Shadow and Bone is the next big-budget Netflix adaptation of a fantasy book/comic series following The Witcher and Cursed. It falls in the middle of both shows quality-wise but there are many reasons to watch it and some reasons you shouldn’t.
Before I begin my review check out my fellow critic Mahnoor Khan’s Urdu-language series review of Shadow and Bone below.
“Dark forces conspire against orphan mapmaker Alina Starkov when she unleashes an extraordinary power that could change the fate of her war-torn world.” – IMDb
The world is divided between human and Grisha – the latter who have magical (mostly elemental) powers which are their birth rights. The premise might not seem so impactful at first glance but the pilot episode reels you in albeit a tad slower than you’d expect.
Based upon the series of books by the same name written by author Leigh Bardugo, Shadow and Bone, like its counterparts, incorporates politics in its overreaching narrative with three main nations, various political affiliations, betrayals and scandals. As I mentioned at the start of this review this show gained a mixed reception from me at the first binge-watch. So, let’s explore the reasons why it left such an impression on me below.
Reasons to watch Shadow and Bone
- The budget: No costs were spared in the visual effects, costume design, make-up, etc. On top of that the cinematography really complements the set design. So, the budget justifies the mise-en-scene. Best looking fantasy show on Netflix alongside The Witcher.
- The acting: I think without Ben Barnes as the antagonist the show wouldn’t have gotten such a high rating from me. To say that he stole the show is an understatement; he made the show. The supporting cast is also great but they are equally awesome whereas Ben Barnes’ performance as General Kirigan stands out from the crowd.
- The pacing, action and overall narrative: With only 8 episodes you’d assume some chapters to be slow but that is not the case here. The action is really good especially that of Kit Young’s gunslinger character Jesper Fahey. The story seems like a mix-up of anime like The Last Airbender and Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood but it proves to be a good combination.
Reasons not to watch Shadow and Bone
- The predictability: If you have watched at least 10 high-budget shows you’ll know where this one is heading after the initial half has passed.
- The young-adult factor: The Witcher is a no-holds-barred take on the fantasy genre, and it’s not like Shadow and Bone needed gore to improve itself as a series, but its young adult source material is the reason why I can’t equate it with The Witcher. There are so many YA tropes such as the poor and ostracized lead character becoming the savior, the suave and handsome seemingly good character turning out to be bad, the Crows having materialistic goals and starting out as fiends only to become anti-heroes in the end, and many, many more.
- The finale: Again, I am not stating that the finale was a disappointment especially in comparison to the preceding episodes, but the twist at the very end which could be counted as an epilogue at this point, was totally foreseeable as a set-up for season 2.
I was a bit skeptical before starting Shadow and Bone because of watching the worst Netflix show I have ever seen in my life, the 2020 fantasy show Cursed, spearheaded by Frank Miller of all people and starring 13 Reasons Why star Katherine Langford in the main role.
However, when one of my most trusted co-critics recommended this show, I ended up finishing it in 2 days! So, yes – whether your preference be adult or young-adult – you’ll like this show regardless of your orientation. It is the next best thing after The Witcher after all.