Shadow & Bone – Book and TV show review

Today on the blog we’re chatting about one of the latest Netflix book adaptations. Shadow and Bone. If you’re considering picking up the series, or wondering if you need to have read the books to watch the show, read on!

This review talks about the Shadow & Bone trilogy, Netflix adaptation and Six of Crows. The book review is spoiler free, but the Netflix adaptation discussion does contain a few minor spoilers (don’t worry, I’ll warn you).

What is Shadow & Bone about?

Shadow & Bone, both the book and the Netflix show, are set in the fantasy kingdom of Ravka. A land surrounded by enemies and torn in half by a shadow fold that threatens the future of the nation.

Alina Starkov is just another solider, until her regiment is attacked on the shadow fold and it’s revealed that she may be the key to saving Ravka. Taken away from everything she knows, and the boy she cares about, she must master her powers and train as a Grisha.

But the path to her destiny isn’t what it seems, and as Alina learns more about her power it will reveal secrets that may change the course of the nation… and her heart.

What I liked about the book Shadow & Bone?

I resisted reading Shadow & Bone for a long time, despite the rave reviews online, because I was worried it wouldn’t live up to the hype. I automatically relegated it to the 2010s YA adaptations of Hunger Games and Maze Runner. But when Netflix announced its adaption and I saw the trailer (which is epic) I thought maybe I’d judged the book too soon.

This also wasn’t my first Leigh Bardugo novel. I read Ninth House her adult gothic fantasy novel a year ago, and while her prose was compelling I found the content too dark for my personal preferences.

Overall, I picked up Shadow & Bone, with pretty low expectations.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Yes, there is a lot of the book (and the rest of the trilogy) that is reminiscent of cringe YA. Alina is the ‘chosen one’ an unremarkable looking girl, who’s in love with a boy who barely notices her.

But as I read on, the sheer wonderful world building and depth of character that Leigh Bardugo executes made any reservations I held, soon disappear.

The Darkling has become one of my favourite villains of all time, for the sheer complexity of his character. I still don’t know entirely how I feel about him, after reading the whole trilogy.

The plot is compelling, and fairly fast paced (though there is a fair amount of fantasy based politics to encounter)

What I didn’t like about Shadow & Bone

If ‘The Chosen One’ trope, isn’t your favourite, be warned that this series leans into it pretty heavily. But there are some satisfying elements to how this is handled.

The trilogy ending is bittersweet. While I personally enjoy endings like this, I know they’re not everyone’s cup of tea so be warned.

Do I need to read all of the Grishaverse books before watching the Shadow & Bone Netflix show?

No. Reading all three books in the Shadow & Bone Trilogy is not essential for watching the show.

The Netflix adaptation focuses primarily* on the first book in the trilogy. So if you’re a purist and prefer to read the books before watching adaptations, I recommend reading the first book as a minimum.

Otherwise, I think you’re safe to watch. The adaptation strikes a good balance of providing enough context for viewers new to the world, and getting into the action for fans of the books.

After reading the books, I watched the show over a weekend. It’s well-worth a watch!

*POTENTIAL MINOR SPOILER – The Netflix adaptation does include characters from the associated Grishaverse duology Six of Crows but the plot from that book, and that of the show are completely different. The Netflix adaptation shares some details of character backstories, so some viewers might prefer to read both Shadow & Bone and Six of Crows before watching.

Tell me what you thought of the books/Netflix show in the comments

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