About a week ago I wrote an article reviewing best selling author Leigh Bardugo’s trilogy by the name of Shadow and Bone in preparation for the live action Netflix series of the same name. After years of waiting as an avid fan, I’ve watched it, then rewatched it and I have a lot of thoughts. The first and foremost though, is that it was fantastic and beautifully transcribed from text to film and I absolutely loved it. Of course nothing is without fault, or exempt from valid criticism.
The second thing, and maybe the most obvious when comparing book and film is the storyline. That had to be flexed slightly from the original telling to include “The Crows” from Bardugo’s other series which takes place in the same world years after the events of Shadow and Bone. In my first review I didn’t talk much about Six of Crows, which took quite a bit of self-control considering it’s my favorite series in the Grishaverse and follows my favorite characters as well. The gist of it is that a group of six criminals take on a heist which forces them to sneak into and get out of the most impenetrable fortress in their world to earn four million kruge (the currency of their home). These characters are also known as the “Crows” in the fandom.
Since the characters from Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows never even crossed paths in the books, nor were their personal stories even in the same time-line, fans knew a rewrite would have to be included. Many of us were worried about how that would work. Thankfully though, with the help of Bardugo, I think the directors and writers accomplished what they set out to do while keeping everything in character.
The Crows are in Ketterdam, stealing, shooting people and sneaking around as spies when Inej, the team’s super sneaky wraith, hears of a new job for a man called Dreesen who is looking to hire someone to cross The Fold and steal something for him. Kaz, the leader of The Crows, is immediately interested as one of his biggest character strengths is greed. This is how The Crows end up crossing The Fold into east Ravka to sneak into the little palace where Alina is training to kidnap her. To make the intertwining of both stories make sense, the writers had to age up some character. In the end, I think it was worth it for the adventure and story we got.
Let’s talk about the characters and actors. A year ago when the cast was first announced all we got was a very simple picture. So many doubted the casting then, but I’m sure now they’ve proved everyone wrong with their skillful portrayal of such complex character. This is a task in itself considering we learned so much about these characters; mainly during their inner dialogue during the novels.
Kaz (Freddy Carter) for example, a man who is known by names like “Bastard of the Barrel” and “Dirty Hands,” is someone others could see as simply greedy, selfish and evil until you read the world from his perspective. He is a person who wants to love and be loved but feels like he doesn’t deserve that. He is someone traumatized and hurt by the past and someone who simply hates himself most of the time. He runs on revenge and it’s hard to portray all of that in eight episodes, but with the time he was given, I think Carter did great. He shows us how cold and calculating Kaz was, but also demonstrated the unsaid love and trust he has for his crew. Praise should also be given to Amita Suman who plays Inej and portrays her conflicting faith and thirst for freedom perfectly. Same goes for Kit Young who plays Jesper, one of my favorite Crows. He captures Jesper’s humor that we all love, his charm, kindness and loyalty as well as him just being the child of the crew everyone has to look after. Every scene he was in brought a smile to my face.
Something else that the show does that surprised me was make me fall in love with characters who I wasn’t so warm on just from the books–like Alina. In my earlier review I mentioned that I didn’t really care for her as a protagonist, but man did Jessie Mei Li make me bite my tongue. Alina’s personality really shines through here. Her sarcasm and her desire to fit in and the weight that was placed on her when she was discovered as a sun summoner felt authentic. The Darkling (Ben Barnes) was also humanized much more in the series, which has its pros and cons. Regardless of what everyone might think, it’s clear that he was actually in love or falling in love with Alina in this version of the story, despite his initial plans to use her (which he still ends up doing though). We even got a couple scenes of his backstory, which is sad and sets up why he has done what he’s done. Personally I think this makes him a much better villain. Somehow I even ended up like Mal–Alina’s childhood friend and main love interest who I thought was whiny, boring and just bad for Alina in the books. I loved and sympathized with this character here. It is clear the producers set out to make him more likable, and they did. And I think they were able to do this because we got to see so much from Mal’s point of view, and how much he sacrificed to get back to Alina.
Lastly, what I thought was one of the best parts of the show, and was also the shortest, was the Nina and Matthias prequel story line. I’ll be the first to say it, I cried and it wasn’t even sad until towards the end. In SOC this section of the story was told only in flashbacks, but seeing it was an experience that I could kiss the producers for. Nina is a Grisha spy on a mission for the darkling when she is captured by the Druskelle, a group of elite Grisha hunters. On the ship where they are taking her back to their home country Fjerda for trial (her only crime literally being born Grisha), she meets Matthias Helvar. They hate each other, obviously, but when a storm crashes the ship they have to rely on each other to survive.
These scenes are almost word for word from the novels, and I screamed everytime I recognized an Iconic line. This ship has always been one of my favorites and Calahan Skogman and Danielle Galligan capture their chemistry so perfectly. Their scenes were short and few in between but I loved them and I’m excited to see their story play out on screen more in season two.
There is so much to talk about when it comes to this show and I could go on for hours, because not everything is great. Like the constant racism towards Alina who is half Shue, or east Asian, that almost feels excessive or the brushing aside of important plot points like the Darklings true name that we only learn in the last book, and is given to Alina about two episodes into the show. But despite that and more, I wasn’t disappointed with this adaptation as I was scared I would be.
Personally I feel as though it did the world, stories and characters of the Grishaverse justify and I’m sincerely hoping for a season two
By: Kendal Amos, sophomore, Little Black Pearl