‘Shadow And Bone’: 7 Things To Know About Netflix's Epic Fantasy Show
- It's adapted from Leigh Bardugo's booksIt's adapted from Leigh Bardugo's books
- So...what's it about?So...what's it about?
- The highly detailed GrishaverseThe highly detailed Grishaverse
- Wait, there's magic?Wait, there's magic?
- Meet the charming castMeet the charming cast
- Asian female heroines for the winAsian female heroines for the win
- The series is in good handsThe series is in good hands
Read our beginner's guide to "Shadow And Bone", the new fantasy series from Netflix that's taking the world by storm
If you're all caught up with the newest shows from Netflix, chances are you've heard of and even seen Shadow and Bone, the latest fantasy offering from the streaming giant. And If you need a break from Korean dramas, or just some distraction while waiting for the next season of Lupin, Bridgerton or Emily in Paris, then this is the show.
Shadow and Bone is already off to a good start, ranking up the number one spot across various countries since its release. But whether you've watched the show or not, the Grishaverse can be overwhelming since it's a whole new world filled with new terms, characters and places.
Fret not, we've put together a handy beginner's guide to get you up to speed. Read on to find out seven of the basic things to know about Shadow and Bone including its story, cast and crew.
It's adapted from Leigh Bardugo's books
Shadow and Bone is based on the worldwide bestselling Grishaverse novels by Israeli-American writer, Leigh Bardugo. The eponymous novel is the first book in the Grisha trilogy followed by Siege and Storm and Ruin and Rising.
But the Shadow and Bone TV show adapt not only the Grisha trilogy but also the Six of Crows duology, Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, bringing together characters from both series and incorporating them into the Shadow and Bone storyline. Bardugo has been writing more books based on the "Grishaverse".
So...what's it about?
While the TV shows adapt two book series, they're still from the same universe called the Grishaverse so most of the elements remain the same. Shadow and Bone takes place in a war-torn world, separated by the mysterious Shadow Fold (or simply called the Fold in the show) which is crawling with winged monsters, Volcra, that feast on human flesh.
Upon the Fold's accidental creation by the Shadow Summoner or the Black Heretic, it splits the country of Ravka into two—East Ravka and West Ravka—which leads the whole country into years of war and conflict.
It follows Alina Starkov who initially believes she's just a simple cartographer but has suddenly unleashed an extraordinary power that was just thought to be a legend. Her powers could be the key to destroying the Fold and setting her country free.
But suddenly made out to be the saviour of the world, Alina struggles to hone her powers. She discovers that allies and enemies can be one and the same and there's more to her than she originally knew.
The highly detailed Grishaverse
We mentioned Ravka is split into two and to understand the series, you have to know a little bit of the unique setting to fully grasp the series. It's safe to say that the Grishaverse is based on a fantasy version of Russia or more precise Tsarist Russian Empire, a little bit like Westeros from Game of Thrones being based on medieval Europe.
In the series, East Ravka is locked in between Fjerda, an icy, heavily militarised country to the north of Ravka that's always been a constant threat of invasion. It's based on the Nordic countries. The other neighbouring nation is Shu Han to the south of Ravka which boasts a well-trained and sizable army guarding its mountains. Shu Han is loosely based on China or at least East Asia.
East Ravka is relatively more underdeveloped and has fewer military forces than West Ravka, which is why it considers the West as its only lifeline. To keep their enemies at bay, the Ravkans cross the Fold to reach Wes Ravka and get access to supplies they need. But the West is getting weary of continuously supporting the East, and their only chance of survival is to destroy the Fold.
A portion of the show also takes place in a city called Ketterdam, which is based on Amsterdam. This is where the Six of Crows duology mainly takes place.
Wait, there's magic?
So, monsters and a mysterious Fold then there should be magic right? Well, sort of. The show doesn't call it magic but rather small science. This means that the "magic" you see in the series doesn't come out of nothing rather they manipulate things that already exist.
The Ravkan armies are split into two groups known as the First Army and the Second Army. Despite its name, the First Army is actually at the bottom of the hierarchy and made up of non-Grisha soldiers such as trackers, cartographers and the infantry. The Second Army composes of Ravka's magical military elite called the Grisha who possesses "magical" abilities. They are divided into three Orders, according to their specific skills.
