NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

A review of Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone is a new fantasy series on Netflix, run by Eric Heisserer, adapted from Leigh Bardugo’s bestselling young adult Grishaverse novels. The series is loosely based on Tsarist Russia, building a story on a reeling, war torn kingdom. It follows the common chosen-one trope, following the adventures of an orphaned young woman, Alina, who comes to discover her magical abilities. The show is successful in building a compelling world that is both intriguing to newcomers and palatable for longtime followers of the series.

The show is presented in eight, hour long episodes, and while it does take a few episodes for it to find its footing, the show eventually becomes quite enthralling and notably binge worthy. Strong performances from Ben Barnes, who plays General Kirigian, a dark and twisted character, who has a much darker and twisted past, and Jessie Mei Li, who plays Alina, the heroine of the story, add to the chemistry of the series. Their difficult and provocative relationship gives the audience the often desired toxic yet seductive relationship people feel strangely drawn too.

Although the show attempts to give each of its many characters an appropriate amount of time and attention, it often feels either rushed or at the expense of others. There are times where it seems the focus is pulled away from the main story and shined upon what can only be described as a side mission, played out by Kaz (Freddy Carter), Inej (Amita Suman), and Jasper (Kit Young). Their storyline, of which is moderately interesting, distracts from the main plot following Alina, which caused her portions of the show to sometimes feel rushed and condensed. This may be in credit to the fact that the show runners decided to include the stories of two separate novels into one season.

The series was surprisingly quite successful in addressing racial tension and discrimination, which has been at the forefront of American minds for the past year. As subtly slipped into the plot as it was, it resonated throughout the entire eight-episode season. The main character, Alina, whose features resemble the people of Shu Han, a realm similar to China, is faced with resentment, racism, and disrespect a number of times. This ignorance poses not only an obstacle for her but offers the audience a blunt look at a familiar problem in the world today.

Shadow and Bone is a captivating and exciting show that is well worth the watch for those who enjoy fantasy. Strong character development and world building adds to the dynamic chemistry of the show. There are times where it feels a little rushed or underdeveloped but as a whole the show remains evenly paced and enjoyable.