Shadow and Bone was released on Netflix on April 23, 2021, based on the Grishaverse books by Leigh Bardugo. The show has the same name as the first book in the Grisha series, but it brings together both of the series written by Bardugo, the Grisha Trilogy and some characters of Six of Crows duology, added to the story of the first book, which captured the attention and curiosity of the fans.
In the book, the story is written in first person, narrated by Alina Starkov, a simple mapmaker who grew up in a duke’s household that was made into an orphanage. Alina and her best friend Mal grew up together and had been inseparable until, in a mission to cross the fold (a dark place that separates the country of Ravka), Alina’s power to summon the sun is discovered and the friends are separated as Alina is forced to go to the “Little Palace,” a place where Grishas (people with the ability to do “small science” where they manipulate things like fire, water, shadows (rarely), can heal, change appearances, etc.) grow up learning how to use their powers, serving the king and following orders of The Darkling, also known as General Kirigan in the show, fighting in a war against close nations that has been going on for years.
Until now the book and show are similar, but in most scenarios people consider the books better than the shows/movies adaptation, then why is it that many fans of these series are considering the show to be better than the books?
*If you haven’t watched the show continue reading at your own risk as it might contain spoilers!*
The first notable change that made many fans excited to watch the show were the characters from Six of Crows getting involved in Alina’s storyline, where they went after the sun summoner to kill her in order to get money.
The Crows didn’t appear in the Shadow and Bone trilogy, but adding them to the story as if they were in the same places where Alina has been, was pretty fun to see; watching them working in the background, coming all the way from the other side of the fold was really entertaining since they weren’t a part in the original story and their actual story happens around two years after Alina’s.
Even if you didn’t read the book you can tell the fans are divided into two teams. Team Malina and team Darklina. As as a member of team Malina, I confess it seemed a little hard to ship them in the books, since reading from Alina’s view the Darkling was most present in the book, but in the show they gave room for Mal to shine, following his point of view at times and showing how he missed her and cared for her, trying to find his way to her even if it meant losing his own life. Building up Mal’s character was also an outstanding point, showing him making his own decisions and always stepping up to protect Alina against the Darkling even though he knew how strong the General is. Looking back at it now I’m not sure if he was stupid most of the time or brave.
Now speaking as someone who read the books after watching the show, I was pretty disappointed that some of the most amazing lines that happened in the show weren’t in the book, like how Alina and Mal wrote in their letters “You are my true north,” showing how their feelings for each other were always present, or in every Darklina interaction where I waited for him to say “Call me Aleksander” to Alina. Even if these didn’t happen in the original it really added a new feeling to the story, and made many people fall in love with the story once again.
Another factor that complimented Alina’s character in the show was saying that she looked Shu and was discriminated against, while in the book they only mentioned Shu Han as being enemies to the Grisha and to the Darkling. Making Alina Shu was really meaningful to Jessie Mei Li, who interpreted Alina, since she grew up being mixed-race and feeling as if she didn’t belong in any sides of the family, but interpreting a character who was also mixed and trying to figure out where to belong fitted perfectly with Jessie.
“This is a story that centers around identity and belonging,” said Jessie in an interview for Teen Vogue. “It’s about someone who doesn’t feel like they fit in, so the decision to make Alina half Shu just felt natural. It wasn’t just shoved in there for the sake of diversity, it made the story richer.”
Overall the changes in the show enriched the story, leaving behind the teenager feeling the books had and giving more personality to the characters and relationships. Many readers had the feeling that the author took all of the bad things from the book and added details to complement the story, showing it through more than one point of view the character development of Alina as she got more comfortable being a Grisha and wanting to belong, and giving Mal a more interesting character.
The show exceeded the fans’ expectations because many didn’t expect much, from experience with bad adaptations of books, but with a mostly perfect cast, scenario, and story adaptation, they can say the Shadow and Bone Netflix series was better than the book.