Vivid and adventurous, “Shadow and Bone” sucks the viewer in


Photo via Netflix

The eight-episode first season of “Shadow and Bone” was released on Netflix April 23.

I started Netflix’s “Shadow and Bone” as a casual, or even apprehensive viewer. Eight episodes and a rollercoaster of emotions later, I was neither. 

“Shadow and Bone” was adapted from author Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse series. I have read her “Six of Crows” duology but not her “Shadow and Bone” trilogy, so I was fairly concerned that this show, though set in the same fantasy world, would leave me hopelessly lost.

As I pressed play, I knew little more than what the trailer and Twitter suggested: the story would follow a mapmaker named Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li) who discovers her latent magical powers as she gets involved with an abusive man dubiously named “The Darkling” (Ben Barnes). That didn’t really sound like my vibe, but I kept an open mind and reminded myself that this story was the lead-up to the Six of Crows plot line.

In actuality, “Shadow and Bone” focuses more broadly on a complex political landscape where tensions are brewing. The nation of Ravka is plagued by the “shadow fold,” an expansive swath of darkness that divides their country, and crossing the fold from any side carries the threat of death by volcra, the large, winged monsters that inhabit it. The shadow fold is not the only magical aspect of “Shadow and Bone;” its world is populated with Grisha, magicians who can control elements like wind, metal or human organs. 

A freak accident during a trip across the fold leads to the heroine, Alina, summoning light, hinting that she is a Grisha and Ravka’s much awaited messiah — the Sun Summoner who is fated to destroy the fold. To cultivate her powers, Alina is rushed to the Little Palace, a Grisha training ground which is a world away from the army grounds she lived in. Alina’s loneliness and pressure she felt in her whole new world was palpable, making her a sympathetic character.

I figured I would watch three, maybe four, episodes once I got home from school. I started watching, and didn’t stop until seven episodes later. My viewing experience confirms one thing: “Shadow and Bone” is a can’t-pull-away show. My eyes were too fixated on the current excitement of each episode for me to guess the twists in later episodes.

I thoroughly enjoyed the fights, mischief and mystery, but the characters and their relationships were what kept me clicking next episode. While away from home in the Little Palace, Alina and her best friend (and possibly more) Mal Oretsev (Archie Renaux) exchange heartfelt letters. Their vulnerability in these narrated letters made even my stubborn little heart ache. Our protagonists could not have been any more likable: Alina was a girl with a lot of heart and a bit of spunk, and Mal was a noble hero and supportive friend.

Photo via Netflix

I was surprised to find that “Six of Crows” characters Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman) and Jesper Fahey (Kit Young) duology were weaved into Alina’s story. I was surprised and excited to see the ragtag group of criminals early on in the first episode.

Much of my appreciation for “Shadow and Bone” stems from my love of Six of Crows, so this show could overwhelm someone who hasn’t read any of Bardugo’s books. For fans of Bardugo though, stepping into the Grishaverse on screen could not be more exciting.