Movies & TV

Shadow and Bone: Everything We Know About Netflix's Next Big Fantasy Series

Unlike other fantasy shows, this Netflix series is inspired by Imperial Russia instead of Medieval England.
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After the massive success of Netflix’s reigning fantasy series The Witcher, the streaming platform is launching another big production series, this time based on the best-selling books by fantasy writer Leigh Bardugo.

For those who haven’t read the books, get ready for a fantasy adventure series like you’ve never seen before. Fantasy as a genre has taken most of its cues and cultures from Medieval England, with Game of Thrones being a prime example. Lately, we’ve seen fantasy entering other cultures, like how The Witcher is based on Polish mythology. And with the upcoming Shadow and Bone series, we’ll be diving into a world inspired by Imperial Russian culture and Slavic mythology.

Not only will it be visually pleasing thanks to all the Russian inspirations, but Shadow and Bone will certainly take on a darker tone than other fantasy shows.

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What will Shadow and Bone be about?

Shadow and Bone will be based on two book series written by Bardugo that take place in the same world, Grishaverse. The first series, Grisha, is a trilogy that follows Alina Starkov, a soldier discovered to be a Grisha, people who are powerfully gifted and used as weapons in the army.

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Meanwhile, the second series, the Six of Crows duology, follows an underground gang of thieves, spies, and sharpshooters planning a massive heist. The Netflix series will combine the two stories so that they happen simultaneously. Although the main characters of the two book series never interact with each other, things are expected to change in the Netflix series.

How will it be different from the books?

By a lot. Author Leigh Bardugo has described the Netflix show as “radically different from the books in the most amazing way.” Bardugo is clearly not a “purist” and is pleased with Netflix’s creative interpretation of her novels. She described the show as “pretty much a high-budget fan fiction.”

Still, the show gets Bardugo’s seal of approval.

Where will it take place?

Photo by Leigh Bardugo.
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Shadow and Bone will take place in two main locations: Ravka, which is inspired by Imperial Russia, and Kerch, which is inspired by the former Dutch Republic. In the universe created by Bardugo, regular folk live alongside the Grisha, who are either feared or weaponized. In Ravka, the Grisha are used to fight the Fold, a massive barrier of darkness that houses monsters that feast on human flesh.  

Other locations in Grishaverse include Fjerda, which is inspired by Scandinavia, and Shu Han, which is based on Mongolia and China. With all these cold locations, don’t expect a lot of sunny scenery in the show.

Fun fact: Grisha is a diminutive form of the Russian name Grigori, like that of Grigori Rasputin, who was a mystic, false holy man, and the last adviser of Tsar Nicolas II, the last emperor of Imperial Russia.

Who is starring?

Like the Bridgerton book-to-TV adaptation, Shadow and Bone is adding more diversity to its previously all-white book cast.

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Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov

English-Chinese actress Mei Li will play the leading female role in the series, Alina Starkov, an orphan whose journey shapes her into a powerful Grisha, feared and coveted by many.

Ben Barnes as General Kirigan, aka The Darkling

The Darkling has no name in the books, yet he is given the name General Kirigan in the show. This mysterious figure leads the Grisha army in Ravka, and his ambition and intentions are as suspicious as his name.

Archie Renax as Malyen Oretsev

The non-Grisha Malyen is the childhood friend of Alina. Alina grows distant from Malyen as she realizes her power.

Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker, aka Dirtyhands

The leader of the Dregs, a gang of underground criminals, Brekker is manipulative, ruthless, and without conscience.

Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa

Nepal-born Amita Suman will play the Dregs’ spy, a reserved and quiet woman who carries 14 knives at all times.

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Kit Young as Jesper Fahey

Jesper, Kaz’s second, is the gang’s sharpshooter and marksman, whose mouth gets in as much trouble as his bullets. 

Who is producing?

The production team alone tells us that Netflix is taking this show seriously and keeping in tune with the dark and complex themes of the books. Oscar-nominated Eric Heisserer is the Shadow and Bone showrunner. He’s best known for writing the screenplay of Arrival. Other films under his belt include Bird Box, Lights Out, and A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Also on board is Shawn Levy, an executive producer for Stranger Things and now, Shadow and Bone. Leigh Bardugo will also be producing.

David J. Peterson, the mastermind who created the language Dothraki and High Valyrian for Game of Thrones, will be creating the Grishaverse languages with Christian Thalmann.

When will Shadow and Bone be released?

Shadow and Bone’s big release is slated for April 23, 2021. So far, we’ve only gotten a 50-second teaser, but it won’t be long before a full trailer drops and we can behold the world of Ravka in all its imperial glory.

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Anri Ichimura
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