suffer through Alina’s story for a few scraps of the Six of Crows gang. Thankfully, the SoC gang was featured more than I expected and I also found myself being invested in Alina’s story, mostly because of the changes the creators decided to make. In my post titled “All That’s Wrong with the Romance in Shadow and Bone Trilogy” I discussed my issues with Mal, all of which has been addressed abd improved by the show. For one thing, I think they did a far better job showing Alina and Mal’s bond in the show than in the books, and Mal was, indeed, a much better friend to Alina than he was in the book.
Speaking of Alina, she came off as a much stronger character in the show than she was in the book. She had a stronger backbone than the Alina of the book and I loved seeing her stand up for herself, for example when the maids were making fun of her while bathing her. At the same time, the creators didn’t try to erase Alina’s confusion, fear, or the mistakes she makes — they added all of that, making her a well-developed, realistic character.
Even so… the SoC characters were more interesting.
Here’s the thing, no matter how well-developed Alina’s story was, it’s still ultimately a very basic YA fantasy, much more so than Six of Crows is. I grew up reading about stories that centered around ‘the chose one’ and ones with love triangles, so I think it makes sense that I wouldn’t be too excited for an adaptation that heavily relies on these tropes. Similarly, the reason why I love the Six of Crows characters is that, to me, they feel more unique than the characters of the Shadow and Bone books. In the show, the morally gray shenanigans of Inej, Kaz, and Jesper were far more interesting to me than anything Alina and Mal did, which is probably my biggest issue. It’s never great when you are constantly waiting for the supporting cast to make an appearance.
Small things I liked.
- Kaz an Inej are everything, they were already one of my favorite fictional couples, so whenever they interacted in the show I was all. 🥺
- I know there are issues with the casting, but besides those, I think most of the casting is pretty spot on. I especially loved Alina (Jessie Mei Li), Inej (Amita Suman), Genya (Daisy Head), and Kaz (Freddy Carter).
- I loved that Leigh Bardugo got to have a cameo in the show – the pure joy on her face when she hugged Alina / Jessie Mei Li made me so happy too. It really shows how much it means for authors when their characters come to life.
- Most of the show was shot in Hungary (where I live), which is nice even if I didn’t actually recognize any of the settings. 😅
Have you watched the show? What were your thoughts? Are you planning on watching it? Who was your favorite character in the books / show?