Arts and Entertainment

Do You Dare to Enter the Shadow Fold?

Netflix’s newest YA fantasy show “Shadow and Bone” adds an intriguing twist to the beloved books that it is adapted from.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Chloe Huang

Do you dare

Young adult (YA) fantasy show “Shadow and Bone” on Netflix was one of the most anticipated shows of the year, as a result of the hype surrounding the eponymous books series. Though Netflix is no stranger to the fantasy genre, the streaming platform is very hit or miss when it comes to literature adaptations. However, with a diverse and talented cast, stunning set design, and gripping plotlines, “Shadow and Bone” is beyond exceptional—proof that Netflix can do YA fiction right.

Adapted from the best-selling novels “Shadow and Bone” and “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo, the show brings the fantasy world, Ravka, to life, where its inhabitants are separated based on their supernatural abilities (those who have them being Grisha). The Grisha hold a better chance against the Shadow Fold, a swath of darkness that splits the nation in half and is overtaken by Volcra, dark feral creatures. The show follows Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), a cartographer in the Ravkan Army who only realizes she possesses a special ability after she enters the Fold. As a Sun Summoner, possessing the power to summon light, Alina is valuable and is soon whisked away to the luxurious palace grounds where the Grisha train.

The show integrates multiple storylines from “Six of Crows” with great clarity, adding a cryptic complexity to an otherwise generic plot. It is through the Crows, a gang of vagrants including criminal mastermind Kaz (Freddy Carter), acrobatic spy Inej (Amita Suman), and charismatic sharpshooter Jesper (Kit Young) that the interactions between the characters shine. Their dynamic is perfect, as Jesper’s wit and carelessness bring a refreshing humorous note, balancing the more withdrawn and intense Kaz and Inej. Motivated by a fortune offered by a greedy merchant to kidnap Alina, the group makes a perilous attempt to cross the Fold, providing a much-needed fast-paced action that complements Alina’s gradual adjustment to her new life.

The bond between Alina and Mal Oretsev (Archie Renaux), her childhood best friend, is another character dynamic that is masterfully highlighted by the plot. Through the flashbacks of their childhood memories at an orphanage, the viewers see how their friendship and loyalty developed, which puts the easy banter and familiarity they continue to exhibit in the present into context. After Alina is later taken away, their emotions, communicated through letters, make their connection striking and the possibility of romance all the more believable.

The gripping depth that the storytelling creates is only possible through the meticulous detail of the sets, which is what truly transfers the Grishaverse world from the page to the live adaption with an intricate vibrancy. “Shadow and Bone” occurs mostly in Russia-inspired Ravka, and its setpieces reflect its occupants. With the Grisha, the nation’s elite, Alina encounters opulence at the Little Palace, an elegant castle with gorgeous architecture, which contrasts the military camp she was accustomed to. This aspect of Ravka exudes enchantment and magic as Alina struggles to find both her role and self. However, the dank Ketterdam is a much more grimy and dingy setting. A melting pot of different cultures, Ketterdam is chaotic, a bustling hub for commerce and illegalities. In conjunction with the alluring settings, the costumes of the show play an equally important role in immersing the audience into the “Shadow and Bone” universe. While the Ravkans are seen wearing beautifully embroidered keftas and sophisticated gowns and uniforms, the Crows wear darker clothing, complete with detailed objects like engraved pistols and crow-headed canes.

In addition to its fictional worldbuilding, “Shadow and Bone” is notably diverse, with four out of six of the main cast as people of color and with one character with a disability, using a cane to walk. As a Half-Shu orphan (which is implied to mean of Asian descent) Alina’s experience with racism makes her continual sentiment of being ostracized from society, a quality a typical YA protagonist, valid. Moreover, the show does not focus solely on Alina’s role as the main character, as Mal similarly encounters verbal racism during their time at the orphanage, addressing a more important issue of how subtle discrimination in our society exists for people of color. Though Alina originally in the books was not mixed race, the careful implementation of how race intersects with identity is just another way “Shadow and Bone” shatters precedence.

A true rarity among YA novel adaptations, “Shadow and Bone” is a captivating enhancement of its source material, managing to stay true to the core aspects of the main characters while adding its own distinct flair. With complex characters and storylines that weave together a tangible world, the show delivers action, fantasy, romance, and humor––a full menagerie. Filled to the brim with adventure and excitement, “Shadow and Bone” has engrossed die-hard fans and general viewers alike, inciting infectious popularity that is sure to escalate in its upcoming second season.

to enter the Shadow Fold?