Six different essays due, and another four pieces of creative writing, but you know I took 24 hours off to watch the new Shadow and Bone Series on Netflix.
I’ve had so many Instagram messages since the series launched, asking whether you should read the books first. There’s no simple answer to this, no, you don’t need to have read them, but the series is very heavy in information – there’s a lot to be delivered in a short time. It’s possible you’d find it easier to keep up if you’d made a start on the books. But it’s not necessary, and I imagine if you watched the series first it would be nice to have the books to read while we wait for the next season.
The series covers the events of the first book from the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, and has a prequel storyline for some of the characters from Six of Crows. In an ideal world you’d read all the Shadow and Bone books and Six of Crows before watching the series, but you’d only spoil the plot of book one by watching the series first.
So starting with the good! I think the casting for this series is GREAT, Kaz and Jesper look exactly as I imagined them, the actors playing Alina and Mal do a great job bringing some fairly vanilla characters to life. I’m pleased to see an accurately diverse cast, although I’m disappointed about the lack of diversity in the crew – particularly with the stunt doubles. There’s clearly work to be done here and I hope this is something they address moving forward.
I loved the cinematography, I enjoyed the dark moody edge the shots carried, and crumbs there are some seriously beautiful settings in this series. I also really enjoyed the moments of lightness and humour snuck in, mostly via Jesper and Milo the goat! The scenes of our Crows crossing The Fold were a nice surprise, something new for fans of the books and it was funny seeing these characters react to the situation.
It’s definitely a bingeable series, and a well executed fantasy series. I enjoyed watching it and definitely found myself getting swept up into it. That being said there are some issues…
Firstly, I’m not sure merging Shadow and Bone with the Six of Crows prequel really worked. I understand the instinct, of all the books Shadow and Bone is arguably the weakest, and the Six of Crows cast is beloved. But instead of adding interest, I think this weakened the characterisation of everyone. There are so many characters to familiarise yourself with out the gate and the Six of Crows team aren’t getting enough screen time to really show off their personalities. The result is an overwhelmingly large cast that you never really get to know. This is particularly true of Nina and Matthias who have such little screen time it hardly feels worth it.
The other issue with this that by cramming two stories into one series, they’ve lost valuable world building time. I’ve read the books so was able to keep up, but my boyfriend who hasn’t was lost at times, and we’d stop after each episode for me to explain things further. I think if they’d stuck to one book they would have been able to more authentically build the world, explain the magic systems and beliefs, it just would have felt more immersive and less confusing.
I know that sounds like a mixed bag but ultimately I really enjoyed it. It’s not going to be for everyone, I’m a little confused by the reviews saying ‘it doesn’t live up to Game of Thrones’ – you’ll definitely be disappointed if that’s what you’re hoping for. It’s a great entry level fantasy, and definitely doesn’t feel too teen oriented. Since I found the Shadow and Bone trilogy to be the weakest of the Grishaverse books I was pleasantly surprised by how immersive this was, and I’d definitely recommend it to fantasy fans.
The main thing I learned was that I was definitely pronouncing all the names wrong. I definitely wasn’t saying Greeeeesha, and excuse me Genya starts with a G not a J!