REVIEW: ‘Shadow and Bone,’ Season 1

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Shadow and Bone Season 1

As seen with shows like BridgertonThe Witcher, and A Series of Unfortunate Events, book-to-tv adaptations have found major success on Netflix. The newest adaptation premiered on Friday is Shadow and Bone, which is based on the Grisha trilogy written by Leigh Bardugo. The series follows Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), an orphan mapmaker who deals with life in a war-torn world terrorized by an ominous force known as The Fold. The Fold takes the form of a large cloud of smoke engulfing a large portion of land that people avoid since not many can make the journey through. There is hope that a Grisha, an individual with special abilities, could be powerful enough to get rid of The Fold. This Grisha, who people refer to as the Sun Summoner, is a myth that has given the people of this war-torn world hope.

After being reunited with her life-long best friend, Malyen Oretsev (Archie Renaux), Alina hopes to spend more time with him. However, things take a turn when Mal is called away on a mission to cross The Fold with several other soldiers. Not willing to let him go alone, Alina manages to sneak her way on the ship. After mere minutes of entering The Fold, their ship is attacked by the creatures that live within The Fold. Out of desperation to get out alive and save Mal, Alina reveals her hidden power of sunlight. After the events of their journey start spreading, Alina is believed to be the Sun Summoner and is taken by General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) to train her. Elsewhere, a group known as The Crows takes a job to bring Alina to their employer, unaware of just how dangerous the journey will be.

As the main protagonist of Shadow and Bone Season 1, Alina is quickly set up as someone who wants to do the right thing and join the fight but also doesn’t want the responsibility of being the Sun Summoner. That struggle through the first part of the story makes her a unique character associated with the “chosen one” trope that many other book-to-tv adaptations have done. She doesn’t just reluctantly accept her role as the Sun Summoner right away. She does everything to avoid, but ultimately sees the need for her role.

However, it’s rather surprising how quickly she gives in to being the Sun Summoner. It would have made for a much more interesting story had this struggle carried for most of the season. The reason why she gives in is associated with a possible romantic relationship being established, which was disappointing to see. If a second season is approved, there is hope for Alina to grow in her confidence in making choices and in her abilities as the Sun Summoner.

When the cast of Shadow and Bone Season 1 was announced, it was a surprise to find out that the Crows would also be taking part in the show. The Crows are the main characters of Bardugo’s Six of Crows duology series, which occurs within the Grishaverse. However, within minutes of their introduction, I was immediately captivated by them.

Kaz (Freddy Carter), the leader of the Crows, has such natural charisma and gives off the vibe of a natural leader. His chemistry with the other Crows and the friendship they share is incredibly set up within the first minutes of his appearance. Inej (Amita Suman) is shown as a character who would be willing to do anything to protect the rest of the Crows while also wanting to escape her past. She’s much more grounded in terms of caring for others and showing a deeper sense of morality. This is shown in the scene where she, the Crows, and their employers interrogate someone who witnessed Alina use her powers. Jesper (Kit Young) is the heart of the group while also being the unpredictable member. However, he proves that he can be more than just comedic relief, especially as their journey progresses. These three characters are an incredible addition to the Grisha trilogy adaptation and make their own mark on the season with their own story.

While Shadow and Bone Season 1 sets up numerous characters with various storylines and several world-building elements, they all felt rushed as the series progressed. Each episode bounced around between four different storylines, with all of them converging towards the end of the series. It would have made things simpler had the Crows been given their own series while still taking place within the main story of Shadow and Bone. However, it’s obvious as to whose story this is since Alina is at the center of both plots.

While fans of Bardugo’s Grisha series have hints as to where the story and its characters are headed, those whose first introduction to the Grishaverse is this show may have difficulty following along with what’s going on. On top of having trouble following along, a lot of information is thrown at viewers, making it more difficult even to attempt to retain all the information. Several locations are introduced and even have letter displays that say their names, but nothing is ever shown to indicate why these lands are important to the season’s plot.

With a book series that is centered around powered individuals and various fantastical elements, it begged the question as to how the effects, background settings, and costumes of Shadow and Bone Season 1 would look like. Many of the locations throughout the book series were excellently recreated for the show. The colors and set designs completely surpassed any expectations that I had.

The costume designs were also superb, feeling as though they were created exactly how the books described them. However, the effects were rather lackluster throughout the whole series. For instance, there were moments where Alina’s powers looked practical and then moments where they looked extremely CGI. The creatures of The Fold were also a bit disappointing. With the way they were set up, they never met the level of fear that the characters described them. One can only hope that the effects are improved if the show gets a second season.

Ultimately, Shadow and Bone Season 1 offers a well-adapted story full of incredible characters and gorgeous sets and costume designs, but with way too many elements of two different series for one season. Alina makes her mark as a unique protagonist that doesn’t just accept her destiny while also wanting to make a difference. It also suffers from lackluster effects whenever any Grisha show their abilities and in the creature designs. I thoroughly enjoyed the season and hope that season two is approved.

Shadow and Bone Season 1 is streaming now on Netflix.

Shadow and Bone Season 1
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Shadow and Bone Season 1 offers a well-adapted story full of incredible characters and gorgeous sets and costume designs, but with way too many elements of two different series for one season. Alina makes her mark as a unique protagonist that doesn’t just accept her destiny while also wanting to make a difference. It also suffers from lackluster effects whenever any Grisha show their abilities and in the creature designs. I thoroughly enjoyed the season and hope that season two is approved.