‘Shadow & Bone’ Review: Season 2 Continues to Surprise Readers


Photo credit to Creative Commons.

The original ‘Shadow & Bone’ television series poster for the first season.

Shadow & Bone | Created by Eric Heisserer | Fantasy Television, Drama, Mystery | Netflix | Adapted from Shadow & Bone and Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo | TV-14 | 8 Episodes | 1 Hr

Although ‘Shadow & Bone’ stands apart as a sensational book-to-screen adaptation, fans of this book series will be surprised by the changes that have been made to the plot.

Disclaimer: This review contains spoilers for the second season of the show ‘Shadow & Bone,’ which contains violence that may not be suitable for some viewers.

‘Shadow & Bone’ is the adapted love child of author Leigh Bardugo’s ‘Shadow & Bone’ trilogy and ‘Six of Crows’ duology. It focuses on the characters and basic plot of the trilogy, while simultaneously incorporating well-known characters from the duology. Set in the “Grishaverse,” this world of magic and political intrigue looks at the intricacies of a country at war over border disputes, even as it faces adversity amongst its own people.

Ravka is a country split in half not only by the dark “fold” of black magic filled with gruesome monsters, but by the powers of the Grisha that set them apart from the ordinary people—both of whom fight in the war (albeit in two separate armies). In the first season of ‘Shadow & Bone,’ the protagonist is introduced to be Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), an orphan and cartographer whose Grisha powers aren’t discovered until she’s 17. The discovery of her astronomically rare ability to summon light by General Kirigan (Ben Barnes), also known as “the Darkling,” prompts him to drag Alina into Ravka’s Second Army and away from her best friend Mal (Archie Renaux).

The first season features Alina learning how to wield her prophetic ability and finding the mythical Morozova stag, which General Kirigan kills to use as an amplifier for Alina’s powers. Meanwhile, some characters from ‘Six of Crows’ are hired (and fail) to kidnap Alina, and viewers see Mal’s life as a tracker in the First Army and later his escape from Kirigan with Alina.

In the second season—released March 16, 2023–Alina and Mal acquire the help of Nikolai ‘Sturmhond’ Lanstov (Patrick Gibson), who is the prince of Ravka posing as a privateer captain, to find the Sea Whip and Firebird. Like the Morozova stag, pieces of these creatures can be used to amplify Alina’s control over light—powers which she will use to destroy the fold.

Viewers who have read the books will be surprised right along with everyone else as the plot of this season unfolds.

In the books, the “amplifiers” actually drain Alina’s powers, so she doesn’t need them to destroy the fold. When she does destroy the fold and kills Kirigan, instead of faking her death to run away with Mal, she is temporarily engaged to Nikolai for the sake of appearances and Mal takes over the “Sturmhond” name and pursues the life of a privateer.

‘Six of Crows’ takes place three years after Alina’s story, yet these first two seasons have been set up as a sort of prequel to the duology’s plot. The backgrounds of these characters have also been somewhat altered so that they could flow easily in Alina’s story. Even though they had no part in the ‘Shadow & Bone’ trilogy, their presence and heroics are essential to a couple of Alina’s victories in the show.

Despite all of the divergences from the original plot, most fans are still happy with this adaptation. When one takes into consideration the detailed costumes, solid visual effects, and immersive acting consistent in this series, it softens the blow of the emphasis on “adapting” the books. The character’s personalities are expertly portrayed by this cast; whose chemistry and love for the series draw in book-lovers and casual fans alike.

Fans will be most excited in this season to see the brutality of Kaz “Dirtyhands” Brekker (Freddy Carter), the leader of the ‘Six of Crows’ gang, which was missing in the first season. Along with Kirigan’s obsession, Nikolai’s charm, Alina’s struggle with temptation of power, and other character’s signature traits, viewers are watching their favorite characters come to life on screen.

Through the guidance of creator Eric Heisserer (writer of the 2010 ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’), not only do we get to see the complicated relationships between each character, but the trauma of their childhoods that make connections so difficult.

‘Shadow & Bone’ season 2 is an artfully rendered adaptation of Leigh Bardugo’s series. Even while taking liberties with the plot and timelines, it appeals to readers with the consistency of good acting and accurate portrayals of personality that so many other book-to-screen adaptations are lacking.