Set in a fictional world, Shadow and Bone follows the story of Alina Starkov, a cartographer serving in the royal army. She lives in Ravka, a country parted by a Shadow Fold, a dark passage full of monsters. When she follows her childhood friend, Mal, and the rest of the troop into the shadows, it turns out that she possesses legendary power. Meanwhile, in a distant town, Ketterdam, three criminals get a job to capture and bring Alina to the city.
I binge-watched all eight episodes in one day, and I wasn’t bored for a moment
Most of all, Shadow and Bone is engaging and enjoyable to watch. Let me be honest: I binge-watched all eight episodes in one day, and I wasn’t bored for a moment. I had a feeling that I watched 2 hours long film, rather than a long show. At first, I was sceptical if combining two distinct book series (Grisha trilogy and Six of Crows duology) in one project is a good idea, but it turned out better than I ever imagined.
The screenwriters and actors did a good job in bringing book characters to life, and in some instances, they even gave them more depth. Ben Barnes is persuasive at capturing the charisma of the general of Ravkan army, the Darkling – especially in the first episodes he’s intriguing, majestic and draws attention every time he shows up on the screen. Kit Young, on the other hand, brings some fresh air to the show - his Jesper never gets too pretentious. The rest of the cast gives a fair performance as well, but anyone who has watched Shadow and Bone will agree that it is Milo who stole the show.
The special effects look exceptionally well-done for a Netflix show
I am not sure, though, how much viewers who don’t know Bardugo’s novels will grasp from the complex world, with all its nations, conflicts and politics. The show throws the audience into the story without much exposition, and while all the names are known to the readers, the average person might feel confused. And although scenes with Nina and Matthias belong to my favourites, they’re short and seem excluded from the rest of the story.
Nevertheless, the atmosphere of Grishaverse with its freezing country of Fjerda, inspired by czarist Russia Ravka and trading town, Ketterdam, is captured very well. Aesthetic eye-catching scenography and beautiful outfits with impressive, embroidered details make it difficult not to fall in love with the magical world. The special effects look exceptionally well-done for a Netflix show - there’s no doubt that the platform believed in its success.
Some scenes could have lasted longer, and not everyone will be satisfied with the editing. It doesn’t change the fact, though, that Shadow and Bone gives what it promises: a few hours of fun when we can forget about our grey world.