Daisy Head as Genya Safin with Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov in a scene from ’Shadow and Bone’. Picture: Netflix
Daisy Head as Genya Safin with Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov in a scene from ’Shadow and Bone’. Picture: Netflix

‘Shadow & Bone’ is a testament to the meteoric rise of the fantasy genre

By Debashine Thangevelo Time of article published May 17, 2021

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There was a time when offerings in the fantasy genre were few and far between.

Nonetheless, we remained hooked to shows like “True Blood”, “The Originals”, “American Gods”, “The Magicians”, “The Outsider”, “Outlander” and more as they arrived on the small screen.

David Benioff and D. B. Weiss’s “Game of Thrones”, based on the series of fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, certainly propelled the genre by becoming a cult classic.

The award-winning medieval series - I will not revisit that anti-climatic ending that remains a sore point - left fans giddy with anticipation as to who will finally rule the seven kingdoms.

What a jaw-dropping journey it has been with epic battle scenes, steaming sex trysts and a mix of weird, wonderful and cunning characters.

Since the arrival of streaming platforms like Netflix, Showmax, Amazon Prime Video and more, there has been a noticeable surge in fantasy offerings.

Creators are pulling out all the stops to lure fans into their imaginative worlds. The storylines are well-etched and the characters are enigmatic and engaging.

This brings us to the show that everyone is talking about - “Shadow and Bone”.

Aside from garnering favourable reviews around the globe, the eight-part series is one of SA’s Top 10 shows.

Freddy Carter (Kaz Brekker), Amita Suman (Inej Ghafa) and Kit Young as Jesper Fahey in “Shadow and Bone”. Picture: Netflix

Based on the Grisha novel trilogy, the series follows Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li), an orphaned Grisha who wields the enviable power to possess light.

After surviving a battle with the Volcra, who reside in the darkness that separates East and West Ravka, she finds herself “rescued” by General Kirigan (Ben Barnes) of the Second Army of the Shadow.

Unbeknown to her, he is also known as Aleksander/ The Darkling - a Shadow summoner. As she immerses herself in this new opulent world she finds all is not as it seems and she is being manipulated by the very people she’s come to trust.

Meanwhile, in Ketterdam, a motley gang of criminals known as the Crows, led by Kaz Brekker (Freddy Carter), Inej Ghafa (Amita Suman), and Jesper Fahey (Kit Young), accept a job that pays one million kruge - a deal that sees them cross paths with Alina.

Each of them has a special skill set that comes in handy on their mission, which sees them forming an alliance with Alina and her childhood BFF Malyen "Mal" Oretsev (Archie Renaux).

This series is wonderfully anchored by a relatively fresh-faced cast. The characters, including one representing the LGBQTIi+ community, are so wonderfully layered as are the different worlds.

The magical component of the series is effortlessly interwoven into the fight scenes. And the drama is offset with witty lines that help lighten the mood.

Although Netflix has yet to confirm a second season, the cliffhanger ending certainly alludes to the possibility of one.

In the meantime, let’s take a peek at the other fantasy offerings worth binging.

The Nevers

Laura Donnelly and Ann Skelly in The Nevers. Picture: HBO

This HBO series recently dropped on Showmax. The series, set in Victorian London, explores a life-changing event in August 1896, where several people are given special abilities.

Known as the Touched, the series centres on Amalia True (Laura Donnelly), who is able to see into the future - albeit as glimpses, and her best friend Penance Adair (Ann Skelly), who is an inventor extraordinaire.

The two have a wonderful yin and yang relationship as they offer refuge to other Touched individuals behind the iron gates of Saint Romaulda's Orphanage. While Amalia is more of a daredevil, Penance has a calmer more pragmatic disposition.

The casting in this series is brilliant. Remember James Norton, the handsome crime-solving reverend from Grantchester?

Well, you will love his pansexual aristocratic character, Hugo Swann, in the series. And he is a friendly antagonist to Lavinia Bidlow (Olivia Williams), a well-heeled spinster and advocate of the Touched.

Her geeky brother Augustus “Augie” Bidlow (Tom Riley) conceals the fact that he is Touched.

The fight between good and evil is found on different levels, especially with the Touched being ostracised by society and facing growing danger from detractors.

The first season has been divided into two parts with the second part yet to be announced.

Fate: The Winx Saga

Abigail Cowen as Bloom in “Fate: The Winx Saga”. Picture: Netflix

Inspired by the Nickelodeon animation, “Winx Club”, this series revolves around Bloom (Abigail Cowen), a troubled teenager who finds herself enrolled in Alfea College, a special magical school for fairies and specialists.

Here she discovers how to harness her firepower and befriends several other fairies: Stella (a light fairy), Musa (a mind fairy) and Terra (an earth fairy).

However, her determination to find out more about her past and how she came to be placed with a human family, leads her down a precarious path, more so with existing danger in the form of a captured Rosalind, the previous headmistress of Alfea with mysterious ties to Bloom, and the Burned Ones.

Then there is Beatrix (Sadie Soverall), a first-year student with a dark secret.

“Fate: The Winx Saga” celebrated the bond of sisterhood while exploring themes of revenge, power struggles and teenage bullying.

This series was a huge hit when it started streaming on Netflix and fans were elated to find it was renewed for a new season.

The Irregulars

The cast of “The Irregulars”. Picture: Supplied

Based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the series followed a group of impecunious teenagers who help John Watson solve a string of supernatural crimes.

Their interaction with John leads to startling revelations involving Sherlock Holmes and one of the teenagers, who has a special gift to help get into the mind of criminals.

Sadly, Netflix has decided against renewing this compelling series, which was underpinned by a sweet romance, too.

Other shows worth checking out: “Cursed” (Netflix), “The Witcher” (Netflix) and “His Dark Materials” (Showmax).

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