Netflix dropped the latest Shadow and Bone trailer this Tuesday and let me tell you, the fans have questions. Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling novels of the same name will receive an on-screen adaptation from 21 Laps Entertainment, available on Netflix on April 23, 2021.
This Russian-inspired fantasy trilogy has received praise for its unique worldbuilding since the first book’s release in 2012. The trilogy follows Alina, an orphan in Ravka’s non-magical first army. When monsters attack her ship in the Shadow Fold, she discovers her powers. Alina is recruited to the Grisha, a magical fighting force, as the Sun Summoner. Training is hard, but navigating the politics of being Ravka’s most powerful weapon is even harder.
While Bardugo’s initial trilogy did well with fans, much of her cult following came with the first book in the spinoff duology, Six of Crows, released in 2015. In Ketterdam, crime prodigy Kaz Brekker recruits the Crows. The six unlikely specialists attempt a heist that offers the payday of a lifetime and may determine the fate of the world. To capitalize on the shared universe, the Netflix adaptation is using source material from both series in the Grishaverse.
1. What do we know about the company making the show?
Many know 21 Laps Entertainment for its work on Stranger Things. The award-winning series brings families together with an 80’s-genre-film aesthetic. However, the company also produced the movie adaptation of The Darkest Minds, the first book in Alexandra Bracken’s YA dystopian trilogy. Unfortunately, the film’s lackluster performance in the box office didn’t inspire a sequel. So, while the company has the potential for greatness, we will have to wait and see how Shadow and Bone develops on screen. Judging by the trailer, the appropriate money has been spent on everything from the special effects to the costumes to the actors. I have high expectations for the final product, but it looks like 21 Laps Entertainment exceeds them.
2. How will the Six of Crows’ storyline coincide with Shadow and Bone?
The novel Six of Crows occurs after the events of the Shadow and Bone Trilogy. While the characters from Shadow and Bone make an appearance in Crooked Kingdom and King of Scars, their initial storylines are separate. In the trailer, Kaz tells Inji, “She’s real” which may reference Alina, the Sun Summoner. We know there is a prize of one million Kruge and someone wants Alina. Later on, Alina and Inji are both fighting in the Shadow Fold. Perhaps we might be looking forward to Alina playing a vital role in the Crows latest plan. The Crows may just be on their way to capture the Sun Summoner for a prize of one million Kruge.
3. How will the storyline change with Alina’s half Shu (Asian) heritage?
This month, the showrunner, Eric Heisserer, and Leigh Bardugo expressed their opinions on the change in Alina’s heritage. Heisserer decided to make the change to bring more diversity into the show and to modify Alina’s character arc. Bardugo agreed, noting, “This is something the show can do better than I did.” Alina’s character will deal with prejudice growing up and in her role as one of the most important Grishas in the country.
Aside from this adaptation, the change works against a major problem in the film industry. Studies have shown Asian actors make up only 1% of all leading roles in Hollywood. Asian actors just are not cast in enough films to begin with. Then, many of the roles available are more stereotypes than people. This change improves the character’s backstory while creating a space for an Asian actress in a leading fantasy role. Jessie Mei Li is an impressive actress whose onstage work in All About Eve is exemplary, and I am excited to see her leading the franchise as Alina.
4. What can we expect from the Darkling (General Kirigan), Malyen, and Alina love triangle?
In the Shadow and Bone trilogy, Alina and Malyen have a friends-to-lovers romance whereas the Darkling has more of a rich bad-boy appeal. The two relationships balance the tension between Alina’s past and future while allowing enough space for some shocking reveals. The trailer shows both relationships. Malyen (Archie Renaux) is protecting Alina from the people who want her. The Darkling, referred to as General Kirigan in the show (Ben Barnes), is pushing her to take her place as the kingdom’s Sun Summoner. Although the adaptation changes the Darkling’s name to General Kirigan so he is easier to address, he is still attracted to Alina’s power. I believe we can expect to see the love triangle develop through the seasons.
5. How prominent will the Crows’ tragic backstories be in the season?
In Six of Crows, readers love the Crows for their strength, talent, and tragic backstories. While the Crows are now known as a crime lord, a spy, a sharpshooter, an explosives expert, a Heartrender, and an ex-soldier, their backstories ultimately motivate their involvement in the heist. We briefly see Inji in arial silks and Jesper in a gambling hall in the trailer. However, we have not seen any indication that the series will dive further into the Crows’ backstories. The show has not cast child actors for the characters, so flashbacks are unlikely. Although, there is still hope we may hear a heartfelt conversation about their past experiences. I don’t doubt some backstory will be given eventually, but will it be this season? We will have to wait and see.
6. Will the costumes fulfill your Russian-Game-of-Thrones needs?
It looks like Shadow and Bone found the right balance between fashion history and fantasy in the costuming. Weather-appropriate clothing makes the characters look battle-ready. The Crows’ costume design is in keeping with the novels and includes Kaz’s signature cane. Also, the kefta (robes worn by the second army) tell us a lot about the plot, if they are accurate to the books. The Darkling makes an appearance in his black kefta with the second army members in red and blue behind him. Alina wears her blue kefta appropriately detailed with golden solar flames during her training. Later in the trailer, she appears in the black and gold kefta that the Darkling gifts her in the novels. The additional uniforms communicate the various groups’ backgrounds and functions in society. I believe the costumes will fulfill your Russian- Game-of-Thrones needs and I look forward to Grisha cosplay in the future.
7. What about future seasons of Shadow and Bone?
Currently, the showrunner has a 3-season plan for Shadow and Bone. Viewers should expect a tightly plotted show with an end-goal planned out from the beginning. We might get a season per Shadow and Bone book with the Six of Crows content mixed in throughout. Shadow and Bone might also transition one of the seasons to focus on the original heists in the Six of Crows duology. Whichever they decide, viewers can be sure that when they finish the first season, more content will be on the way. I cannot wait to see what unfolds.