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Monday, April 26, 2021

TV Series Review: Shadow and Bone (Netflix)

Shadow and Bone TV Series (2021– )
April 23, 2021
Based on the novel Shadow and Bone: Book 1 (THE GRISHA) by Leigh Bardugo 
Stars: Jessie Mei Li, Ben Barnes, Archie Renaux |Freddy Carter
Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy 
Episodes: 8
Dark forces conspire against orphan mapmaker Alina Starkov when she unleashes an extraordinary power that could change the fate of her war-torn world.

Last week Netflix's Shadow and Bone was released and I like many spent the weekend watching the 8 episodes. Based on the book series by Leigh Bardugo, the series dives into a fantasy world torn apart by war and an ominous dark cloud-like wall known as The Fold. I'm going to say right off that I've never read the books. I didn't even know they existed. I decided to watch the show because I love a good fantasy story. So I can't say if the show is faithful to the first book. But I can say that while the show was interesting it wasn't without its problems.
At the heart of Shadow and Bone is the story of teenager Alina Starkov, an orphan in the war-torn, Russia-inspired kingdom of Ravka who only has only had her best friend Mal to count on through life. Alina’s life drastically changes when she unexpectedly uses a power she didn’t know she had in order to save Mal. Alina is separated from Mal and quickly taken to the capital in order to train as it’s revealed that she has a powerful, unique gift that makes her both valuable and a target for enemies of Ravka. Along the way, Alina experiences love, betrayal, and finds her courage to begin a long fight to save Ravka.

From the first few minutes of the first episode, it becomes clear that Alina’s story isn’t the only one that’s being told. There are A LOT of characters introduced in the first episode. So many. If you’re not familiar with the books then you won’t know what’s going on. It was a little overwhelming to have so much tossed at you when you’re a newbie to the entire story. It could be a turnoff for new viewers but for me, it was a minor setback that was easily fixed with a quick Google search for a “Beginner’s Guide” to help me understand the who, what, where, and when.

But even with the guide, I have to say that with so many characters and more than a few stories being told alongside Alina’s it may be too much too soon for viewers who don’t know anything about this world. I also have to question whether eight-episode seasons will be enough to be able to tell each story with respect and consideration for not only those characters but for book fans, all of whom will know if they’re being shortchanged. This would be a shame because one of my favorite things about Shadow and Bone though is that the cast is talented and diverse, each actor is a treat to watch and brings something special to the show. I hope the writers can give each actor a chance to shine in their roles as the show progresses.

The multitude of characters is only one issue I had with the show, another is that the pacing is a tad slow in the beginning and spends a lot of time on Mal and Alina’s friendship, most of which is just Alina mooning over her friend and him being oblivious. I know it’s based on a YA novel but I thought this was overdone and there should have been more character-building scenes for both Mal and Alina. Both characters are more than just their teenaged romance.

It’s still too early to say whether or not Shadow and Bone has the right stuff to make it into the stuff of legends, but the potential is there. The first season leaves off right when things are getting interesting so with a second season that is well adapted from the second book I could see this show gaining new fans who will probably want to read the books the show is based on.

Rating: 3 ½ sheep

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