Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov in 'Shadow and Bone'. Picture: David Appleby/Netflix
Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov in 'Shadow and Bone'. Picture: David Appleby/Netflix

'Shadow and Bone' starts off slowly but once it gets going it’s on fire

By Jamal Grootboom Time of article published Apr 23, 2021

Share this article:

“Shadow and Bone”, is the latest fantasy book adaptation on Netflix and while it’s a slow burn, once it gets going it’s a fun ride.

Based on the first book in the Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, “Shadow and Bone” finds orphan mapmaker Alina Starkov (Jessie Mei Li ) as the protagonist, as she discovers she has an extraordinary ability during a journey through the Shadow Fold.

The fantasy genre has been seeing a resurgence with HBO’s “The Nevers” debuting recently and Netflix adapting various intellectual properties such as the “Winx Club” – I’m still annoyed by how bad it is and y’all made it get a second season – and viewers seem to be enjoying them.

I was unfamiliar with the “Grisha Trilogy” but love any fantasy genre series or film and will give most of them at least a couple of episodes before making a decision on whether to watch it the whole way through.

“Shadow and Bone” sparked my interest from the first trailer and it didn’t disappoint.

One of the reasons for the slow burn is pacing.

The first couple of episodes are very slow and if you’re not familiar with the property, it's daunting to get introduced to a bunch of characters with no exposition given.

This luckily is solved at around four episodes in, and the show drastically picks up the pace and seems to get into a groove.

The magic system used is your traditional fantasy genre four elements – earth, fire, wind and water.

However, only the Grisha people have them so think of them as benders from Avatar, but with the Subjects of Ymir caveat from Attack On Titan.

Similarly to sub-bending, there are also variations within them, but they also have two additions, namely light and darkness.

And like any fantasy show, there is an exposition scene to explain this.

But I really don’t mind since setting the framework for how magic operates in a fantasy-based world is essential for this type of show.

The CGI is well done and used effectively and it’s really great that we’ve got to the point where there is no difference between the quality we get in series versus movies.

My biggest issue with the show has been an ongoing problem I’ve had with how Netflix writes female characters on their shows when they're the protagonist.

Yet again, we’re stuck with a reluctant hero in Alina for the first half of the show who doesn’t seem to grasp that she’s “the one” and fights against it.

I really wish showrunners would let this trope go since it makes the protagonist very unlikeable initially. Rather give me someone like Avatar Korra who’s aware of her destiny from the jump and is ready to take on bad guys head first.

The writing is very well done and you get a good sense that they understand the characters. The actors have a lot to work with which results in them giving great performances.

Overall, this show is worth the watch whether you’ve read the book or not. I’m excited to see where this goes as the show progresses.

“Shadow and Bone” is streaming on Netflix.

Share this article: