CultureHead Magazine

Credit: via Netflix
Credit: via Netflix

Netflix’s Shadow and Bone, which was just picked up for a second season, is based on Leigh Bardugo’s best-selling titular novel, but it may be more fitting to say that it is an adaptation of the author’s Grishaverse universe- a fictional world filled with magic, splendor, romance, and intrigue, portrayed on-screen with stellar art direction. Visually, it is quite gorgeous and story-wise, it mixes an origin story with a heist gone disastrously wrong in a very entertaining and engaging manner.

The story takes place in the land of Ravka, where certain people (the Grisha) are born with magical powers and are both valued and looked down upon with fear and suspicion. Trading and travel between cities is hampered due to the presence of the Fold or the Unsea- a mysterious trail of darkness, haunted by the flesh-eating volcra. Crossing the fold and surviving becomes a matter of luck, even if you’re armed with the best Grisha. The plot of the show faithfully follows Leigh Bardugo’s novel, interspersed with characters and elements from the Six of Crows (the first novel in her duology that is also set in the same secondary world) and has three inter-connected strands.

Credit: via Netflix

First, we have Alina Starkov, an orphaned mapmaker who while crossing the Fold, uses her latent Grisha powers to save Mal, a childhood friend. As a result, she is touted as the miraculous “Sun Summoner” capturing the eye of the edgy Darkling (who commands the Grisha) who has her shipped off to the Little Palace to practice her magical skills while he has his own agenda for her. Then, there’s the Crows, a thieving crew comprising Kaz, Inej, and Jesper, who plan to kidnap Alina for an enormous amount of money. And finally, there’s the sweet and hilarious love story that blossoms between Nina, a powerful Grisha who is captured by the prejudiced Fjedarns, and Matthias, a Fjerdan witch-hunter who slowly questions the error of his ways.  

There’s a lot to praise about the show, especially the talented cast that have brought the characters to life. The edgy and brooding Darkling is the bad boy you’ve been warned about but can’t help falling for, and with Ben Barnes playing the villain with perfect panache, it is even harder to resist the Darkling’s charms. But the real show-stealers are the Crows, who despite lying, stealing, gambling, and murdering their way out of everything are fiercely loyal to each other and constantly having each other’s back.

If the Darkling and Alina’s doomed romance reminds us of the dangers of normalizing toxic heteronormative tropes in the name of love, the dynamic that the Crows share celebrates the importance of friendship, loyalty, and found families. And Nina’s arc, for the most part, teaches us that if we cast aside our assumptions and let go of our differences, a lot of malice, hate, and discrimination can automatically fade, giving way to learning and companionship (and a wonderful enemies-to-lovers arc, of course).

Credit: via Netflix

The script is marvelous, balancing thrill and humor with wonderfully choreographed action sequences. In fact, blending the Crows’ storyline with Alina’s self-discovery of her powers was probably one of the best creative decisions that the team took. The worldbuilding is slow at first, gradually drawing you in with the intricate costumes and the splendid décor of the Little Palace, even as the latter half of the show picks up pace, building to a riveting climax. It satisfies most questions but leaves the room open for an anticipated sequel.

Overall, Shadow and Bone is immensely entertaining, visually striking, and refreshingly subverts some stereotypes. Fans of secondary world fantasy series, such as Game of Thrones and The Witcher, will particularly enjoy this lavish drama and for those who are yet to hop onto the Grishaverse bandwagon, the show serves as a wonderful introduction to Bardugo’s marvelous and magical world.

More From CultureHead

Our Favorite Characters from Boku No Hero Academia, Ranked

My Hero Academia is a popular manga and anime series about kids learning to be superheroes and fighting villains, set in a world

Click Here to read more

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings: Review

After moving to America, Shaun/Shang-Chi thinks he has left his past behind forever, with making new friends and working as a valet driver.

Click Here to read more

Do We Really Need A Lord of the Rings TV Series?

Tolkien’s books about elves, hobbits, and nasty orcs nearly singlehandedly spawned the high fantasy genre. Since their publications, the books have been adapted

Click Here to read more

A Short Hike: Game Review

As the name suggests, A Short Hike is a relatively short game with beautiful pixel art and a mellow soundtrack, wherein you play

Click Here to read more

Moriarty The Patriot is a Refreshing Take on the Sherlock Holmes Mythos

Moriarty The Patriot is a manga and anime series that reimagines the works of Arthur Conan Doyle with Moriarty (and not Sherlock Holmes)

Click Here to read more

It’s Okay That Superman’s Gay

In November’s Superman: Son of Kal-El #5, Jonathan Kent will get a boyfriend. It was like this, DC Comics gave us our first

Click Here to read more

The Green Knight: A Review

David Lowery’s The Green Knight (2021) deviates significantly from the medieval romance it is based upon. Along with the lush cinematography, Dev Patel

Click Here to read more

7 Best Moments in Marvel’s Loki (2021)

The Loki series may have changed the MCU forever. The Timeline is now free, leaving the stage open for multiverses to interact and

Click Here to read more

What Loki (2021) Means For the Future of the MCU

Marvel’s Loki was a pretty ambitious show, giving the God of Mischief a chance to be a hero and simultaneously rewriting the history

Click Here to read more

6 Easter Eggs in Marvel’s Loki (2021)

The Loki series is littered with Easter Eggs and references to past Marvel movies, Norse myths, and random nods to pop culture. Episode

Click Here to read more