I read the Shadow and Bone trilogy in 2019, seven years after the first book was released. The books are an amazing roller coaster to read, Leigh Bardugo (author) puts the readers through a rush of emotions in each novel. When I saw on Instagram that the series was getting a TV show, I was slightly worried about who was going to be cast as the main characters. When reading a book series, you see characters grow and develop. Thus, you have a certain perception and image of those characters in your mind and do not want them to be spoilt. However, after I saw who was going to be cast (also by Instagram), I was very satisfied as each actor and actress was how I had pictured the characters. Although some of the characters may not have changed, there are other characters who have been changed, some of the storylines have also changed.
The first novel in this series, Shadow and Bone, is what the first season of the TV show is based on. Both are about a world of science, betrayal, and survival, where you are either a normal human or a Grisha. A Grisha is a person who possesses a certain power, not magic. A cartographer, Alina (played by Jessie Mei Li), thinks she has a normal life in the army until a life-threatening event brings to light that she is actually a Sun Summoner. This is one of the rarest Grisha in the land. When a powerful man, the Darkling (played by Ben Barnes) finds out, he needs Alina’s help to banish The Fold, a dark void full of monsters. However, not everything is as it seems and Alina needs to come to terms with her powers in order to survive.
Whilst Alina may be the same in both the book and the show, her best friend, Mal (played by Archie Renaux), has changed quite a lot. The character has been given a lot more backstory and screen time than he is written about in the book. The novel focuses on Alina’s progress once she leaves the army camp and goes to the palace with the Darkling. However, Mal’s time at the army camp (after Alina has gone) and a plot-defining mission he gets sent on is shown in some episodes. Also, in the books, Mal is afraid and wary of Alina’s powers but in the show, he embraces her as a Grisha and what she can do. In my opinion, I think this has happened because the book character, Mal, was not a fan favourite and the creators of the show are trying to make the audience like Mal rather than the Darkling or other male leads. Making Mal more likeable, and less stifling, also makes the Darkling more villainous, not that he is less villainous in the books but it is very striking to visually analyse the contrast between the two characters.
Another character that is different in the show is Pekka Rollins (played by Dean Lennox Kelly). This may be me but when reading the Six of Crows books, I imagined Pekka to be slightly round, have a strong cockney accent, and dress horribly to try and flex his wealth. However, in the show, Pekka is slim, has a Scottish accent, and dresses normally. This may be to try and make Pekka more menacing as in the books he seemed to be less threatening and more like a toy that the gang plays with. It was definitely unexpected, but it made the show more exciting as it builds anticipation to see if there are any more surprises.
Now, you may be wondering who Pekka Rollins is, especially if you have not read Bardugo’s book. So, it is not only the Shadow and Bone novel that season one is about, it also cuts to scenes of Kaz (played by Freddy Carter), Inej (played by Amita Suman), and Jesper (played by Kit Young), the main characters from Bardugo’s other book series, Six of Crows. In this duology, the events happen two years after the whole Shadow and Bone ordeal. A gang called the Crows Club complete many heists and ‘jobs’ to earn more Kruge; fictional money. Throughout the series, they make some loyal additions to their gang, such as Matthias Hevlar (played by Calahan Skogman) and Nina Zenik (played by Danielle Galligan) who are also in season one of the show, which we will get to later. However, what is even more confusing is that the first season does not show the gang’s storyline that is in the books, it is a completely new one.
So, the new Crow plot picks up two weeks after Alina discovers she is a Sun Summoner. This means that fans of the Six of Crows duology are treated to what the gang was up to when the events of Shadow and Bone were happening. Also, with the new plot, fans are treated to parts that were mentioned in the books about the character’s past but never shown or briefly spoken about. For example, Kaz mentions how he was able to free Inej from the workplace she was sold to but Bardugo does not give readers the way Kaz does it. In the show, viewers are shown exactly how Kaz did it. This gives the characters more depth, especially when book fans are connecting events that happen in the show to the books.
Another new storyline viewers are introduced to is the history between Matthias and Nina. In Six of Crows, Bardugo makes many references to Nina and Matthias’ past and that something life-changing happened, but it is never fully explained. When reading the first book, readers get the sense that Matthias hates Nina for something she has done in the past, something she feels extremely guilty for. As this is being shown, it may be setting up the characters for if the Six of Crow’s story is shown later in the season. If they do incorporate the Six of Crows novels into further seasons, the extra glimpses at Matthias and Nina are going to be a massive help to those who have not yet or are not going to read the books.
Furthermore, there is a new character introduced into both the Six of Crows and Shadow and Bone storylines. They are called, The Conductor, and they play a massive part in the plot of the season. The Crows ’employ’ The Conductor to help them with a job they have taken on, a job that will make them one million Kruge. However, The Conductor is not all that they seem, which then leads us into the Shadow and Bone storyline. The new character and the Darkling have an encounter after The Conductor tries to execute something they are not supposed to. I was not that intrigued by The Conductor as I know what happens in the books, although this did turn into curiosity the more I realised the character had a lot of influence on the plot direction. Now, those who have read the books may be wondering how this new character fits in with everything, you will have to watch a find out!
Now, the burning question that some of you may have been thinking of is whether the book or show is better than the other? To be honest, both are on par with each other, they each have qualities that bring them into my top tier for books and TV shows. Unanswered questions in the books are answered by the TV show, and unanswered questions in the TV show are answered in the books. Both of them complete each other. I loved the books dearly when I read them two years ago, so to see all the characters come to life and the storyline play out in front of my eyes, was special. I would definitely recommend reading Leigh Bardugo’s books before or after watching season one, anything that confuses you will make much more sense.
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