Netflix's Shadow and Bone Adaptation Is Really Good, According to Netflix

Jessie Mai Lee as an appropriately defensive Alina.
Jessie Mai Lee as an appropriately defensive Alina.
Image: Netflix

When a book franchise has a fanbase as fervent as Leigh Bardugo’s Grishaverse, some fans will always complain about any deviation from the source material, even if it’s necessary to bring the books to live-action. However, Netflix is confident its Shadow and Bone TV series is so good no fan could possibly find fault in it—and it has proof?


Netflix released a video titled “Booktubers React to Shadow and Bone—Don’t Mess This Up,” where Grisha fans and YouTube book reviewers Jananie, Cindy, and Christine watch clips of the show, seemingly before the show was released. They help explain certain points of the show’s lore and character relationships, and they have a few questions about how Netflix will handle certain story beats, but can they find any element where the streaming service did, in fact, mess up?

No, they cannot! They have some complaints about the character of the Darkling, but those are really the source material’s fault. But generally, they uniformly shower the adaptation with praise, although a lot of that is also the source material’s doing. There’s no world where Netflix would have released a trailer with fans leveling any legitimate (or illegitimate) complaint about the show, but the video feels really defensive... if not a little desperate. Which is weird, because the TV series has been very warmly received—it’s got a 94 percent audience approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Guys, it’s OK. You did a good job! You don’t have to prove anything to anybody, especially surly Grishaverse uber-fans who never be convinced the show isn’t an abomination, no matter how many other fans believe otherwise.

Netflix also released a couple of other behind-the-scenes from the show, including this quick look at the making of the action scenes (complete with tiny, goofy VFX accompanying the moves):

And this video, where actor Ben Barnes talks about his character, villain and noted asshole the Darkling. Barnes is... I’m not sure he’s exactly sympathetic to the character’s plight, but he clearly sees the humanity inside the terrible, terrible leader of the Grisha.

If you haven’t watched the show, you should. As the Booktubers agree, it’s good! Shadow and Bone’s first season is streaming on Netflix right this minute.

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Rob Bricken was the Editor of io9 from 2016-18, the creator of the poorly named but fan-favorite news site Topless Robot, and now writes nerd stuff for many places, because it's all he's good at.



This show is an example of how an adaptation can actually be better than it’s source material.

I listened to the first book recently and holy hell, it read almost like a YA parody Twitter thread. Just trope and trope after trope. There’s an orphan who discovers they have miraculous powers that could actually save the world! They’re also a super bland, blank slate with very little defining characteristics so the reader can just project themselves onto them. No characterization much beyond some vague sense of #notlikeothergirls. Obligatory training school complete with the obligatory makeover scene! There’s a ton of “I never wanted any of this! I just want to be normal!” And of course, two dudes pulling her in either direction!!! No real worldbuilding, just a Imperial Russia overlay complete even with a Rasputin character. Groundbreaking stuff.

The changes Netflix made to make this more interesting for a wider audience are very welcome.