Forbidden Magic and Dauntless Heists: Welcome to the World of Shadow and Bone

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R E V I E W – S E R I E S

Auruba Raki

The much-hyped Grishaverse is coming to life this 23 April on Netflix. Beginning from the announcement of the books being adapted into a TV series to getting more excited with every new teaser and poster release, fans are holding their breath to experience The Darkling aka General Kirigan’s dashing wickedness, Alina Starkov’s luminosity, and not to mention, our favourite thugs, the Crows’ rogue lives. Here is a Baedeker to the world of Brekkers, Grisha, and pizzazz. You may grab a seat, but you’d only be sitting on the edge of it. 

The Netflix series Shadow and Bone will be combining two of Leigh Bardugo’s best-selling breathtaking book series: the Grisha trilogy (2012-14) and the Six of Crows duology (2015-16), both of which are set in the Grisha universe–Grishaverse–in different timelines.

The series unfolds in a war-torn world where lowly soldier and orphan Alina Starkov incidentally unleashed an extraordinary power of summoning light that could erase the viscous darkness her country was drenched in, aka the Shadow Fold: a place of perpetual black and ravenous monsters. With its threat looming, Alina has to forsake everyone she knows to train as part of an elite army of soldiers capable of magic, known as Grisha. But as she begins her lessons and struggles to hone her raw power, she finds that allies and enemies can be indistinguishable and that nothing around her is what it seems. There are hazardous forces at play, including a crew of charismatic criminals, and it will take more than magic to survive.

The hype skyrocketed when the main cast was announced a couple of months after the tight-lipped announcement of the adaptation of the series, in October 2019, bringing in some beloved actors including the eternal heartthrob Ben Barnes and new faces. Two of Shadow and Bone’s very own, Jessie Mei Li, who will play Alina Starkov, and Freddy Carter, the (in)famous cutthroat anti-hero of Six of Crows, Kaz Brekker, were recently featured on the Decider‘s list of ‘Rising stars to watch for in 2021’, a firm nod toward the inevitable popularity of both the actors and the show.

[Must watch: Cast announcement here.]

From the left: Ben Barnes as General Kirigan, Kit Young as Jesper Fahey, Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker, Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov, Archie Renaux as soldier and mapmaker Malyen Oretsev, Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa.

The series’ first-look images tease what viewers can expect in the eight-episode first season, which were shot in Budapest, Hungary. Remember the edge of the seat? You may want to clutch on to it now as here are the vivid and tantalising posters of the main characters (Look. At. The. Details.):

The thirty nine seconds long teaser aesthetically depicts a white stag (well-known to every fan of the Grishaverse), upright in a snowy forest in all its glory; a crow fluttering away with a loud caw (in recognition of the Dregs), and ends with what appears to be hands curling on an antler’s collar and a ball of light blinking out into dark. What follows sends the viewers to cloud nine as Ben Barnes’s voice takes over, speaking one of the Darkling’s infamous lines at the end of the teaser, “You and I are going to change the world”.

Though the episode titles were released in early January, we don’t know much about how the show-makers plan to sandwich such broad stories together, especially since one of the “Crows” of the Six of Crows, Wylan, isn’t even appearing in the first season. According to Leigh Bardugo, the first season serves to portray a sort of prequel to the actual premise of the book, showing the lives Kaz, Inej, and Jesper before the Ice Court heist.

Not to mention, the fabulous and beloved (b)icon Nina Zenik’s (played by Danielle Galligan) scuffles … *coughs* I mean, acquaintance with the brooding Fjerdan drüskelle, Matthias Helvar (played by Calahan Skogman). 

Eric Heisserer showruns, wrote and executive produced the series. Lee Tonald Krieger directs and executive produces. Additional executive producers are Bardugo, Shawn Levy, Dan Levine, Dan Cohen and Josh Barry for 21 Laps Entertainment and Pouya Shahbazian (Loom Studios). To pepper in more excitement, David Joshua Peterson, who has constructed languages for television and movies such as Thor: The Dark World and Doctor Strange as well as the Dothraki and Valyrian languages for the television series Game of Thrones, will be behind the Grishaverse’s fictional languages! Such as Kerch, Ravkan, and Fjerdan. 

As someone who has been following the Grishaverse for years, it is unspeakably enthralling for me to see my imaginations come to life from bare pages. We cannot expect the show to follow every word of the books (much to my Brekkerist dismay), but we can rest assured it would do justice to the books, according to Leigh Bardugo anyway. If this is your first time, you may want to pick up the trilogy and bury your head in them, while we collectively wait for the bomb to drop. 

Until then, no mourners, no funerals. 


The writer, a cynic, is a part of TDA Editorial Team.


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