I’ve been hearing about Shadow and Bone for the longest time but never actually knew anything about it until I watched the show. Come to find out that it’s actually based on a trilogy of the same name written by Leigh Bardugo (the books are now on my Amazon wishlist). Going into this completely blind with no knowledge of the books whatsoever, this review is based entirely on what I saw on the show. So let’s get into it shall we?
I want to talk about the plot first. Immediately you’re introduced to a big cloud with lightning inside which is very bad according to the people in the story. Not long after that you’re introduced to what looks like fire benders and air benders, which is what I called them before learning what they were actually named. It’s overwhelming at first because so many names and places are thrown at you all at once, but by episode three you get the hang of people’s names (though location names are somewhat difficult to remember). Overall, the plot is easy enough to understand. A girl enrolls in the military and ends up on the ship that’s set to sail through the cloud called The Fold, and discovers she has the power to summon the sun, which is an extremely rare Grisha ability. Grisha are people who can control and manipulate matter such as water, air or fire. Alina Starkov (our main protagonist) can summon the sun and is seemingly destined to destroy The Fold. Of course as with many YA stories, there’s your typical young female who didn’t know she was destined for something bigger than herself. Plus there’s your love triangle, which is overused in the YA category, but thankfully the villain shakes things up a bit so it doesn’t feel as stereotypical or cliché. Overlooking that, the plot is actually very interesting and gets better and better with each episode.
Of course I have to talk about the villain of the story. I’m a sucker for a well played villain and Ben Barnes does a fantastic job convincing me to hop onto the simp train. It’s impossible to hate Aleksander Kirigan. It really is. There’s something about him that’s just so charming and magnetic. You can’t help but be drawn in. He plays the villain so well. It’s obvious from Kirigan’s actions that he’s capable of love (which I think he is) but his hunger for power overwhelms that and consumes him, overlooking any hint of good within him. Ben Barnes again is phenomenal. In fact, everyone is. I’ve never read the books so I can’t compare the two but the show characters are really well played. The entire cast did an amazing job (not to mention they’re all gorgeous) with their roles and I look forward to seeing them again if the show is renewed for season two.
The CGI for the most part is really good especially for the demons in The Fold (called Volcra). Near the end of the season you’ll come to see how the Volcra came about but for now they’re winged demons who attack travellers in the dark and are attracted to noise and light. Upon further research into the book series, there are apparently other unnamed horrors within The Fold but we don’t actually see them on screen. Volcra look really eerie and disturbing; no eyes and a large mouth filled with razor sharp teeth. Their design is really neat and again, with no prior knowledge to the series, I’d like to think they did the books justice. The CGI team did what they set out to do which was design a monster that put viewers on edge. Along with the Volcra, the Grisha powers looked beautiful as well. Being a fan of Avatar The Last Airbender, I have to admit that this show did a better job with handling the elements than the live action Airbender movie did and that’s not a single word of a lie either. Big budget movies can learn a thing or two from the small screen. Big doesn’t always mean better.
Because of this series, I had to add the books to my wishlist on Amazon. Figured if the show was this good then the books should be too. So hopefully in the future I’ll get my hands on a copy and start reading them. Maybe even get a better understanding of the show as well as compare the two.
Shadow and Bone is now available to stream on Netflix.