Netflix’s Shadow and Bone is the adaptation of the Grishaverse, a bestselling young adult fantasy series of novels by Leigh Bardugo based loosely on Tsarist Russia. Hmmm, but what else does the eight-episode long first season strikingly remind us? Yes! Game of Thrones. The show creates a complicated and multi-layered world of adventure and fantasy and expertly juggles multiple storylines across eight tightly edited episodes.
The void left by the unsettling end of Game of Thrones had since left streaming executives everywhere looking for the next ‘swords and wizardry’ blockbuster. Thanks to Netflix’s successful original series like The Umbrella Academy and The Witcher, which managed to embrace and fill these voids of fantasy.
The story of the show twines around a teenage orphan named Alina, who works as a mapmaker on the front lines for a perpetually war-torn country called Ravka, who might remind us of a typical Chosen One narrative. In the thick of battle, she abruptly discovers that she belongs to the Grisha — a group of superpowered beings, and because of this, out of all of the titles mentioned above, Shadow and Bone feels the most like a would-be Game of Thrones successor.
The show definitely fulfills the superhero thirst in all of us with Alina’s ability to transmit powerful rays of sunlight, making her a vital and unique weapon. In fact, her dawning power reveals her to be a legendary saint known as the “Sun Summoner,” the only person capable of offering safe passage through the Fold, a pitch-black, monster-filled sea of fog that has split Ravka into two halves. So obviously, that makes Alina the peacemaker of the nation — so naturally, it puts a giant target on her head.
But apart from the dramatically fantasy-filled superpowers, Shadow and Bone fails to deliver any of the charm and emotional engagement of a Game of Thrones or a Winx Saga. Its character-building is lackluster. Mei Li’s spirited performance is undercut by the show’s reluctance to break her out of the typical YA heroine mode. Maybe as the show progresses, it might become more specific about who these people are and what they want. However, the show is politically smart, pushing contradicting characters together into situations of mortal peril and forces them to confront the limits of their belief.
Here’s the trailer to understand what we are talking about.
Shadow and Bone season one is streaming on Netflix.