The Corporalki is dressed in a red garment called kefta. They are the highest-ranking out of the three Orders and are most valued thanks to their abilities in manipulating the human body. They consist of Heartenders who are trained to kill (but sometimes even to help a person calm down or stay warm) and Healers who are trained to mend.
Dressed in blue kefta is Etherialki, Summoners who can manipulate elements including fire (Inferni), water (Tidemakers) and air (Squallers). There are those that can manipulate shadows and light as well.
Lastly, the Materialki don purple kefta, they are Fabricators who can manipulate physical materials. Durasts focus their power on metals, wood and glass while the Alkemi work with textiles and chemicals.
Meet the charming cast
So you've met the Ravkan armies, it's time to meet who leads them—General Kirigan, also known as The Darkling. He's played by the charming Ben Barnes who you might recognise from another fantasy series, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. The Darkling is a descendant of the Black Heretic's bloodline and also a Shadow Summoner, which is a rare and powerful Grisha that has the ability to summit darkness using shadows.
The opposite of a Shadow Summer is a Sun Summoner, and that's none other than Alina Starkov, although she doesn't know that in the beginning. Played by Jessie Mei Li, Alina's powers may be the key to destroying the Fold. Shadow and Bone is Mei Lei's first major role as she was previously doing theatre. Joining her is Archie Renaux who plays Malyen Orstev, Alina's childhood friend and a gifted tracker in the First Army. These are the three main characters from the Grisha trilogy.
From the Six of Crows duology, we have Kaz Brekker played by Freddy Carter. Kaz is a rising star in the criminal underworld and a leader of the Crows with a gift for unlikely schemes and a thirst for vengeance. Part of the Crows crew is Inej Ghafa, played by Nepal-born British actress, Amita Suman. Inej is known as the Wraith, a dangerous spy with a troubled past and impeccable knife skills. The last member of the crew is Jesper Fahey, played by Kit Young, a gambler and genius sharpshooter but also just incredibly charming. Take note that since these three characters didn't appear in the Grisha trilogy, their part in the TV adaptation has been completely added in.
As a fantasy series, Shadow and Bones have a lot of characters but these are the six main ones that you should definitely know about.
Asian female heroines for the win
Now you know who's playing your new favourite heroines, but did you know that Alina's ethnicity in the books was not explicitly described? Showrunner Eric Heisserer decided to make a big change for the character, making her half-Shu in the series. This also helps reflect actress, Jessie Mei Li's own biracial roots as she is British-Chinese. Speaking with Digital Spy, the actress said, "I love the way that race is depicted on this show. One of the things, when I was auditioning, was that slight concern of: is this just a diversity tick? Why have you done this"
"But immediately, I understood it wasn’t just that they wanted a person of colour in the lead; they actually wrote Alina’s story to be a reflection of my experiences, and the experiences of Christina [Strain]—she’s Korean-American, she’s one of our writers," she adds.
Bardugo, the writer of the books also said she was happy with the decision in an interview with Collider. "We also talked about how to bring more diversity into play early in the Shadow and Bone narrative. This is something the show can do better than I did. That means some of the characters aren't going to look the way they were described on the page—and that's the way it should be," she says.
Besides Alina, we also have our "knife wife" Inej who is played by Nepali-born actress, Amita Suman. On her casting, Suman says to Collider, "The similarities that I shared with her and the fact that this is actually made for a Brown actress and not just ticking that diversity box or changing it to tick that diversity box".
The series is in good hands
The series adaptation is developed by Eric Heisserer who also serves as the showrunner, creator, head writer and executive producer. Bardugo herself, the writer of the books is also an executive producer and even did a cameo in one of the episodes.
Heisserer is best known for his screenplay for the film, Arrival (2016) which earned him a Best Adapted Screenplay nomination at the 89th Academy Awards. He also wrote several horror films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), Final Destination 5 (2011) and Bird Box (2018).
Shadow and Bone falls under Netflix's deal with 21 Laps Entertainment, the same production company that created the highly popular, Stranger Things.
See also: 15 Scariest Asian Horror Movies To Watch
Shadow and Bone is available to watch on Netflix