Cover Photo: Netflix

It’s an exciting chapter for books on Netflix

Bringing literary prose to the screen can be a double-edged sword. On one hand, you already have a rich world of stories to build upon, with a legion of fans eagerly waiting to see their beloved characters come to life. On the other hand, there’s a fine line between staying faithful to the original work and taking creative liberty with it.

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Be that as it may, it’s been an exciting chapter for books lately, with the myriad of page-to-screen film and TV adaptations we've been bingeing on in the past year. So, in conjunction with World Book Day 2021, which falls on April 23, whether you’re a fan of the books or someone who often goes, “Eh, I’ll just watch it when they make a movie/TV show out of it”, this watchlist is for you.

1. Shadow and Bone

Based on Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling Grishaverse series, Shadow and Bone is not your typical YA story about the Chosen One set in a dystopian world. Okay, it is that but with a whole lot of magic and mayhem that even those who have outgrown YA literature would be drawn to.

The show is a combination of both the Shadow and Bone trilogy and the Six of Crows duology, with Bardugo working hand-in-hand with showrunner Eric Heisserer to flesh out new stories for key characters in the latter series. Against the backdrop of a young heroine coming to terms with her powers, a gang of charismatic criminals—and an emotional support goat—race against time to pull off the ultimate heist.

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All eight episodes of Shadow and Bone start streaming on April 23. 

2. Lupin

Unlike most page-to-screen adaptations, Maurice Leblanc’s Arsène Lupin served as a literal inspiration for lead character Assane Diop, who modelled his life’s work after the fictional gentleman thief and master of disguise to avenge his father, who died after being accused of a crime he did not commit 25 years ago.

First introduced in 1905, Arsène Lupin was featured in 17 novels and 39 novellas by its creator Maurice Leblanc and has inspired a number of books from other writers as well as numerous films, TV shows, stage plays, comic book adaptations, and even video games.

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Following the premiere of Lupin in January, Maurice Leblanc’s original book, which was written in 1907, began trending in several countries including Italy, Spain, US, UK, and Korea, with sales reaching the equivalent of one year’s worth in just 15 days. Looks like the French icon’s influence has persevered in the 21st century and will continue to do so when Lupin returns for part two in the summer.

3. The Queen's Gambit

Who would’ve thought a seven-episode series about chess could have us at the edge of our seats as if we were watching a Thomas Cup final?

Based on the 1983 novel by Walter Tevis, The Queen’s Gambit is a gripping drama that explores the true cost of genius in the form of young orphan Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), who discovers an astonishing talent for chess. As she climbs the ranks in chess tournaments all over the country, Beth struggles to keep her personal demons at bay, further fuelled by a cocktail of narcotics and obsession.

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Not only did the show’s widespread success contribute to skyrocketing sales for chess sets, but it also led to the novel appearing and charting at no.3 on the New York Times Best Sellers list for the first time in November last year since it was published 37 years ago. It went on to stay in the top 10 for 11 weeks.

4. Bridgerton

Based on not one, not two, but eight books—each focusing on a Bridgerton sibling—in Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton novels, there is no doubt a wealth of content for the show’s creators to expand upon when it comes to the on-screen adaptation.

As it became Netflix’s biggest series, the popularity of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton novels ballooned. In the weeks following its release, four books from the series charted on the New York Times Best Sellers list, with The Duke and I—which season one is based on—holding steady at no.1 for four weeks.

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We still have a ways to go before season two hits our screens, let alone the recently-announced seasons three and four, so what better way to fill the gap than to dive into the books to get to know the Bridgerton siblings a little better?

5. The Witcher

The video game trilogy, of which lead actor Henry Cavill is a huge fan, is a worldwide phenomenon, but did you know that the on-screen adaptation of The Witcher is actually based on the book series of the same name?

Created and written by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski, The Witcher (or rather, Wiedźmin in Polish) is a series of six novels and 15 short stories centred on Geralt of Rivia, a “witcher” or beast hunter with supernatural abilities. In fact, season one is based on The Last Wish and Sword of Destiny, both short stories preceding the main Witcher saga.

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Geralt (Henry Cavill) and his iconic grumpy “Hmms” will return in season two, which recently wrapped production. Fans of the series can also look forward to the upcoming animated film The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf and The Witcher: Blood Origins, a second live-action prequel series focusing on the origin of the Witchers.

6. The Ghost Bride

Based on the New York Times bestselling novel of the same name by Malaysian writer Yangsze Choo, The Ghost Bride marks the first Netflix Mandarin original series to be shot in Malaysia with local directors Quek Shio Chuan and Ho Yuhang at the helm.

Set in 1890s colonial Melaka, the story centres on Li Lan, who was offered a marriage proposal from a wealthy family to become a 'ghost bride' to their recently deceased son. In her desperation to get out of the ghostly union, Li Lan soon finds herself drawn into the  afterlife, where she must uncover the Lim family's darkest secrets and the truth about her own family.

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The six-part serial also featured a collaboration of talents from Hollywood, Malaysia, and Taiwan. Canadian-Chinese actor Ludi Lin, recently seen in Black Mirror and Mortal Kombat, stars as Tian Bai alongside Taiwanese actors Huang Peijia as Li Lan and Wu Kang Ren as Er Lang.

7. The White Tiger

Based on the New York Times bestseller and 2008 Man Booker Prize-winning novel, Balram Halwai (Adarsh Gourav) narrates his epic and darkly humorous rise from poor villager to successful entrepreneur in modern India.

The White Tiger comes into his own as the young and ambitious hero jockeys his way into becoming a driver for Ashok (Rajkummar Rao) and Pinky (Priyanka Chopra Jonas), who have just returned from America. 

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Though eager to please his rich masters, he soon realises the corrupt lengths they are capable of after a night of betrayal. On the verge of losing everything, Balram rebels against a rigged and unequal system to rise up and become a new kind of master.

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