Fans of the Shadow and Bone novels, or not, this brand new series on Netflix will have fantasy fans sitting on the edge of their seats as they enter the new and deliciously complicated world. Critics have likened the show to Game of Thrones and this release is one of Netflix’ biggest this year. We’ve had a sneak peek of the series and it’s definitely worth checking out or maybe even a weekend binge.
The Netflix official description is that Shadow and Bone is based on Leigh Bardugo’s worldwide bestselling Grishaverse novels that find us in a war-torn world where lowly soldier and orphan Alina Starkov has just unleashed an extraordinary power that could be the key to setting her country free. With the monstrous threat of the Shadow Fold looming, Alina is torn from everything she knows to train as part of an elite army of magical soldiers known as Grisha. But as she struggles to hone her power, she finds that allies and enemies can be one and the same and that nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. There are dangerous forces at play, including a crew of charismatic criminals, and it will take more than magic to survive.
The look and feel
Like previously mentioned, several people have likened the series to everyone’s love-to-hate fantasy series; Game of Thrones. The biggest way in which these two series compare is the structure – both series have a few different storylines that merge and unmerge as the season progresses.
It is easy to see that they have spared no expense in the making of this series. The costumes and characters have a very Eastern European feel and they really lean into that. That being said, the fantasy world created for Shadow and Bone is quite dire so, at times, it can feel a bit stripped and grey – think Winterfell, but darker, and it sometimes does feel that they, because of this, struggled to really define spaces. The series is also extremely dark and I had to close all blinds and curtains just to be able to see as much as possible of every scene.
We see several new actors take to the small screen in this hefty production. The series really mainly revolves around Alina, played by Jessie Mei Li. I do think that she does a good job of establishing the character in this new world, but she only really lands this towards the end of the season. In the first few episodes, I did feel that she was a bit all over the show.
A character you should look out for is the very hunky General Kirigan, played by Ben Barnes. His complicated, well-rounded character is a show-stealer and I really hope that they take an even more serious look at his character in subsequent seasons.
Fair warning that the series can feel like it takes a few episodes to really get in the groove, but just stick with it as it comes together nicely at the end.