Shadow and Bone welcomes viewers to the Grishaverse for the first time – and it’s a magical fantasy you’re quickly sucked into.
Based on the books by Leigh Bardugo, the new eight-part Netflix series introduces us to Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), an orphaned, mixed race mapmaker who has spent her life struggling to belong.
In a land where some citizens, known as ‘Grisha’, exhibit powers, Alina only ever feels solidly ‘at home’ next to her lifelong best friend, and potential love interest, Mal (Archie Renaux).
In Ravka, everything and everyone is divided into two camps – and that is never more prominently obvious than the literal ‘Shadow Fold’ that splits the world in two. Going through the fold is a high risk of death, but as a member of the Army, Mal and Alina are tasked one day to go through it – and in doing so, Alina is accidentally discovered to be Grisha.
After managing to hide her powers for years, it’s revealed that Alina is a ‘sun summoner’ – who’s prophesied to save the world – and is taken over into the richer side of society as she’s groomed by the charming General Kirigan (Ben Barnes).
But like all things, nothing is what it seems.
Alina is soon battling who she wants to be and what others expect of her (Picture: Netflix)
Elsewhere in the story, a team of bandits known as The Crows have been tasked with figuring out a way of crossing The Fold in order to hustle their way into wealth.
As the book is so established, there’s a lot of things for the show to establish to newcomers of the Grishaverse, very quickly.
This is largely successful, though you can’t help but feel that certain things – like terminology used by the characters – is somewhat breezed over in the hopes you already know it.
Alina and Mal’s relationship provides a solid cornerstone for the series (Picture: Netflix)
But that’s the only main fault of the series thus far, and if you’re able to keep up with this, especially during the first two episodes, then you’re in for a hell of a lot of fun.
Jessie Mei Li is a captivating leading lady, and her battle between who she is with Mal, and who she has been promised to be by Kirigan, makes for an interesting and understandable triangle that never feels too forced.
The series deviates away from the book a little as this is not told entirely through Alina’s eyes, allowing fans to develop bonds with the other characters, Mal in particular.
Mal is actually a thousand times better developed in the series than in the books, making him someone to truly root for in a relationship with Alina, rather than someone deliberately missing in action when she needs him the most.
The crows are drawn into the drama as they try to (Picture: Netflix)
From the outset, it does look like your typical ‘grounded leading teen girl tries to save the world while dealing with a love triangle ’ fare – but actually, Shadow and Bone is far more than that, with Alina being a feisty, standalone character with the romantic elements playing second fiddle to her real fight, an establishment of her own identity.
We can’t wait to see what the team are planning to do next.
Shadow and Bone verdict:
Shadow and Bone has managed to balance being faithful enough to the books that fans will be happy, with slight deviations to become its own being.
Jessie Mei Li is a perfect Alina, who is seen battling who she is with who she is destined to become, while Ben Barnes is a perfectly charming General Kirigan whose alterior motives leaves Alina struggling to know who to trust.
This is also not one of those shows where you have to know the source material in order to enjoy it, but I would say that it would likely help when setting up everything going on. A lot of information is thrown at you fast.
But overall, Netflix has knocked it out of the park again in the teen fantasy stakes, going side-by-side with their earlier release The Irregulars as a show that everyone can get on board with and take something from.
Get ready for a solid weekend on the sofa for your latest binge obsession.
Shadow and Bone launches Friday on Netflix.
Credit: Original article published here.