Shadow and Bone manages to transcend familiarity thanks to some stellar performances from a cast of relatively unknown actors. The remarkable special effects transport you into this fascinating world that blends. Though the lore presented is incredibly intriguing, I wish they would’ve dived a little deeper into it. 

Taking place in a war-torn world and based on the worldwide bestselling Grishaverse novels, this show centers on orphan mapmaker Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), who unleashes an extraordinary power that could potentially set her country free. However, with dark forces and a legion of criminals at bay, Alina joins the magical soldiers known as the Grisha, learns how to control her powers and finds a way to save the world from the monstrous shadow-fold that is slowly swallowing up everything. 

The gothic lovechild of Russia and England

From the moment the show begins, your eyes are immediately treated to an incredibly crafted and detailed world that engulfs you to the point where you feel like you are a part of this gorgeously dark setting. The stunning set pieces, blended seamlessly with amazing special effects is a fantasy lover’s dream come true. Watching every Grisha perform their special abilities immediately made me think of X-Men and Avatar: The Last Airbender. The Grisha, like the X-Men, are born with magical powers, which are presented similarly to The Last Airbender. Breathtaking cinematography, combined with some incredible action sequences really helped this make-believe world seem real. Especially for those who have read the books, because its attention to detail and style is something to behold and you can’t help but applaud everyone who worked on this show. Netflix spared no expense and I am very pleased with the result. 

Ben Barnes and his league of nobody’s

The only familiar actor amongst this very unknown cast is Ben Barnes, who is best known for playing Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia movies. Ben Barnes shines as General Kirigan and he makes the most of every scene he is in. Casting a lot of lesser known actors is always a risk for many reasons, especially if you want your show to have an audience. In the case of Shadow and Bone, I fully support this move because everyone plays their part exceptionally well and it makes the show that much more interesting for me. Jessie Mae Li really steps up to the plate and embraces the lead role beautifully, which makes me glad that they favoured newcomers for the reason that I appreciate anyone taking a chance on someone who deserves a break. However, as strong as they are, for some, particularly Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter) and Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), I felt like we only scratched the surface with them and I yearned to know more. 

Please sir, can I have some more Lore ?

Speaking of wanting more from Shadow and Bone… After becoming incredibly captivated by the worlds our main characters are living in, I was hoping to get a brief history lesson that explained how this world came to be and how every character got their current jobs. My expectations were partially met on the matter since the show does a decent job with Alina, General Kirigan, and Malyen (Archie Renaux). However, as for everyone else that is featured prominently on the show, we learn very little about their origin stories. 

I learned from a friend that Shadow and Bone took characters from another series of books the same author had written and added them to the story. Those characters being Kaz, Inej, and Jesper. It was obvious they were added to the original narrative due to their connection being out of place by virtue of the lack of backstory given about them. With money as their motivation for kidnapping Alina, you could tell that the showrunners settled for a common unanimous reason audiences would dismiss, which I was ok with overall. Therefore, in order to make their arcs feel earned, I wish they would’ve spent one episode exploring Kaz, Inej, and Jespers origins, like they did with Alina, General Kirigan, and Malyen. This lessened their importance to the main story. I was suddenly an outsider from the fans of the books because it was as if they had access to information about the show that I didn’t.

Game of Shadow and Thrones

Like its other show The Witcher, Shadow and Bone is another show Netflix hopes will fill the huge void left by Game of Thrones and though it’s not as good, it’s off to a great start. The creators of this show have done an exceptional job bringing the Grishaverse to life thanks to its gorgeous environments, very interesting characters, and beautifully imagined storylines. If you found The Witcher too complicated, Shadow and Bone, despite following a lot of typical beats of its genre, lacks the element of surprise as it trails too close to its counterparts, which is why you can predict what will happen. It goes down easier and will provide wonderful escapism for anyone hoping to get lost in a fantasy world with a rich backstory.