‘Shadow and Bone’: Netflix show vs. books


Photo courtesy of leighbardugo.com

Leigh Bardugo’s two-book series “Shadow and Bone” and “Six of Crows” was made into a Netflix series. The differences between the books and the show hurt the overall feel of the Netflix series.

After rewatching the hit Netflix young adult (YA) fantasy series based on the two-book series “Shadow and Bone” and “Six of Crows” by author Leigh Bardugo, I noticed many differences between the books and the show, and those differences hurt the overall feel of the Netflix series. Had some of the changes not been made and the show’s important elements reflected that of the books, fans would appreciate the show even more. 

Netflix announced a second season of “Shadow and Bone” back in April. In late October, actor Ben Barnes revealed that the cast will begin filming in 2022. Barnes — who plays the alluring General Kirigan — teased this when talking about projects for the upcoming year.

“I’ve been working on Guillermo del Toro’s Horror anthology, Cabinet of Curiosities, and I’m going back to season 2 of ‘Shadow and Bone,’” he told Devdiscourse.

The first change was something that fans were initially interested in. It was a great surprise when it was announced that Jessie Mei Li, a Chinese actress, would be playing the lead role of Alina Starkov. This was a big moment for long-overdue representation, and it was unexpected as Starkov was white in the books. 

This change itself isn’t what led to the controversy surrounding the show, but what the writers did with it. With Starkov being a woman of color (WOC), the show dives into her experiences with racism, which she didn’t have in the books. One of the biggest problems is that the show didn’t do anything that added to her character. 

With the addition of fictional slurs and no real development, fans felt like the show writers threw in the change to seem progressive. Zoya, Starkov’s rival, is a WOC. She’s the one who had racist encounters in the books, so why make Zoya act racist toward Starkov? Switching the plots and pitting two WOC against each other takes away from the show. 

In the books, everyone calls the main villain the Darkling, as they are afraid to say his name. This was a big part of the series, where he tells Starkov his real name and says, “Call me Aleksander.” Fans of the book easily recognize this scene from the third book. So why did the show just drop it out of nowhere in the third episode? No buildup. No tension. It’s such an integral part of the story, and many fans were disappointed with the change. 

The most notable change within the series is the inclusion of the Crows, which are called the Dregs in the spinoff “Six of Crows.” The Dregs — Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Mattias, Nina and Wylan — were a hit with the Grishaverse fandom. Audiences were confused that the spinoff characters would be incorporated with the main storyline of the trilogy which took place two years before “Six of Crows.” 

The stories have completely different vibes, and with the addition of all but Wylan, it makes the story more confusing. There’s not enough time to develop all of them by trying to shoehorn them into the Alina/Sun Summoner/Shadow fold plot. Many fans wished that Netflix made a Crows spinoff instead of taking this route. 

We’re essentially following three stories at once: the Starkov story; Kaz, Inej and Jesper’s plot of trying to capture her; and Mattias and Nina’s love story. The Crows feel like side plots in Starkov’s story, and were only added because of popularity and diversity, as one of fans’ favorite thing about them is their representation.